Anatomy of … a Stellar Public Speaking Performance

Your Moment in the Spotlight

Delivering a speech in front of an audience can be intimidating for the best of us. Luckily, we all can get better at it, says Nancy Buffington, a public speaking trainer in Boise, Idaho.

Think you don’t have what it takes to hold an audience’s attention? These elements will give you the confidence and skill set to get your message across, Buffington says.

A positive mind-set. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are as speakers and what our audiences expect of us will affect how we perform. Remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect; in fact, strive instead to be authentic and show your true self, Buffington says.

A sense of purpose. Figure out how your speech will be of service by asking yourself, “How am I helping people?” That way you will assign a value to your message.

A dash of the jitters. Anybody who truly cares about delivering an effective message has some degree of anxiety about public speaking, Buffington says. “If you don’t get nervous, then you don’t care.”

An achievable goal. Come up with one performance-related goal you will accomplish. For example, if you are long-winded, it might be keeping your speech under five minutes, or if you speak quickly, it might be pausing three times to slow yourself down.

A period of preparation. A great speech won’t pack the right punch if you don’t know how to deliver it. Give yourself several days to practice delivering the speech as if you are in front of your audience. Videotape yourself with your smartphone so you can see how your body language and tone come across.

A plan for eye contact. Your audience wants to feel seen.If you are in a small group, make eye contact with every single person, Buffington says. If you are in a large setting, divide the room into quadrants and make eye contact with one person in each section.

A comfortable outfit. While your audience and the formality of the event will factor into your wardrobe decisions, you don’t want to feel self-conscious or worry about tripping and falling in super-high heels. Consider clothing that makes you feel attractive or powerful. When you’re speaking, think of yourself as a performer, Buffington says, “so everything is a part of your performance, and your clothes are part of the props.” DW

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