Your first few speaking gigs will inevitably be scary whether it’s alone with management or in a room full of colleagues and potential clients, but it does get easier. You don’t have to imagine everybody naked, all it takes is a little practice and some time to work on your confidence. For a lucky few these things are just another part of the job but for many of us, speaking confidently in front of our colleagues and managers is terrifying! Here are five tips for mastering meetings and being confident enough to voice your opinions.
Any public speaking requires planning, whether it’s a conference, a speech, a pitch or a normal business meeting. You need to know what’s going to be brought up and what ideas you’re bringing to the table. A good way of doing this is to write a brief plan before hand, know what you’re going to say and how to react if someone challenges it. If you’re doing a presentation, make sure your slides are easy to read and aren’t too fussy.
Practice definitely makes perfect. Start in front of a mirror, although it might be cringe-worthy, look at your body language. Think about how you’re going to hold your hands if you’re standing up to speak, or how you can use gestures as a persuasive tool. Politicians regularly use their hands to make their body language seem more open. Make sure you can practice in front of at least one real person who will give you feedback, so you can work on steady speaking and eye contact.
#3 Stay on point
It’s easy to get distracted or move away from a main point, in the last speech I did I crammed too much information into the five-minute slot. I thought I was covering all bases, but it turned out I was actually bombarding people with information, some of it not so relevant. See if you can make your point clear and concise and try not to ‘waffle’ about things that aren’t integral to your idea.
#4 Embrace your nerves
Nerves are a good way to prepare for things, once you’ve completed something you’ve been dreading you get a healthy sense of accomplishment. Control your nervous impulses, you can’t always hide shaking hands but practicing pauses and steady breathing will help if you’re really petrified of speaking in front of others.
Your voice is the most important part, you need to speak in a calm and measured way and take pauses between points or after a question is asked. This will make you seem far more confident than you may internally feel, and it’s the easiest thing to master. The number one thing we all do during public speaking is speed up our speech, it’s normal and happens when we’re nervous but it’s super easy to keep in check. If you feel yourself speeding up, take a breath, swallow and count to three. You don’t want a dry mouth either so sip some water if you can, smile and keep going girl!
When was the last time you had to speak in front of people? Do you have any tips for successful meetings and pitches that you’d like to share with other career girls? Let us know in the comments below!