A public speaking course: The following post is a transcription of a course I’ve given on public speaking. It will sound as if I’m talking more than writing, but that’s the point–it’s a full transcription of the spoken word. I hope that you enjoy it and that it gives you some methods that will turn you into a more confident speaker. Need help with your next speech with writing, editing, or delivery? Email me ()
What does it take to be a confident speaker? Some say it’s a magical charisma factor that you either have or you don’t. Some believe that you have to be born to be a good speaker, or else you’ll never make it, forever doom to flat, boring speeches.
Not so fast. This course is going to help you address just about any area of weakness you might have. This course isn’t on how to write your speech—but I can help with that if you need. Rather, it’s for speakers that already have something they’re going to say, and need to be their best selves on the big day. Maybe you have a wedding toast to give. Maybe a big work presentation. Maybe you have to talk on a regular basis. Maybe you have to give a talk at your local rotary club.
Becoming a confident speaker, though, requires a set of behaviors and attitudes that all have to come together. It’s not just about practice. It’s not just about being relaxed. It’s not just about believing you can do it. It’s all of those things together and more.
I don’t want this to be a daunting task, but I’m not going to sugar coat anything for you. It’s going to take hard work, but it’s worth it in the end. The worst thing you can do is take this course and do nothing that’s asked of you. There are people that take courses all the time, but they don’t apply the lessons. If you don’t apply these lessons, if you don’t try them out, if you don’t do what you absolutely know what you have to do, then this course is not going to be worth anything to you. Words without action are dead.
All throughout this course, you will have the opportunity to apply and try out the lessons here. I suggest you watch this video all the way through to get the main idea of everything. Then, watch it again, and start applying the lessons now, so that you know how they all will fit together. It’s quite possible you might just need help in one specific area, but I bet that you can improve in all of them. What would it mean for you to have just a little bit more of an edge at work?
Before we begin the course, I want to give you an outline of what it is that you are going to go through and what you are going to learn in this course. The first part is about mindset. This is the key thing that separate good speakers from bad speakers. You’re going to learn the key mindset you need to improve, and to get over your fear of public speaking.
Second, relaxation techniques. Sometimes, our nerves, it’s not mental, but instead it’s physical. And you are going to learn ways to physically relax yourself, which in turn relax your mind, and in the end give you that kind of an edge.
Next, you’re going to learn how to memorize your speech. You’re not going to learn how to memorize it word for word. That is one of the worst things you can do, because I’m going to take a bet that you don’t want to be that speaker that goes up there and just reads the words off the screen. That’s not you anymore. You are no longer going to be that person that just reads to the class. Because honestly if you could do that, you could just email out your presentation, and save everyone the time of going to it. But the fact is, your audience wants a conversation with you. They want a confident speaker, and you’re going to learn the key memory techniques that are going to allow you to deliver a confident presentation.
After you learn how to memorize, you’re going to learn how to practice. And I know it seems very basic, very straightforward, but a lot of speakers, they don’t practice. They don’t plan to practice, and they don’t have goal-based practice. That is a key thing that separates out the good speakers from the poor ones. Because for the most part, many speakers just push practice to the side. They say, hey, I want to do a good job, but they allow everything else in their life to get in front of their goals of practicing. What you’re going to learn is you’re going to get a calendar that’s going to show you how to practice, that even if you have a day, even if you have 24 hours before your presentation, you will get a special one day prep schedule, then a week, a month, three months, six. That’s the greatest position to be in is when you know you’ve got a great, big speech coming up, and you can plan out your practices ahead of time, and schedule them onto your calendar. Next, you’re also going to learn how to use feedback in your practicing. We are our own worst critics, but you’re going to learn how to objectively measure your performance. You’re even going to get sheets that tell you how well you did, and it can be a guide that’s going to help you out.
Next, you’re going to learn how to be prepared before your speech. And that’s not just about practice and memorization, but there’s all these little things that if you have a checklist, and you work that checklist to make sure that you have what you want, and that you’re ready for every contingency possible, especially the technology. Especially getting lost if the venue is new to you. Anything like that, you’re going to have a way to make a checklist that ensures that you are completely prepared, and that Murphy’s Law can not kick in on the big day.
Finally, we’re going to talk about how you can evaluate your performance after you speak. We are our own worst critics, and the truth is many people in the audience are not very good critics either. They’re going to come up to you, they’re going to tell you things, and for the most part it’s not going to be very helpful. I’m going to show you how you can seek out the advice of a trusted colleague or a trusted friend that’s going to help you improve. But then also how you can evaluate your own performance.
Then finally, we’re going to work together to put it all together, and create your confident speaker plan. Because all of these things when taken together, can turn you into a confident speaker, but you have to make sure that you have every single part of this ready to go.
We’re going to talk about which relaxation techniques work the best for you. How you’re going to practice. When you’re going to practice. How you’re going to memorize your speech. Then we’re going to talk about the checklist for the day of. How to critique your performance afterwards, so that in the end you have a complete plan that is going to put you head and shoulders over the average person. Because here’s the truth. Public speaking is one of the greatest fears in the world. Doesn’t matter where you are, doesn’t matter what country, United States, wherever, people don’t like doing it. What you’re going to learn is going to put you above your peers. It’s going to make you that person who can give a great speech. And they do it not just by having good words, but you also do it by being a confident and prepared speaker. So let’s go ahead and get started.
Today’s first module is mindset. This module is based on the research by Carol Dweck. What she found out is that we essentially can have two mindsets when it comes to personal growth. One is called a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset. She did research that actually backed up this idea, this theory. What she found out was that the people who had a growth mindset were the ones that changed for the better, that stuck with tasks more often, and that persevered through obstacles. Versus those with a fixed mindset couldn’t.
