Real or Fake - Confidence Is The key
If you are looking to get rid of all nerves before your big speech let me save you some time - you are not going to achieve this. However, the good news is that nerves will help you when the big day comes - you just don't want to let the audience know about it! You can pretend to be confident while public speaking and they will never know.
I have toured the country performing stand up comedy in theatres and local bars. I have dealt with drunks (often who were not aware the comedy was happening that night) and hecklers (some better than others). But most of all - I have dealt with my own nerves and lack of confidence in public speaking - Here are a few tips as to how I managed.
Most Important - A Huge Smile
In your head everyone in the audience can see that you don't know what you are doing and are terrified. Fortunately his will only be obvious in your head unless you let it slip to the audience.
The best tip both for fooling the audience and yourself that you are confident is come to the microphone with a huge smile. If you look confident, they will believe you are confident and want to hear what you have to say.
This sounds simple but it is 100% true. A big smile and confident walk to the microphone will buy you everyone's attention. It also puts everyone at ease. They think "Ah thank goodness, he knows what he is doing - we can relax".
Remember - They Want To Enjoy It
Strange thing to say but it took me a lot of gigs before I realised something fundamental to being, or at least appearing, confident... They want to enjoy themselves! If you are speaking at a wedding or social gathering - they want to enjoy what you have to say! If you are speaking in an education or work capacity - they need to hear what you say!
I spent my first year thinking the audience didn't want to hear me, they wanted to get to the better comedians. The day I realised I had something to say was a great day for those in the audience because they wanted to listen.
A great tip to increase your confidnce before your public speech is to repeat to yourself until you believe "They are looking forwards to hearing what I have to say!" You should believe it because it is true.
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Realise What Is The Worst That Can Happen
This is a really important step for any public speaker. Perhaps I was lucky here as I grew up boxing. If a fight goes badly then you end up unconscious. If a public talk goes badly then you don't get asked back - and you use that as the fuel to get better! Basically... it isn't that bad.
Everyone's fear, and I mean everyone - you are not alone, is that the presentation goes really badly, that someone heckles, and you look like a fool.
When I started I did 5 gigs and for a beginner they went well. My 6th gig was a different story. I can still see the look of complete boredom, even disdain, on the disinterested faces of the audience. I dropped my best joke and got nothing. It flashed through my mind "if you don't like that then I am toast when you hear the rest!" Panic then set in. I talked faster and faster to end everyone's misery and left the stage to the sound of my own footsteps. I then spent an evening where noone, even the staff, would meet my eye, and I occassionaly saw audience members pointing me out as "The rubbish guy". I went home dejected.
Dejected for about 2 hours then it hit me - "Actually that wasn't that bad". Like most things in life the thought was far worse than the reality.
It actually makes e smile now looking back on it.
I have learned this so you don't have to. If worst comes to the worst and everything you are fearing goes wrong happens - I promise you.... it just isn't that bad.
You then use the experience for 2 things;
1) To get better
2) To use as a benchmark when something else is worrying you - "Well if I survived that speech..."
This goes without say but the more work you put in the better you will be.
Practice Practice Practice! - then Practice some more!
Public speaking is a trade. You have to work at it and make mistakes to get better. Everyone is the same.
Watch people who are good at speaking and analyse - they are following a process;
What is their posture like?
Who are they looking at while speaking?
How are they holding the microphone?
Are they moving while speaking?
If you get small things right in ny of the above - the audience will once again think you know what you are doing and therefore believe you are confident!
Watch great speakers on Youtube... and copy what you like!
Some Final Tips
- If using a mic practice holding it. You can use an empty bottle but get used to feeling it while speaking.
- Make eye contact. People will tell you this is based on caveman's defense mechanisms and this info will be useless. Just remember... if you make eye contact - they think you are confident! Leave the cavemen for another time.
- Speak slowly, then slow down again. Nerves will make you speak like a horseracing comentator. Noone associates this with confidence. Fight the urge, speak slowly and clearly - they will be amazed at your apparent self belief.
- If possible, move around slightly from side to side. Someone rigid on the stage will lose attention. If you keep their attention your confidence will grow.
- Record yourself several times and analyse your recordings. No one likes their own voice but you will like it a lot more the better it sounds! (Most cell phones now have recording ability or I have attached a link below for a cheap alternative).
- If someone shouts something, just ignore it. As many comics say "If everyone wanted to hear what that guy had to say they would have queued outside his living room". They didn't, they want to hear you, you have the mic so you control the room - it is a good thing to remember.
- Don't drink! No matter what you think - it won't help.
- Finally.... enjoy it! Or if you can't do that just look like you are enjoying it. You will be amazed at how this will fool everyone.
If you follow a few of these tips you will be amazed at the fact only you, the one person in the room facing the wrong way, can see and hear the alarm bells going off in your head! Everyone else will just be sitting back and enjoying your show.