Use These 13 Tips to Master the Art of Q&A

Q&A is like unchartered territory – unpredictable and full of surprises. It’s a double edged sword, either reinforcing your message or undermining it. One wrong move and you may lose the credibility you’ve worked hard to build as a speaker.

Many speakers – even seasoned ones – are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? You can’t know the questions that will be coming your way. It’s one thing to talk to a crowd but another when it’s a two-way dialogue taking place.

Q&A sessions are not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well – which makes sense why so many can get stage fright, and possibly a break a cold sweat just thinking about it. Naturally, it happens to most people that may not have gone for presentation skills training, but it’s more common than you think.

Either way, whether you love or hate it, Q&A sessions are an essential tool. It makes your talk a subject of conversation and a way to connect with your audience. With a bit of preparation, research and determination, you can leverage on the Q&A session to help elevate your talk and reinforce your credibility as a speaker.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help ensure your Q&A sessions are as smooth-sailing as possible:

1)    Q&A Objectives

A good Q&A session is more than just an allocated time slot for your audience to ask random questions.

The purpose of a Q&A like any presentation, speech or pitch needs to have a clear objective that meets the goal at the end of the day. That means making it evident of the direction you want the session to go.

If you do make use of a moderator, a good one would already be guiding your session to the desired direction easily.

2)    Hold a briefing session before the event

It is vital that you brief everyone before your presentation so they are prepared which in turn, can provide the best experience for your audience.

Clarify any issues, questions or instructions from the people working behind the scenes such as stage managers and moderators before running through the event program so everything is in place and running smoothly.

3)    Dedicate enough time

This is something you should establish earlier on in the planning stages of your session. Timing for a Q&A session depends on your set up. If your Q&A session will be conducted after your presentation, then a good 15 minutes should be given. However, if it is a team presentation, then the time given should be extended to ensure each presenter gets a chance to answer the questions as well.

Speakers often focus their efforts into the presentation and leave the remaining time allocated to a Q&A session. This means the audience can only answer one or two questions at best. This compromises further engagement with the audience.

To further engage your audience and strengthen your credibility as a speaker, the Q&A session should match the length of the presentation. You can even consider switching it the other way round where your presentation is short and sweet followed by a longer Q&A 

4)    Prepare questions beforehand 

“Over prepare then go with the flow” – Regina Brett

It doesn’t hurt to over prepare – after all it’s the backbone of success. To ensure you’re not caught off guard or flustered over the questions the audience may ask, think of a few to anticipate beforehand.

Make it a habit to write down these questions down especially the tough or controversial ones before rehearsing your answer. Run a mock session with your trusted and reliable colleagues, friends or family to ensure your answers are well thought of and don’t offend your audience. The evaluation and feedback given from the mock session is key to helping you improve as a speaker.

But, if there are a lack of questions asked during your presentation, don’t shy away from initiating first. Not only do you avoid awkward silences, it also helps to kick start the discussion and inspire more questions from the audience.

5)    Engage a strong moderator

If you need someone to moderate your Q&A session, then it’s important to choose a good moderator as they can help boost the effectiveness of your Q&A. Ultimately, the role of the moderator is to bridge the gap between the audience and the speaker. Hence, they need to be someone who is comfortable with being on stage, able to handle pressure and facilitate the conversation – not join in or control it.

A good moderator ensures the purpose of the session is intact, is able to guide the questions back to the main topic of the session as well as prevent the session from being hijacked by a troublesome audience member. Make sure to take these considerations in mind when finding a good moderator.

6)    Collect Questions Ahead of the Event

Throughout the event, you can start collecting questions before and during your speech. This is helpful in several ways. You as the speaker will be able to plan how to address these questions. The moderator will be able to guide the session better.For the audience, they’re able to ask questions that truly matter instead of scrambling to think of one that may not be useful to them or you. It’s a win-win situation.

One of the ways to collect questions beforehand is using Mentimeter or Kahoot. Both are polling tools where you or your audience can set questions or provide input via a mobile phone or any other device connected to the Internet.

