One of our top fears is public speaking. In fact, around 75% of the population experiences this anxiety.
So why is public speaking still so important when you can just send an email? Whether you’re connecting with one person or to a full virtual conference room, public speaking gives you the opportunity to engage your listeners with nonverbal cues to showcase your excitement and gain the trust needed to help persuade them to follow your advice to help them reach their goals in an engaging way that email simply cannot achieve. That’s why, from boardroom presentations to client meetings, professional communicators are often required to speak in front of a crowd.
And now, post-pandemic, many of the environments where public speaking is necessary have shifted to the virtual world. Being able to express ideas clearly, concisely, and most importantly, confidently, is a challenge in itself. Having to speak to a screen rather than face-to-face adds another layer of complexity to an already tense situation.
So how can one overcome the fear and roadblocks of virtual public speaking and exude the confidence of a rock star? Here are a few tips and tricks that can help both in the digital world and for in-person speaking engagements:
• Prep your space and connection: Test your internet connection, camera, and microphone to ensure all are in working order. It’s best to choose a quiet, clean, and well-lit space so you look your best and don’t have any distractions.
• Practice: One of the most common reasons people fear public speaking is due to being ill-prepared. Write an outline or notes of what you’d like to say and rehearse it in front of a mirror, family, friends, or coworkers to build your confidence. Additionally, there are a myriad of AI-powered apps like Orai that will help you practice and give feedback to improve your public speaking skills.
• Focus on the value you are providing: Keep your mind on what you are giving the audience rather than your own needs and anxieties. Instead of worrying about what you may stutter over, truly think about what the message you are trying to get across is and how you can persuade your audience to care.
• Engage your audience: Although you aren’t in the same room, giving the illusion of eye contact by looking into the camera rather than at the image on the screen creates a more intimate setting. Additionally, facial movements and appropriate hand gestures can demonstrate excitement that will help pull the audience in.
• Speak clearly and slowly: Because the sound of your voice is being picked up by a microphone and heard over a variety of speakers, talk slowly to ensure the audience can understand you. Additionally, use pauses to emphasize important points and invite the opportunity for the audience to ask questions.
• Resist multitasking: Sitting in front of a computer during a meeting opens the door to extreme temptation. With a myriad of other websites and apps at your fingertips, it’s quite the challenge to tune it all out and be present in your meeting.
• Dress for the part: Even though you may be sitting on your couch or at your dining table, it is still important to wear proper business attire to showcase that you are taking the meeting seriously and that you respect your position and that of those around you.
• Do NOT picture the audience naked: While this is advice, we’ve all heard more times than we can count, it isn’t exactly helpful to put yourself in a scenario that can be distracting, to say the least. While there is a possibility that your audience members may have strategically placed their cameras to hide pajama pants, it’s best not to distract yourself by thinking about their attire or lack thereof.
• Be on time: Whether you are taking a meeting from your office or from your couch, there is absolutely no excuse for tardiness. Plan to sign into the virtual meeting room two to five minutes early to ensure you get there ahead of your audience and are ready to kick off.
Keeping these tips and tricks in mind will help you not only become a public-speaking rockstar but also help you embrace and even enjoy performing in a virtual scenario.