What she did, and I’ll give you just the basic story, is that she looked at intelligence, and she took a group of kids. And half these kids were told, “You’re smart, you’re smart. It’s just something you are or you aren’t. There are smart people and dumb people in the world. You’re either smart or you’re dumb, and that’s just how it is.” That’s the fixed mindset group. But then there’s the growth mindset group. In that group what they told them, they said, “Well if you work hard, you could become smarter. If you just keep trying and put effort into it, you can become smarter.” And then of course they had a control group where they told neither message to the students.
After this, they gave them a set of math problems to do. And these math problems got increasingly difficult. Here’s what happened. The fixed mindset group, when they got to problems that they couldn’t do, they gave up. They stopped working, and they ended up not finishing the test at all. Yet those in the growth mindset group that were told this is something that you can work at, that you can become smarter, become better, well they stayed on task more often. They kept working, they completed more of the test, and in the end actually got higher scores than the group of fixed mindset.
What does this mean for you as a speaker? We can take the same idea, the same theory, and apply it how we believe public speaking works. There are many people out there that say, “You know what? I’ve just never been a good speaker.” That might be you. There are others that say, “Well, I’ve actually worked at this, and through working at it, I know that I’m a better speaker now than I was in the past.” Which one of those do you think is right?
The growth mindset. No doubt about it. Great speakers are not born, they are made. It is something that you learn. It is something that you practice, and that is the mindset that you have to take into account when you are doing this course. Because if you don’t believe that you can become better, then you just wasted your money on this entire course. Please just go ahead, go ask for a refund. Whatever. But I hope that you’re going to stay with us, and stay with me on this course as you learn techniques that can make you better. And then what you have to do is when you catch yourself saying these negative thoughts that you can’t become better, replace them. Just tell your mind, “No, I can. I can do better.” Then act on it. Seek out more opportunities to practice. Seek out more chances to become a better speaker.
Because here’s the thing. Would we see good speakers up on a stage whether it’s at a commencement or it’s the CEO’s out there, we don’t see all of the times they’ve practiced, all of the public speaking that they have done beforehand, all of the mistakes they’ve made. They’ve taken time and effort, and have worked on those things. We don’t get to see it. That’s misleading, we think, oh my gosh, Steve Jobs, he was such a great public speaker. Winston Churchill. But if you look back to their biographies, they’re going to tell you there was a lot of practice. Jobs would meticulously rehearse every single second of his presentations over and over and over again. You can channel some of that. You can get those same lessons. But it all starts with your mindset, because if you are thinking that you will never become a good speaker, than you have doomed all of your practice. Instead, tell yourself every single day, whether you write it on a post-it note, put it somewhere where you can see. Just remember if you are failing that you can remind yourself, I am a good speaker.
There’s a few other mindsets that I want you to adopt as a speaker, and if you adopt these mindsets, they are going to carry you throughout your speaking career. As you change your mind, and as you get more experiences that can firm these new mindsets, that’s going to solidify them. I’m not a believer in NLP or any of the mumbo jumbo new age nonsense out there. No. What happens is that we can talk to ourselves in constructive ways, and then once we live various experiences they can either confirm or deny our new beliefs. We have to get enough experiences that can firm our new beliefs. We can solidify them.
Then second, we can also choose who to believe and who to surround ourselves with. That if you have people in your life that are telling you that you’ll not be a good speaker, stop them. Say, “No, it takes work, and I’m working at it.” They won’t have anything to say in response. If they are truly being that negative and toxic, cut them out. Don’t let them anywhere near you when you’re preparing to speak. What you need is to surround yourself with positive, constructive messages of growth, and if you can do that, you’re in a much better spot.
Let’s talk about some of these mindsets. First, I don’t have to be perfect. 90% is better than zero percent. There are so many people out there who are paralyzed about making a single mistake. Here’s the thing. You’re going to make a mistake at some point. You’re going to fail at some point. You’re going to bomb a presentation at some point. It happens. It happens to every single good speaker, every single good comedian and stand up, whoever. It doesn’t matter. It is going to happen. But that’s freeing. Because you have to give yourself permission to fail, because the people that don’t give themselves permission to fail, are paralyzed by fear. When you are paralyzed by fear, you’re depriving your audience and the world of your great ideas and your perspective.
Here’s the thing. If you memorize your speech in the right way, and you practice it in the right way, and then deliver it, it’s going to be okay. Because here’s the other mindset that I want you to have in addition to that. Your audience is very forgiving. For the most part, they aren’t going to even catch your mistakes. What I want you to do is listen to radio shows in the morning or on the way home, and listen intently, see when they make mistakes. Then, another day, don’t even listen at all. I bet when you listen intently, you’re going to find really minor mistakes that they make. But when you’re just kind of passively listening, those same mistakes are just going to fly by you, and your brain won’t even register them.
The same exact thing happens when we are speaking, is that our brains want to fill in the gaps. That’s what we do. Our brains recognize patterns and they fill in gaps in our perception. Well if you make a mistake up there, if you forget something, it is very likely the audience, they’ll just fill in the gap, and they won’t even have heard your mistake. Here’s the thing. We are such a self-absorbed culture that your audience is caring way so much more about themselves than they are even caring about you and your mistakes. It is great. And I think the first time when it’s just a benefit that we are a completely self-absorbed culture that our audience just won’t really care, because they are so concerned about themselves that if you make a mistake they’re not going to notice it. Or they will, they’ll disregard it. Even if it is a big blunder, they’ll forgive you.
