Do you get nervous, start stuttering and your mind goes blank whenever you have to speak in front of an audience? Then this is for you! Learn how to build self-confidence in public speaking.
I present to a handful of senior executives, to hundreds of co-workers, and anything in between several times per week. In addition, I provide training, motivational speeches, and sales pitches. And I do it well.
My ability as a presenter has actually been a driving force in my career! My secret? Good public speaking habits.
The only way to do something well, repeatedly, and consistently, is to support it with good habits. That way, you never leave your performance to chance. Instead, you have to build a solid foundation of habits to fall back on.
These are the 5 public speaking habits that are the cornerstones of my presentation skills. The best thing is that these habits are completely replicable if you have previous experience in public speaking, or if you are just starting your journey as a presenter and public speaker!
Public Speaking Habit 1: Know Your Topic
The first step in how to build self-confidence in public speaking is knowing whatever topic you are presenting on well. Can you take your work presentation and explain it to someone that has no knowledge of your industry? Could you explain it to your mom?
Don’t get hung up on industry jargon or using fancy words. Make sure you really understand what you are talking about. By having a true understanding of the topic, you will never completely forget what you were going to say.
You can always just say it in another way! Maybe a simpler way. A way that makes people remember what’s behind all the fancy words.
Not everyone in your audience will have the same background as you. Even with the most sophisticated audience, it’s important to have the ability to strip things back to the basics.
Having a true understanding of what you’re talking about, will help you get your message across, and be confident while doing so.
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Public Speaking Habit 2: Be Passionate about the Audience Take-Away
You’ve got into the habit of really knowing your topic. Great! The next step is to know what you want your audience to remember as you walk out of the room.
Make it a habit to always start preparing your presentations with the end in mind. The end is not you on a stage talking. The end result is the people listening to you coming away with a message of what you want them to remember.
If you are presenting at an internal meeting, the talk may be about some new working practices. The message, however, could be about enthusiasm for the future and embracing change.
In college, presentations are more about the results and the process of how you got there. They have to tell a story and help the audience understand why you got those results in the most basic terms for everyone to understand.
How much do people remember from a presentation?
From a 10-minute presentation, people at best, remember:
- 50% just after the presentation
- 25% the next day
- A week later people remember at most 10% of the presentation
What’s the 10% you want people to remember in a week’s time?
Make it a habit to both start and end your presentation preparations focusing on that take-away.
Public Speaking Habit 3: Collect Stories
You know reading from a PowerPoint slide is boring. Even if you don’t read from a slide, just talking about facts will still make your audience fall asleep. Considering the 10% takeaway we just discussed: How to you best get your main message across?
With a story.
Think back to what you remember from presentations you’ve sat through. Is it the fact-filled chart? The multiple graphs? Or is was it the story that made the point come alive? The story that made you, to this day, remember it?
It’s difficult to come up with a great story on the spot as you’re preparing a presentation. Instead, you need to get into the habit of becoming a story collector.
Take note of great examples people use. Pay attention to the things that happen around you that can be used to illustrate a point.
Let me use a story to illustrate my point.
During my sales pitches, I often need to talk about how important it is for hospitals to use a specific type of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and how the SOP needs to work with the client’s product.
My company’s ability to work with this process is one of our unique selling points, but every time I talked about it, I could see my clients falling asleep.
Who would want to talk about Standard Operating Procedures? It’s about the least sexy thing you can bring up during a sales pitch! Yawn….
As I still wanted to get our unique selling point across, I thought back on when someone hadn’t paid attention to the SOP and what had gone wrong. Now I tell that story:
“We worked with a product some time back that only had 30 minutes to be transported from one place of the hospital to another. It was only a 10-minute walk so the hospital staff assured us it wouldn’t be a problem.
In the nick of time, we looked at the SOP and noticed that this product was not allowed to be transported in the corridor that the hospital staff was planning to use. Instead, they had to go around, and it was now a 30-minute walk. This was obviously a problem!”
I no longer need to talk about the importance of this SOP. I just tell the story, everyone in the room listens and they are all confident that we will, and can, do this well.
What stories do you have already? How can you get into the habit of collecting more, and applying them to make your point? To show you know what you’re talking about and help form the audience take-away?
Public Speaking Habit 4: Embrace Your Nerves
I’m not going to be telling you about meditation or relaxation habits to calm your nerves before a presentation. Instead, I recommend you get into the habit of embracing those nerves.
The adrenaline will release sugar into your bloodstream, giving you energy. You will breathe faster, your heart will beat faster, and you may start to sweat.
It will also heighten your senses, decrease your ability to feel pain, and increase your strength and performance.
For the seasoned public speaker, adrenaline is a dear friend. It makes sure that we perform, even on an “off day”. It makes sure we focus, project energy and any personal discomfort we feel gets dulled.
If you fight the adrenaline rush, treating it as an enemy, it is easy to be overwhelmed. To feel that you are failing because you feel nervous.
Instead, make it a habit to embrace the adrenaline. It’s your friend. It is what will take you through this possibly scary situation. Ride the wave, milk it for all that you can to increase your focus, energy and heightened senses, really feeling your audience.
Then plan for the dip that will come afterward once the adrenaline runs out. Establish a post-presentation habit that allows you recovery and replenishment of your resources.
Public Speaking Habit 5: Slow Down
Be concise. Dare to pause.
There is so much we want to say and share. We know this topic like the back of our hand.
We’re really passionate about the take-way message our audience will leave with. We have stories to help them remember the key points and we use the adrenaline to deliver those messages.
The final habit to implement to become a confident public speaker is to slow down. You may want to share everything and with the adrenaline going through your body it’s easy to feel like the best way to do this is to talk as fast as possible.
To say as much as you can, getting everything out there. Every fact, every story, every key point.
Do you think your audience will keep up?
This is one of the most difficult habits to implement in public speaking, and for many, the one that requires the most practice.
It’s the art of pausing, slowing down, and being concise. Focus on key points, key stories, and dare to pause.
Let the message sink in. Let your audience process. Give them a chance to remember what you are telling them.
This is a difficult habit to master, and mindfulness, practice, and more practice are how you will get there. Use your adrenaline heightened senses to feel the audience. Do they need a breath to digest what you just said?
Do they need a moment to formulate a question?
They are hearing all this for the first time! Make sure they get a chance to take in the key message instead of just giving them information overload.
The reason why we need to have public speaking habits is because about 95% of our actions are unconscious. Our unconscious is based on systems and processes in our body and mind.
When we want to improve something, anything, we need to become conscious of the habits we already have in place. We need to mindfully examine those habits and change, break or implement new habits that serve us. That helps us become the person we want to be.
By having habits that serves us we will almost unconsciously do the right thing. The thing that takes us where we want to go.
By implementing these 5 public speaking habits you will become a better presenter. A better public speaker. And the best thing: The more you practice these habits, the less effort you will need to put into maintaining them!
Read more by the Habitista: Create Habits to Improve Your Life: The Ultimate Guide
About the Habitista: The Habitista is a Habit Nerd, Health Enthusiast, and Personal Finance Aficionado. She is passionate about women developing themselves, feeling better, being better, while still being kind to themselves.
The Habitista has a M. Sc. in Bioscience and a day-job as an Executive Director at a global company.