I just finished a program where I taught middle schoolers about public speaking and quite a few thought only speakers needed to learn speaking skills. They wanted to know why they needed to learn about speaking if they planned to be a nurse, an engineer or any career where speaking wasn’t the main focus.
But, they missed what many of us miss. We don’t speak only in front of a lectern. We speak in meetings, interviews, critical conversations, and any situation where we might need to influence.
However, many of the skills needed for conversational speaking apply to making a great stage speech.
Here are some everyday (and stage) speaking tips to which you should pay attention:
1. Your energy is critical. Bring your best energy because the audience reflects it. It’s harder to wake them up if you put them to sleep. This is the same psychology behind a firm handshake. Your energy says something about what they can expect from you. So, start with high energy and take them on a ride.
2. Jump right in. You don’t need to let them know how glad you are that they invited you. Show them WHY they invited you and get right into your amazing story. They are anticipating your success. You can see it in their eyes. So, take them on the journey they want.
3. It starts before you utter a word. When you stride into the room, people are paying attention. When you walk up to the front, people are paying attention. Before you open your mouth, people are paying attention. So, walk purposefully and with confidence. Smile, but focus on your destination.
4. Use your hands. Most of us talk with our hands anyway, right? True, but often, it’s the closed, tight variety as if we were attempting to hide pit stains. Broaden your shoulders and use your entire space. Use your arm to simulate driving down the road when talking about a journey. Drive the car if you are talking about driving. Make a globe if you are talking about everyone. Be free and confident.
5. Listen. That’s right, listen. If I’m the speaker, how do I talk and listen? You don’t. You listen when you’re NOT talking. You make space to pause so you can hear the audience’s emotions and thoughts. You pause to let the energy ride. You take a moment to let the story permeate the room. Take them up, down, left, right. It’s not a boxing match, so you don’t need to punch the entire time. Pause, listen and let them anticipate.
You might be on stage, but this is still a conversation. Focus less on performing and more on connecting.