And the other thing of this too, is that unless the audience is sitting there with your transcript, they don’t know what you were going to say or not say. If you forget it, afterwards, send out a memo, an email. Post it to your Facebook page. Just say, “Hey, I want to make this one point that I just didn’t have time to do up there.” No one is going to find you at fault for that. But there are too many speakers out there that think that they have to be absolutely perfect, and that the audience has kind of keeping this mental perfect video record in their head.
Even if it is videotaped, honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. Because even when we’re watching videos we forget there’s a mistake. You can look at these movies online, and there’s those websites that catch mistakes that are made in the editing process. I guarantee you that if you were to watch these same movies, you wouldn’t catch those editing mistakes unless you saw them. Sometimes there’s entire speakers or microphones on scene, but we don’t see it. Our brains just magically forget it. Your audience is going to do the same. So adopt the mindset that your audience is going to be forgiving. It’s about an entire Gestalt experience. And that’s perfectly okay.
And then finally, you’re going to make mistakes, and that’s going to be okay. It’s going to happen. So what? Embrace it. Even if you are someone who is developing a keynote. That you think that you’re going to go out, and get paid to speak, which I think is a great and noble goal. Here’s the thing. Those keynote speakers? They make mistakes too. Now a lot of that, it’s edited out for DVDs and videos online. That’s where all the magic happens. They have editors there. They can just send it out to the video guy and say, “Oh, can you cut that right there? Can you cut that camera angle? Can you change that?” They make mistakes too in person, but at the end of the day, no one remembers, and the magic of video editing takes it all away. That’s why we have this conception of what a good speaker is in our country, is because so much has been edited for us before we get to see it. We never get to see the raw footage. Who wants that out there? No one wants their mistakes on display. No big deal.
Let’s go ahead. Now that you have these mindsets, what I want you to do with them is write them down. Have them around you all day long, and when you start to think the opposite, read them. Remind yourself. Make it your screen saver on your computer. Make it your desktop background. Just catch yourself when you start slipping into the other mindsets that you have to be perfect or that your audience won’t forgive you or that practice and feedback are necessary. No. Tell yourself, “No, I’m changing the way I think. I’m changing the way I believe.” Also, if you hear these from other people tell them they’re wrong. Say, “No, that’s just not how it works.” Use the information here, and tell them, “Look. That’s not how it works.” That it’s okay to make a few mistakes on stage. Remember, 90% is better than zero percent.
For this next module, we’re going to talk about relaxation. Many times the confidence of a speaker is really dependent on what their body is doing. It’s the fight-or-flight reaction. This is anytime that you have been scared you know the feeling. The adrenaline starts rising, your breathing gets faster, and you just get that heightened sense of, oh my God, something is wrong, and I’m in danger. That’s a carry over from evolution. That was the response that helped us on the plains of Africa if there was a lion nearby that was about to chase us down. We could run away really quickly. That adrenaline pumping through, boom, allowed us to either stay and fight, or flight, run away as fast as possible. In our society, our body has that same response to public speaking, and I am betting that many of the people listening here had that same thing happen. There’s a few things you can do with this. One, I don’t want you to be 100% completely relaxed, because then you’re going to have no energy up there. Instead, I want you to have just enough nervous energy where you can help.
With relaxation, a lot of times it’s a physical response that’s driving our mental response. You want to have a sweet spot of just enough energy that you can be engaging, that you can be on your game, but not too little that you’re kind of asleep up there. There are some speakers that will go up there, and they will just … they’re boring. They’re super relaxed, they’re at zero percent energy, and that’s no fun. Then you have others who are so overwhelmed with nervous energy that they either talk way too much and way too fast, or they’re just overloaded.
Instead, you want your butterflies to work for you. Here’s what you’re going to do. There are two methods that can work before any presentation that you give. What they do is they calm your body, which in turn calms your mind. I use these before I go onto stage if I have to speak. It just helps to have this routine. It’s something that you can do while seated. It’s something that you can do in the bathroom right before you go on, and it helps. You can do this before a job interview, do it before just a small presentation, doesn’t matter. Works every, single time.
First one, and this is quite common, it’s called deep breathing. All it is, is that you want to have controlled breathing that gets your heart rate and breathing rate under control. You can even do it on stage too. What you do, is you breathe in for a count of seconds. Hold it for that same count, then exhale. If you Google deep breathing on the internet, you’re going to find lots and lots of just crazy, different methods. If you find that those methods work for you, that’s great. For the most part, at the core of all of these methods is the idea that you are focusing on your breath, that in doing so, you’re also controlling how you breathe, your heart, you’re getting that fight-or-flight response under control.
So what do you do? You start by breathing in for a count of three, go ahead and do that right now. Breathe in, one, two, three. Now hold it, one, two, three. Now exhale, one, two, three. You can either repeat that number, or you can go up longer to four seconds. Breathe in for a count of four. One, two, three, four. Hold it, one, two, three, four. Now exhale, one, two, three, four. Not too difficult. You can go up as high as you need to, but you want to do it in a way that fits the time frame that you’re in. And when you feel calm and relaxed, that’s when you know you’re in a good spot.
Now this next one. It’s called muscle relaxation, and try it with me. For this part of the …
With muscle relaxation, what you’re going to do here, and I know this is going to seem really weird to do, but it works. You’re going to tense up, hold, and release various parts of your body. Very similar to the deep breathing, except you’re just going to make your muscles work like your lungs. Easiest way to start with this, some people start with the feet, others starts with the hands. The idea is you just kind of start from the outside of your body, your extremities, and work your way in. What we’re going to do is we’re going to try it with our hands first. Go ahead make a fist with your hands. Hold it for about three seconds, and release. Now, flex your biceps, hold, release. Shrug your shoulders and keep them up, now release. Now go down to your toes. Kind of curl them in, release. Your ankles, move your feet up, release. Flex your calf muscles, and release. Your thighs, flex them, release. Your head, look up, and then bring it back down.
