Meetings and presentations are one of the main requirements of being an entrepreneur. It just comes with the job. You will need to stand in front of future investors, possible business partners or potential clients and convince them that you’re the one they need to get with. Even if you went into business with a partner, both of you will be required to take turns and talk about your company.
The mere idea of speaking in front of an audience is terrifying for most people. It could be nerve wrecking for a number of reasons: you may be naturally shy or anxious; you could even experience stage fright. But, as most qualities in life, if you’re not a natural-born public speaker you can develop some skills that can help you with it.
Places, people; places! There’s a theatrical aspect in public speaking. And as in theater, in order to master a role (the public speaker one) you need to rehearse. If you’re more comfortable following a script, you can write down a cheat sheet with the points you want to make; then read it out loud yourself or someone you trust. The more you do it, the more natural if will feel. Pro tip: reading the actual cheat sheet during the presentation/talk will do more damage than good. The more confident you feel with the material you’re presenting, the more you’ll be able to react to the audience, throw in a joke, and take control of the situation.
- Don’t talk right away
Audiences can tell when a nervous speaker has shown up: someone who starts talking as soon as they are introduced. They speak soon and they speak fast. Take a moment or two to take a deep breath and start calmly. This will project confidence.
- Speak slowly
If you’re introducing new material to an audience, or presenting your business in a meeting, you are delivering a set of information that is new to those in the audience. Make sure you speak so everyone can understand you. This goes beyond speed: avoid technical jargon and use terms that are familiar to the general public whenever possible.
- Take the time to breathe
Since speaking in public makes most people nervous, that means your heartbeat and speech rate quicken. The human body is all about rhythm and cycles; that’s why all relaxation exercises and yoga sessions insist so much on focusing on your breathing. As you pause, take a moment to slowly breathe in and breathe out; as your breathing comes back to its normal rhythm, so will your heartbeat and your speech rate.
- Make eye contact
This is crucial, especially if you’re trying to convince people to make business with you. Looking at people in the eye when you make a statement will make you seem confident and honest. It will also make those in the audience feel like you’re speaking with them, not at them.
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