Can you recall a time in your life when you placed yourself in a particular “state” to achieve an objective? Getting through days of stressful, traumatic events – and even pleasurable ones – like weddings and celebrating the birth of your child – all these events require you to be in a particular state to achieve a desired outcome. Let’s look at the factors that help you to be in a “speaking state.”
Get out of your head and into the heart of your audience
Whether you are speaking to a small audience or a large audience; for a short duration, or a longer time frame – remember you are there to deliver for your audience. This requires a state of selflessness rather than selfishness.
A person who is selfless will think of the audience needs and how they can facilitate it. A selfish person will think of how nervous they are and how embarrassing it might be for them if they forget their content or get asked a question they cannot answer.
Get to the venue early and assess the room. Walk around the room to mentally acclimatize yourself to the dynamics of the room. Know which doors people will use to enter and exit the room; assess how natural light or artificial light brings energy into the room; does the room have a large boardroom table that you need to walk around or is it a cinema-style seating arrangement. Sit in the chair of the audience facing the stage. Choose a few seats at various parts of the room like you are an audience member. This helps you to see the stage from the audience perspective so you know where to stand on the stage for increased visibility.
Meet and greet people before your talk as they enter the room. Have sincere conversations about what brought them to your talk and what they will be looking to achieve. These discussions further entrench your state that what you are speaking about is aligned to your audience expectations.
On the subject of notes
As a speaker you should aim to be a natural speaker than coming across as being robotic or theatrical.
When you read from your notes; have minimal eye contact with your audience; have very tense hand gestures and movement and speak in a strained voice – you are robotic. On the other extreme, if you are overly enthusiastic, deviate from the topic or come across as being over-rehearsed, display very deliberate hand gestures and movement and have an intense look in your eyes – you are theatrical. How a person relates to you off-stage is the natural and conversational state that you should be on-stage.
- Visualisation: Every day before your talk, visualize yourself delivering your talk and being the inspiring speaker, you are. Imagine being on the stage and confidently answering questions and interacting with your audience. Picture yourself assertively walking on and off the stage.
- Thought-provoking questions Mentally prepare by asking yourself: How can I package and deliver my message in a simple way for my audience to understand. What can I do to engage, educate and entertain my audience? How can I use my time allocation efficiently to inspire and teach my audience?
- Press repeat: Speak often and making speaking a habit. The more you speak, the quicker your confidence grows and the easier it becomes to switch on your speaking state.