I’d note what this is doing is you should be feeling a lot more relaxed as a result of doing this. For some of you, this is going to work wonders. And I do this, this is probably my favorite technique, before I go on. I find that I carry a lot of stress and tension in my shoulders. And then when I do this, my shoulders finally drop, my airway opens up, and it’s a lot easier to talk to people and to be just in a confident position on stage.
This next technique. This is something that you can do beforehand, but it’s something that does require practice. Meditation. This course can’t go into all of the different types of meditation that are out there, instead if it is something that interests you, look for meditation centers in your area. Look for resources online. There’s just so many of them that I can’t go through all of them. Seek out a teacher. Seek out the books and the DVDs, and the whatever that’s on there, and use that to gain mental clarity and confidence and poise.
Next, get your sleep under control. This is something that is not talked about very much in the public speaking community, but we all know when we don’t have enough sleep, we are lax the next day. That’s usually when we’ve got a major presentation. Lack of sleep and a presentation are almost never a good combination. Instead, what you want to do is get your sleep under control.
There’s just a few tips for this, and there’s a really great book out there. The Promise of Sleep by Dr. William Dement. Please get it. It talks about how to get all of your sleep under control. What this does for you as a speaker, make sure that you are well rested the day before your presentation. And not just the day before, the week before, because what Dr. Dement talks about is this idea of sleep debt. That if we are not getting enough sleep in the beginning of the week, we carry it all throughout the week with us, and it’s only when we sleep it off in large chunks that we can engage our REM cycles, that we are actually able to kind of pay it back. But it can do some very long-lasting damage. I urge you: get your sleep under control. Ensure that if you know you have a major presentation coming up, not just the night before, but the week before, two weeks before, you are getting your sleep under control to where you are refreshed and ready to go.
Also, I’ll tell you this as well. There are some people who think that they can prep the night before a presentation, stay up all night, and then go out and deliver it on zero hours of sleep, or one or two. That is a bad idea. It may have worked one time for one person, but that doesn’t make up for all the other times it has not worked. What I would suggest that you do, get sleep over practice the night before.
Finally, your physical health and well-being are going to improve. When you’re physical health and well-being improve, you are going to become a much more confident person. I’m not telling you to go out there and run a triathlon, but if that’s been a goal of yours, use this as that indicator from the universe telling you, “It’s time to start.” Because when we exercise, we are building up our immunity to stress. People who exercise tend to be less stressed. It just feels good. And the key with exercise here is finding an activity that you enjoy, and do on a regular basis. If you are eating healthy, if you are feeling healthy, and if you are feeling relaxed up there, your physical state it will in turn affect your mental state.
I know it’s weird to think about it that way. Usually, we think about it the other way around, but how you feel physically, that’s the whole point of these relaxation techniques. It gets our body under control, our heart, our breathing, and all of that in turn decreases those butterflies. Of course, you’re going to feel them, and this goes back to the mindset. I’m going to have, I’m going to be a little bit nervous when I speak, and that’s okay. And we’ll have to put that back into the mindset section, but a little bit of nervousness is great. It keeps you on your toes, and it gives you just that little oomph, that little amount of energy that’s going to make you an amazing person, and an amazing speaker.
Next up, memorization. This goes back to the mindset that we talked about, actually. You don’t need to memorize everything about your speech. There’s going to be thing in your speech that you’ll forget. The idea of a speech is not to regurgitate word for word what you have on paper. Rather, as long as you get the big ideas out to your audience, you’re good to go. But if you miss an “and” or a “but” or a “so” or a whole phrase or a whole section, no one’s going to know.
Instead, what you what to do is what’s called scaffolded memorization. Here’s how it works. This is the process that I use and a lot of speakers use. I’ll also tell you in a few seconds just also how to use notes when you’re up there. There’s a right way to use notes, and a wrong way to use notes. In preparing, what you want to do, it’s called scaffolded memorization. First step, I want you to write out every single thing that you want to say for your presentation. Every single word. This is when you seriously sit down and say, okay this is my structure, this is my outline, this is what I want to say at every single step of the way. Write it out. Now, go ahead, read the speech out loud. See how long it takes you. See if it’s going to fit within the time constraints.
To be honest, if it’s too short, that’s okay. No one has ever complained that a speech was ever too short. That is, I think, in the history of time, it is very rare you hear someone say, “That speech was too short.” It’s okay. Now if you’ve got time limits for a competition, sure that matters. But for the most part, if you’re given 30 minutes to speak, and you use 15 to speak, and 15 for Q and A, you’re going to have a lot of happy people. But if you’re given 30 minutes to speak, and you go on for 60, that whole rib’s going to turn on you. Make sure it’s in the right time, that it sounds right, that certain words are the ones that you want to use.
Now, go back and re-write your speech, but only use the main ideas from each sentence or paragraph, and write those down into kind of an outline. Now, get up, and just using that main outline that you just created, see if you can give the speech using each bullet point as a launching point, as a launching off point. Now, do the same thing and reduce it down even further to where you make more of kind of a skeleton outline, like one of those outlines you would see when writing a college paper. Now, give your speech using just that outline. You can either stop there, or take the outline away, and see if you can give it from memory. Because what you are doing at every single step of the way, is that when our brains learn, it’s an act of memory. The more we recall information, the more it’s hardwired into our brain.
