Want to develop stage presence for public speaking? Overcome your nervousness with this quick and easy technique!
Let me introduce you to the owner of a construction company who built a house of cards.
This man was a nervous speaker. And so every time he had a presentation coming up, he’d write out and memorize his entire speech.
The idea, you see, was to neutralize every possible negative influence that might rear its ugly head during his talk. With every word glued in place, he could present his speech as a fait accompli (French for “an accomplished fact”). With every utterance pre-determined and inviolable, he would emerge from his presentation unscathed.
Are you also more comfortable with your content than your audience? Would you like to know how to engage listeners instead? Discover my secrets for enriching your relationship with the people in the seats! Download my essential cheat sheet, “5 Ways to Captivate an Audience.”
But is this any way to reach and move listeners?
Stop Asking, “How Can I Prepare So Nothing Will Go Wrong with My Speech?”
A defensive strategy may be a winning game if your castle is under siege, but it doesn’t work for public speaking. Your job is to be present for your audience—and the more you are, the closer you’ll get to grasping the golden ring of speaking in public: stage presence. Here are 5 important elements you need to understand about stage presence and public speaking.
“Present” and “presence”: My Merriam-Webster tells me that the first form is a Middle-English word from the 13th century, derived from Anglo-French; and the related word first showed up a century later. Obviously the two concepts are closely linked. Too often, though, we think of stage presence as some mysterious quality and don’t see the relationship between achieving effectiveness on stage and simply “being there,” i.e., present, for our audience.
If, like my client, you prepare everything beforehand (by memorizing) and spend your time on stage retrieving your language line by line, you essentially won’t be in the same room as your listeners. Your attempt not to allow anything to go wrong will mean that, essentially, everything will go wrong. You won’t be sharing the moment that audience members are hoping to experience as a result of what you're saying! And of course, you’ll learn the lesson that all military generals acquire the hard way: no battle plan survives the first shot. So, my next point:
The Two Risks You Face when You Memorize a Presentation
When something occurs in your talk that you hadn’t planned for—as it certainly will—you’ll be more exposed than you would have been otherwise. Your attempt to protect yourself will leave you brittle and vulnerable. (Need help when facing unexpected challenges when you speak? Learn these two exercises for thinking on your feet and speaking under pressure.)
That’s the first risk you face when you memorize a speech because of nervousness. The second concerns the nature of memorization itself. You can memorize “A,” then “B,” and so on. So you know that after “A,” comes the next portion of your material that logically follows. But what happens if you go blank on, say, “C,” or nervously and unknowingly skip over that section?
Now the progression has been lost! The worst outcome of all has occurred because you have constructed a “fail-safe” mechanism that turns out to be a disastrous solution.
How to Be a More Charismatic Public Speaker
Fortunately, there’s very good news at hand concerning how you should feel about your public appearances. It starts with the realization that audiences almost always bring a productive mindset to your speeches and presentations. People genuinely want to get something positive from your talks—to gain the feeling that their time and attendance have been well spent.
The next thought should be even more enlightening and exciting for you. It has to do with the sheer joy of performance. Even apart from the visibility, influence, and impact you can have on audiences large and small, is the realization that sharing something of mutual interest with other people should be fun. Almost nowhere else does that opportunity exist with such immediately and impact than when you occupy a stage. To perform at your best in every speaking situation, discover these three ways you can speak with charisma.
So if you’re a nervous speaker about to construct a house of cards, try this visualization: See your audience and you as sharing an invisible bubble or force field, a “dome of influence” which you all safely and securely occupy. Your job as speaker is to fill that dome with the conversation you're having with this community. Nothing can go wrong because you know this topic and you sincerely want others to learn about it too. Whatever interaction occurs isn’t a disruption—it’s what you’re all there for.
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