Most people seize up just thinking about having to speak in public. Here are six tips to help you relax, open and discover the power of your voice and its resonance with others:
1. Be honest. If you are feeling nervous, tell the audience. If you forget something you were going to say, let them know. Allowing audience members to see your vulnerability makes it easier for them to relate to you. It also models for them how to be both powerful and imperfect at the same time. Who doesn’t want to be able to do that!
2. Give yourself permission to pause. It’s entirely okay to stop what you are saying in mid-sentence and check in with yourself. I did this recently at an evening talk. The feedback I received was that it gave listeners permission to pause too, to digest what had been said, and absorb the meaning. I also modeled what it looks like to be in the moment, listen to my intuition and make a deliberate shift based on a feeling from inside. This too was acknowledged as something exciting for them to witness.
3. Who said the “Questions and Answers Period” has to happen at the end? I consistently create space in the middle of my talks and presentations for comments and questions. Audience members love it because they have the opportunity to ask their questions as they arise (and they don’t have to try to remember them until the end). I love it because I become aware of what’s happening in the room and what thoughts and feelings are surfacing for listeners. I can then empathize with them and take the conversation deeper through the rest of my talk.
4. Give your audience an opportunity to participate. Invite them to breathe and fully arrive in their seats when you begin. It is such a gift when someone reminds us to relax and connect to ourselves in the present. At a certain point during your talk, ask listeners to think of a word or image that relates to what you are saying, then invite them to share it with the person beside them. As social animals, we are curious about what people around us are thinking. Why not give your audience a chance to find out.
5. Be willing to find your own way of being in front of others, no matter what advice you get. I like to begin all of my talks by sharing a poem. My performance is dramatic and offers listeners a creative perspective on the topic. I also love to connect with people through eye contact, humour and personal anecdotes. These are some of the ways I have found that work for me. As you speak more, you will find your own particular ways of connecting with yourself, your listeners and your topic.
6. Dress in a way that makes you feel beautiful. Wear your favourite colours. Women notice each others’ clothes. We love to see a woman who is confident, comfortable and playful in what she wears.
I invite you to use at least 2 or 3 of these points in your next talk or presentation and see how it feels. I’d love to hear about how it went.
Poet Ahava Shira, PhD helps women do what they love with joy, creativity and compassion. Author of Weaving of My Being (1998) and Love is Like This (2010), Ahava is the founder of the Centre for Loving Inquiry, where she leads Heartrepreneurs group mentoring programs and Opening to Joy retreats.