See, that’s the problem when people think that they are preparing a speech by just reading. You can’t just read your speech, because some people this is how they prepare. They read over their speech. They’ve got it on a Word document on the computer. They wrote it all out, and they are just sitting there reading it. Well, there’s a lot of problems with that. One, you aren’t testing your brain. You have to test your brain to try to get it to remember. And you do that basically by kind of creating flash cards. So what you’re doing here it’s the same process. But then a second, no one is expecting a speaker to walk onto stage, and read a speech to people. That’s just wasting everyone’s time. You can send that out in an email, and tell everyone to go home, and they can just read it over their lunch break.
No, instead what you want to do is you want to test your brain, and see how much you can give at every step of the way. You may be at one step for a while, and then it clicks. Once you are confident that you can give a speech on that outline in front of you, reduce it. Then, as you get more confident, reduce it again, reduce it again, and reduce it again. ‘Til in the end, maybe the only thing that you have is your main point, three sub-points, your opening and closing, and that’s it.
Now, what you can do with those outlines if you’re short on time or if you just don’t feel comfortable having nothing up there, you want to create an outline, and either do a few things. You can either write it on note cards, and if you do it this way, I want you to use permanent marker to do it, or some sort of big, thick marker. Don’t use pens, because you don’t know what the lighting’s going to be like. You don’t want to be squinting at the paper. Instead, it’s easier just to have a large permanent marker, and maybe on one flash card, on one three by five card, you’ve written your main point. And I’ve got the templates for you as well. You can see what this looks like.
Second method. This is called the room method. And I bring it up more as a point of history, because this is the method that some of the old-school orators in ancient Rome and ancient Greece would use. What they would do is they would imagine their house, and in their house they would put different parts of their speech in different rooms, and while they were giving their speech, they would just imagine themselves walking through those rooms.
So what I want you to do is imagine your house, or your apartment right now, or your childhood home. One that’s memorable. So go in the front door, or however you came in. It’s your house. Some people have a back door, they could go in through the garage, whatever. Your entryway. Put your introduction there. Look around the room, and what objects can you put there? And these objects can be bizarre objects. The bizarre-er the better. Then, attach those to your introduction as kind of memory triggers. Well, what’s the next room? Walk there. That’s the next main point of the speech that you want to make. Imagine various objects in that room. Keep doing this until you get to the end, as your conclusion, and then you’re ready to go. So that when you are ready, you can just walk through your house when you’re ready to give your speech.
Next, mnemonics. These usually come in the form of an acrostic, and it’s just a way that you can deliver the main point of your speech all at once. Not, sorry, all at once, but as one word or phrase. This helps in two ways. One, in terms of how you get your audience to remember it, but then also it’s going to help you organize your speech. Let’s say you’re in a charge that I give, and you are trying to teach your employees a new method about signing in. And it’s called SIGN. S-I-G-N. And S, I, G, and N each stand for a main point that you’re going to make when trying to teach a new procedure to somebody. Then you can make posters about it, and people can remember your presentation, but then you could remember it as well when you’re up there.
And then, finally, throughout all of this, when you are practicing, when you are trying to memorize it, you have to trust yourself and forgive yourself. Trust that your brain is going to remember what it needs to say, but then forgive yourself if you do make a small mistake, or even a major one. It’s absolutely no big deal. Because when people are up there doing these things, there’s a lot going on in your brain, because of all the stimuli coming in from the audience, and the lights, and the projector, and everything. Instead, trust yourself.
The other way, going back to the outline, to turn this part in there, is use big fonts for what you have. The one thing I don’t want you doing is taking up your entire speech word for word and trying to read it. Now, there are, I think, a few exceptions for when that is okay. I think that if when you are the major CEO, the CEO of the company, you have to stay on message 100% because something bad happened and you’re talking to the media, and you have a prepared statement. Fine. Or maybe it’s a commencement address. Even then, even with all of these, what you don’t want is to be is just reading a speech to people, because it’s boring.
Instead, take up bullet points, make them really large font. I would say size 18. Bold them. Make it large. Use those, because what you can do then, is you can look down, see what you need to say, make eye contact with the crowd, and then go from there. That’s what you have to do, and the key here is that I want you to sound authentic. When you just go up there and try to recite a speech word for word, you sound like a robot. When you read it off of a slide that’s even worse. That’s what people don’t get when they’re making bad PowerPoint presentations, is it’s not just the wall of text, it’s how people use the wall of text. They read every single word. You don’t need to do that. Use your PowerPoint slides as kind of just memory triggers, and then talk like a normal person. Talk like you’re having a conversation, and then from there it will come to you, and you’ll be natural.
That’s why this next section is going to be so important for you, is that it goes hand in hand with memorization. It’s practice, and you’re going to learn how to practice. Because once you have practiced it, you’re going to be a pro at it.
All right, so the big thing that separates the great speakers from the good, from the mediocre, from the poor, is the amount of practice. It’s not the people know that they need to practice, everyone does. You talk to someone, and they say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to prepare this presentation.” Well what happens? Things just get out of control. Meetings come up, and everything happens, and the presentation gets pushed back, and pushed back, and pushed back. You say, “Oh, I’m going to practice tonight.” Doesn’t happen. “I’m going to practice tomorrow.” Doesn’t happen. Then it’s the night before the presentation, and you start practicing, and it just isn’t good.