7)    Use the right tools and equipment

Are you planning on having your audience ask their questions vocally or online? Either way, make sure that these tools are able to function with ease during the session itself.

If you’re making use of a microphone, ensure the volume of the microphone is loud enough that even the audience from the back are able to hear the questions asked loud and clear. If you’re facilitating the questions online, then make sure the Wi-Fi or internet is strong so you can receive their questions easily.

8)    Pause

It’s not life or death situation if you need a moment to think before answering a question. Sometimes, answering too quickly may make you seem defensive to the audience so it’s okay to take a few seconds to indulge the question. Not only that, answering instantly may wind up making you stumble over your answers which in turn makes them doubt your credibility. Worse, you may even make the mistake of answering nothing related in your haste.

Although it may be awkward to pause due to the silence, your audience won’t think badly of it. In fact, they will appreciate that you took the time to process their questions. You’ll also look more genuine and authentic as a speaker – not a scripted, monotonous robot.

9)    Reduce filler words

Although not everyone is graced with speaking fluently in front of an audience, constantly saying ‘um’, ‘well’, ‘you know’ and ‘uh’ will do little to establish your credibility as a speaker. These filler words will also annoy your audience when used repetitively.

But what you can do is reduce using these fillers when speaking. Make it a habit to pause so you can gather your thoughts before you speak. Better to take a few seconds to speak in a cohesive manner than instantly speaking, stumbling over your words.

10) Get straight to the point

Often times, speakers beat around the bush when answering questions during Q&A. It may or may not be intentional as there are other factors that can cause the speaker to answer the questions in a long-winded manner.

For instance, they may not have listened closely or they may not have not known how to answer the question and decided to change the topic. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Beating around the bush will only compromise your credibility as a speaker.

So before you answer a question, make sure to listen carefully. Then, make sure to give a short and straight forward answer.

This brings me to my next point.

11) Confirm that you’ve answered the question

After answering a question, always make sure you clarify if you have truly answered it. Throughout the Q&A session, make it a habit to ask if you’ve answered the question or if your answer was clear. It shows you care and that their needs are being met.

12) Don’t get thrown off by the awkward or random question

Elon Musk mentions that even the most well-prepared and organised presentation can go haywire if the speaker is confronted by irrelevant, random and awkward questions.

If you’re lucky, you won’t encounter this. Nonetheless, it’s still important to be prepared to face it and answer as professionally as possible before tying it back to the topic.

This may take a few tweaks here and there especially when It comes to mastering how to handle awkward questions. With that being said, even if the questions asked are not related, answer it honestly anyway. It may end up being the answer you are most remembered for.

One example is Former President Bill Clinton who encounters being asked a totally random question: “Boxers or Briefs?”. Although the question was puzzling and did not tie with his speech, he answered anyway.

Here’s a video of Elon Musk calmly tackling random and awkward questions after his presentation:

Notice how most of the audience members in the video ask long-winded questions. Elon Musk does not harshly tell them off but firmly says “No essays, only questions” to bring them back on track.

13) Learn How to Handle a Tough Audience

Of course most of the questions asked by the audience are sincere. Their intentions are never to hurt or bring malice upon the speaker.

But sometimes, we are faced with audience members who ask questions intended to make themselves look smarter, put the focus on them or, make the speaker look dumb and undermine their credibility

Whatever the purpose is, there many ways to come out unscathed when handling a tough crowd. Despite so, always make sure to be the bigger person. Answer all their questions with professionalism and keep your emotions in check.

Ending the Session

And we’re nearing the end! You’re almost done so make sure to end the session off strong.

Summarise in one or two short sentences encompassing the message of your talk and always make sure to thank the audience for their time and attention – even if they were a tough audience.

Always be humbled by the audience’s presence even if the talk did not go as plan. This sincerity in turn, may keep your audience coming back for more – or at least leave a long lasting impression on them.

