I know that you probably don’t consider yourself to be in the profession of public speaking in the strictest sense. That’s because you, like most people, are smart enough that you’ve managed to accumulate skills you can’t pick up as an infant. I, on the other hand, learned how to talk and apparently decided that was all the knowledge I needed. I’m not even sure I talk more often now than I did when I was two, since my mother is fond of reminding me that I wouldn’t shut up as a child and that she sometimes wondered how much she might be able to sell me for.
However, I also know your job involves presentations to clients. Perhaps you’ve been invited to share your industry experience at your local Chamber of Commerce. Odds are you engage in public speaking at least occasionally – and if the idea of standing in front of an audience scares you as much as it scares most people, here are four things to remember that I guarantee will put you at ease.
Nobody Has Any Idea What You’re About to Say.
This one’s critical. You haven’t given a script of your presentation to anyone, and your audience can’t read your mind. If your words wander and you end up on a tangent you hadn’t planned, that’s no reason to panic. Nobody will know unless you make the mistake of telling them that you’ve lost your place. So don’t tell them.
Your Audience Will Forgive Mistakes.
I speak professionally for a living, and I almost always screw up a little during my presentations. A word will come out wrong, or I’ll mash two sentences together into something incomprehensible or idiotic. And so far, none of my audiences have thrown their coffee cups at me as they stampede in unison toward the exits. Radio hosts and newscasters make mistakes too. You’ve heard them do it, and they simply start over and say what they meant to the first time. You haven’t thrown a coffee cup at your television for a while, have you?
You Can Cheat.
And you should. Powerpoint presentation slides can function as invaluable mnemonics to keep your talk on track, as can a note card with a few scribbled keywords on it. Just don’t use those things as a crutch. Really the only crime here is if you put everything you plan to say onto your Powerpoint and then repeat what’s written. That’s about as much fun for your audience as it would be for you if I came there and read this to you while you were reading it yourself. Want me to? I’m not doing anything right now. I could be there quick as a cat!
You Can Practice Anywhere.
And (once again) you should. In your car on your way to run errands, on long walks around your neighborhood – even in public, since people tend to avoid anyone who looks like they’re talking to themselves. The more you practice, the less nervous you’ll be when it’s time for the real thing.
Basically, your audience is probably not going to eat you. Which means you’ll walk away from your next public speaking experience with all of your arms and legs still attached, and what that means is you can kick and punch anyone who didn’t seem to appreciate what you had to say. What else could you ask for?