What you want to do instead, and I’ve provided this with you, is create a practice calendar. In each practice session you need to set goals, because you have to have a goal-based approach to practicing. This is going to make it easier to convince yourself to practice when you can break down your speech into different parts, and it will also help you hone in where you know you need to do well, or to improve whatever it is that you need to do. What I’ve done, and I think the easiest way to do this is very similar to scaffolded memorization, where you are practicing different parts of your speech, and putting them together in a sequential order.
This is what I would do. The first thing that you want to practice is your introduction. You want to make sure that the first thing out of your mouth is solid. Let’s say your speech has five parts. It has an opening, section one, section two, section three, and a closing. Now, there’s a few ways that you can approach practicing. And I’m going to give you both ways to do it. First, just practice the opening, so go section, opening. Get it down. Then, go to your closing, and practice that.
Now why are we starting with the opening and the closing first? Why not the main body of the speech? Well, people remember most what they hear first and what they hear last. Also, if you are to practice it from just beginning to end, you may not get to practice your closing until the day before, and you won’t be able to end with a powerful closing. What I want you to do is I want you to have your opening and your closing completely mastered so that you can be 100% prepared, and that even if your middle isn’t that great, if people can remember what you said at the beginning and at the end, well they’re going to think you had a great speech, because that’s what they all remember the most.
So now that you have those practiced, now go and practice section one. Now, once section one is mastered, what I want you to do, is don’t go on to section two yet, practice your intro and section one together, because what this is going to do, is it’s going to start sounding as a continuous speech. That’s our goal here. We want this to be a continuous flow of information and of a presentation. Then, of course, practice your closing as well if you have time. And then you want to keep adding on these various blocks, and as you do that, you are building and building and building your presentation to where it’s a continuous set of communication. That’s your goal here.
So here’s what it looks like. Now, what I want you to do is you have to block out time for practice. Just as much as you block out times for meetings during your day, use your Outlook calendar, use whatever calendar it is, and block off those times. And you want to go find a place, and where you practice is going to be really, really important.
What you want to do is if you can, practice your speech in the room that you’re going to give it in. This is really easy if you’re going to have a wedding in town, and you’re giving the toast at the wedding. You can go to where the reception is being held. I’m sure if no one’s around or if the manager is there, and you just need some time, go ahead and do it in that place, because you want to be used to the acoustics, how it’s going to look, and it makes you just more confident on the day of, because it feels right. Same thing at work, if you have to give a work presentation, go prep in the conference room or the meeting room that you’re going to give it in. Don’t prep it in your office. Do it in the room that you’re going to give it in.
Another bonus: Your boss might walk by, and say, “Oh, look at that. He/she’s taking this presentation real seriously.” Bonus points, right? That’s awesome. But it gets your brain in this mode of this is where I’m going to speak, and it gets you used to the room, it gets you used to the setup. I know that there are some conference rooms out there that are nothing more than a huge table and maybe five square feet for the speaker to be in. Well you need to get used to that, and you get used to it when you practice.
Now, who do you practice in front of? What I would suggest that you do if you’re someone who is super nervous, use an animal. A lot of people say use a mirror. I don’t like the mirror trick that much. It’s because it creates some very artificial eye contact. Instead, use an animal. Dogs are probably the best for this, because they are just really good listeners it seems. But they will make eye contact with you, they’ll move their head a little bit. They’re that perfect audience member who can’t give you any bad feedback. In fact, they’re going to give you great feedback, because that’s just how those animals are, and they’re fantastic. So use the animal method.
Next, build up a small audience of people that you trust to give you good feedback. When I say, “… trust to give you good feedback.” what I want you to do is in here there is a form where you can have your feedback on it, and what’s it’s going to do is if look at this form, it just has a plus or a delta for each one, which means something positive or something to change. And have a small group of people listen, but then use that feedback sheet, because here’s the thing. Most people out there, they’re not very good speakers. They’re not going to give you very good advice. You have to guide them to give you the advice, and here it is. So use these forms. And I kept this really simple. There are some forms out there, you can just do an internet search, that if you want to get really nit-picky, I’ve got the nit-picky form on here, but then I’ve got just the basic form that’s going to get you over the hump. And it’s just basic things where if you’re doing these you’re good to go.
Next, videotape yourself. And I know people do not like doing this. But, it works. It works extremely well. Why? Because you’re going to see that you’re actually a better speaker than you think you are. Second, you can use these objective feedback forms against yourself. And you’re going to find out you’re doing a lot of things right. Now, I know. Not all of us like to hear the sound of our own voice. I get that. I get that 100%. But, what I love is that in doing this you catch certain mannerisms, certain ticks, you hear certain filler words that detract, and it gives you this way of feedback.
And what this all comes back to is the 10,000 hour rule. There’s researchers down in Florida that figured this out. A lot of times this rule gets misquoted. What happens is that they, people, just talk about the amount of hours that someone needs to practice to become an expert. And that’s great. That’s kind of how the rule works. 10,000 hours. But what was missing for much of this analysis, and the researchers talked about it, just the popular news media, the blogs, and all the business articles, they left this out of …
You need feedback as well. And you need feedback that going to help you improve rather than just having someone tell you, “Good job!” or “Great job!” or “That was bad.” Instead, you need to have feedback that tells you what was it that you were doing well. What was it that was getting in the way? And if you look at these feedback sheets, you’ll notice that your audience should look for filler words. They should look for distracting hand motions. They should look for changes in tone, because that keeps people interested. And if you pitch it on that, then you’re good to go.
Next, if you need to, get a public speaking coach. There are people in every city that do this. And if you feel that you have a major presentation coming up, get a coach. Get someone who is skilled at this, who is an expert, who’s going to help you really transform your game. If there’s a promotion on the line, if there’s a raise on the line, if this is your chance to truly impress your boss, or you really want to give that great toast at a wedding, go get a public speaking coach if it means that much to you. Sure, shop around for rates, but look for quality. Look for someone that you can trust that fits your personality and your mold, and go with them.
Next, this is probably also the easiest way to practice is explain your speech over lunch with somebody. A casual conversation. I call it Casual Practice. When someone says, “Hey, what are you going to speak about?” Just say, “Hey, can I give you the overview?” Talk with them. Have a normal, human conversation with somebody about what you’re going to say. That’s all your presentation needs to be. Authenticity is key when it comes to speaking. We’ve seen this in presidents, we’ve seen this in politicians, we’ve seen this in just anyone who is speaking. The more true to their self that they are, the more it sounds like a conversation, the better they are.
No one’s expecting you to be that Tony Robbins-esque just super powerful motivational speaker. They’re rare, all right? And that’s his persona and it works for him. If that’s you, that’s great. Go for it. But I’m going to guess, it probably isn’t. Instead, I want you to be able to express your authentic self. Maybe it needs to be a little bit better than who you are. Maybe you are shy at times. You just need to do a little bit better at speaking, but the idea here is that you’ll want to express yourself in the most natural and authentic way possible.
All right, next up. Next up is what’s called the prep plan. Here you want to be able to be prepared for your speech and everything that can go wrong will go wrong. With public speaking, it seems that Murphy’s Law is super attracted to it. The idea that there’s these rules out there, you know, the worst will happen. The projector’s going to go. You want to be able to be ready ahead of time to plan for any contingency. And if you have a plan in place, a set of checklists, a checklist, then things are going to go a lot smoother on the day of your presentation, and things will be a lot better.
First, you got to know where you are giving your speech. You should have this information on your smartphone, on your computer, and in hard copy. You should know the directions to get there. You should know walking and driving. You should know the phone numbers of the key contact people that you need to get a hold of, and backup numbers.
Second, check the technology out ahead of time. If you are using slides, check with them about the connection that’s needed for the laptop to the projector. Do you have to bring your own laptop? Will they have it there? Are you going to be using a jump drive? Do you have to send your files in ahead of time? Even if you do have to send your files in ahead of time to these events, you should still have them saved on your computer that you have with you, a USB drive that you trust, and even somewhere on the internet, where if all those other things fail, and there’s an internet connection, you can still get them somewhere. Amazon has a cloud drive, Google Drive, whatever works for you. I just save mine in the attachment of an email. But have many backup places for your slides.
And also with slide presentations, this is getting into the really nitty-gritty stuff, but that’s part of this presentation, that’s part of what you’re learning today, is PowerPoint and video sometimes don’t play well together. Sometimes what people do is they use a web link. Well the problem with that is that you may not have internet connection in the room that you’re in. Even if it’s promised, the WiFi can go down, it can be spotty, you have to give it time to load, time to buffer. It’s trouble. Now, there are way to download videos onto your computer. I would just do an internet search, and it’s up to you. Please follow all copyright laws, and all that fun stuff. But, I would suggest having a downloaded copy of the video that you want to use.
Second, you just need to be packaged with the presentation. There’s a way to export it where all the files are put together. Please make sure that you are doing that. And also with Apple’s keynote, I think some of the same problems do exist. I don’t know. I don’t use it very often. But just make sure that your presentation runs on the technology that’s being used at that conference, or wherever it is in that room. Check it out ahead of time to make sure that it’s going to work.
Next, get to the place early and set up. Even if you are able to run your speech once ahead of time, that’s great. If you don’t have enough time to run the whole thing, run the intro. Run the conclusion and maybe one of the main points that you really want to make. Do it ahead of time, and you will be able to be in that room, it’ll be more real to you, and you’ll be more calm and relaxed.
On the day of, a lot of people talk about, they say, “Oh, don’t drink coffee.” or don’t do this, or don’t do that. All those prescriptions are good, but I think the best thing that you can do is just simply keep your normal routine. That’s the best thing to do, because a lot of people they don’t do this. They decide that they’re going to make things different. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing that throws people off their game is when your life that morning, you decide to do things differently. That is the wrong time to do things differently. Instead, you want to keep your normal routine as normal as possible. That is probably the key distinction, the key thing, that you want to do. So keep everything normal.
And then, finally, pack a kind of like a first aid kit, where if you have some headache medicine, if you have … I would do a Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, make sure your head and your stomach and intestines are all working, because those are things that you don’t want to be messing with you on the day of. If you have prescription medication, make sure it’s with you.
Essentially, you want to make sure that you are in top physical and mental condition. You do that by being prepared, by putting together a checklist. I’ve got a few checklists for you here that you can use just to make sure everything’s going to go according to plan on the day of. And of course, go with the mindset of, “I can only control things that are within my control.” Things are going to happen. Your part are going to be late. And this goes back to the mindset where you want to know that you want to prep, but understand things are going to change. That’s just the normal course of how this works. Your speaking time might get cut in half. You might be asked to go on for longer. You might be asked to go on for shorter. But in the end, the key here is that you’re in control of what you can control. Everything else is up to The Fates, but if you are ready for it, if you know it’s going to happen, that’s going to make you confident.
If you also have time ahead of time, I know a lot of public speakers will do this, they will talk to audience members ahead of time. This is kind of weird to do, but instead of that really bad advice of imagining your audience in [your 01:05:34] underwear, and no one believes that. No one does that. That’s a bunch of bullshit. Instead, what you want to do is talk with one or two people in the audience ahead of time. Just say, “Hi, how are you? What brought you here?” Talk to them. What happens is, when you get on stage, you then have some friendly members, friendly faces in the audience, and it’s a little bit easier. Also, you might even know some of these people and can refer to them in your speech. But it’s great to be able to look out onto this audience, smile at someone that knows you, and have them smile back. It’s the easiest thing to do, is just introduce yourself ahead of time, and then you’ve got friendly faces in the audience who are rooting for you. To me, if I know I’ve got friends in the audience that want to see me do well, I’m going to do well, of course.
Finally, afterwards, ignore most of what the crowd says to you. What’s going to happen is, if you’ve just given a speech, they’re going to come up to and they’re going to say, “Great job!” Most people are going to say that. No one’s really going to come up to you, unless they’re a true jerk, and tell you all the things you did wrong. And if it happens, they’re just being a jerk and a tool. Now, there are some people, you get the rare audience member who is a public speaker who can actually give you some effective feedback. But they’re probably going to know to do it in a way that you’re going to understand that is actually good, and it’s listening. But for the most part, nah.
Instead, what I would do is listen to the applause. That really tells you if you knocked it out of the park or not. Second, you’re not always going to get applause. If it’s like a corporate presentation on how to do a procedure or something, don’t even expect applause there. Or a college lecture. Maybe on the last day. But if you have someone in the audience, maybe a friend tagged along, have them fill out the feedback form as you’re performing. Might make you too nervous. Then don’t do it. But if you can, get a video recording of what you did, and watch it later. Then critique your performance, just like you did in the beginning. Perfect, easy to do.
This last part requires you to either write by hand or open a Word document and do the exercises:
What I want you to do now is write down your mindsets. What new mindsets are you going to adopt? And they could be the ones that I listed above, and there may be others that have come to your mind. But you want to make them in the positive, and you want to make them affirming, and you want to make them as part of a growth mindset, where it’s, “I can do better, I will do better, it just takes time and effort.” That’s all it is.
Second, list out the relaxation techniques that worked for you. And then, write down how you’re going to do them ahead of time. So maybe you’re going to start exercising. You’re going to finally go to that meditation class that’s offered every Thursday night at the meditation center downtown. And then before you go on, the deep breathing works for you, you’re going to stand in a corner and before you go up, you’re going to start controlling your breath. Write them down, and write how you’re going to use them.
Next, which memorization techniques work for you? Write those out. Does the room work for you? Did mnemonics come easy to you? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Then, plan out the days that you’re going to practice. I want you to write down the day of your speech. And I want you to give yourself three days before that to do complete run-through’s. And then at the same time, you’ll notice that you have these blocks, and you’re ready to go. The more important the speech, the more time you’re going to need to give yourself to prep it, to practice it, and to get ready to go up there and give it.
Now if you just have 24 hours, here’s how I would do it. First hour is just the opening. Second hour, just the closing. Then the main points, then put it all together. Take an afternoon to do this. Rest. Relax. Get back up. If you have to take the day off work to do it, go do it. Make up the excuse that you need to make up, and then go and give yourself that time isolated from others. It’s worth it if it means delivering a great presentation in the end.
Next, the checklist. And this is going to be a little bit fungible, but if there’s technology, write down the technology that you’re going to check. Ask them to check the bulb life, ask them to check the projector connection. Ask them to check to make sure that your presentation’s going to play. Do you have the details of your venue? Is there going to be a microphone provided? Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. There should be. Check. These are all things that you can do ahead of time, that you’ve checked them off your list, and these are the things that are within your control.
Next up, the feedback sheets. Decide if you want to do just the basics, or if you want to truly do all of the really nitty-gritty, nitpicky parts, and then go from there.
Okay. With that, that is the Confidence Course. And I hope over this post that you have come to a new realization of what it takes to be a confident speaker. That I hope that one, you’re going to adopt new mindsets that are going to help you grow as a speaker. Two, that you’re taking a new approach to nerves. The idea that you want just a little, not too much, and not too little, but just right. Enough to give you that confidence when you speak. Then, that you have a plan to memorize your speech, and a plan to practice it. And during your practices, and we’ll put this up in there too, is that this is when you are taking your memory techniques, and trying them out, and saying, “Okay, can I get this part? Is it fully ready?” And then go from there. And then finally, that you have all the necessary details and plans worked out, that you can be ready to go when you speak. The checklist is there and everything.
Finally, go out and speak. The only way you get better at this is by seeking out more and more opportunities to speak. All the great speakers out there, we don’t get to see the hundreds, thousands of hours that they have put in to honing their craft and getting feedback. We don’t get to see it. I wish we did as people, and I think the same thing goes for the top athletes, the top musicians. Anything out there that requires a skill, we don’t get to see all the failures, all the mess ups. And if you’ve lived with a musician, you know that they’re practicing, but there are plenty of times where they stop, and they have to repeat a phrase over and over again. The same things with public speaking.
So in the end, it’s all about seeking the opportunities, having the right mindset, and then preparing like crazy to deliver a fantastic speech. That is my goal for you, that you go up there, and you give one that is your authentic self. You’re not trying to be anyone that you’re not, but that you are up there as a more confident version of yourself. That’s the key there. I want you to be the most confident version of you, because there’s the shy you, the nervous you, and then there’s the confident you. And that’s what I want to see you up there doing.
It may be in this course that you learned something new. Come back to it, re-watch it, watch it again. Keep applying it. Maybe one part speaks to you now, and a month later another part will speak to you. You have unlimited access to this course no matter how long, as long as the website still stays up that’s the key. So that’s what I want for you. Enjoy.
Ready to get help with your speech either in its writing or preparation? Email me () and let’s get started.