Summing It Up 

The best Q&A sessions are ones where you provide your audience with a voice and a safe space for interaction. Not just for the sake of having one.

It all boils down to one purpose: to enhance their learning experience after your presentation or speech.

With that being said, Q&A sessions are only one of the many factors that help you craft an impressive presentation. Make sure to put in the same amount of effort and dedication to planning and executing your presentation as well, and you’ll definitely have a presentation with that ‘wow’ factor.

Don’t forget to implement the 13 steps mentioned to help maximise your Q&A session’s potential and added value. Remember to:

  1. Prepare yourself and others
  2. Know your objective the the Q&A session
  3. Brief others of your plan
  4. Delegate enough time
  5. Anticipate and prepare questions that may be asked
  6. Ensure you have a strong moderator
  7. Make use of the right tools to enhance your session
  8. Pause to ensure your point sinks in
  9. Do not rush and stumble on your words, reduce filler words
  10.  Don’t beat around the bush
  11. Ensure if you’ve answered the questions properly
  12. Don’t get thrown off by awkward questions
  13. Learn to handle a tough crowd

Let us know and comment down below if it worked for you!

Ways to Convince and Switch a Tough Crowd

Every time you go up on stage to speak to the audience, it’s ultimately to establish and develop a good relationship with them. To win the heart of the audience is to gain their trust and their respect all while providing engagement and credible information during a speech.

With that being said however, most speakers worry about whether their audience will like them or not – especially when they have to speak to a tough crowd.

How to Approach Tough Audience Members 

These tough audiences can come in many forms. They’re either unimpressed, unconvinced or  will jump at any opportunity to scrutinise and judge your every action. If not, they could just be plain uninterested.

This is every speaker’s worse nightmare. But while it can be daunting to face these groups of people, there are ways you can get them to switch to your side. All you need is a lot of determination, patience and effort.

So let’s start with knowing the audience. In order to get a tough audience to switch, it’s important that we understand what type of tough audience members we can typically find. This is so we can frame our presentations to adapt to their needs.

Here are the four types of difficult audience members and how to approach them:

1. The Entertainer

Just like their label, they love the social part of public speaking and this is often more important to them than listening to you. They participate by offering comments and questions to entertain and make the attention shift towards them rather than on the speaker.

At times, they can be of great entertainment but if you’re trying to bring up or convey a serious issue, their energy can undermine your efforts.

Here’s how to identify one:

  • They constantly promote themselves
  • They crack jokes

How to Handle This Type:

a) Bite Your Tongue

Do not challenge them unless you wish to make a new enemy. Resist the temptation to give a witty comeback or to crush his or her ego. Instead, be polite and answer their question before quickly moving on.

b) Leverage On Their Energy Skilfully

Sometimes, it’s okay to direct the attention towards the entertainer. Keep them involved by constantly asking questions and giving plenty of eye contact. However, to give the other audience members a chance to participate as well, only ask the entertainers a very specific type of question.

If that doesn’t work, cut short any comments that do not relate to the question.

c) Maintain an Easygoing Approach

Avoid being too serious or you’ll seem like a wet blanket. It’s okay to go with the flow with the entertainer at times. You can laugh at their jokes and give your audience some fun via this entertainer.

This helps give your audience a break – especially when the topic is difficult, complex or boring – before pulling them back to focus.

d) Bring Them Back on Track

Sometimes your talk may require the scene to be much more serious due to the depth of the issue. To ensure, that the entertainer does not lead the talk out of point, gently get them on track by mentioning the purpose of your speech and how you’d prefer the audience to behave.

2. The Rock

This person does not budge. Literally. No matter how much you try to engage with them, they won’t respond or provide any sort of reaction at all.

This is because they’re often socially anxious and will try to avoid participating or interacting in speeches. Despite so, these very people are also aware of how you, the speaker, behaves towards them.

How to Identify One:

  • Shy
  • Lack of response
  • Not expressive
  • Does not like to participate

How to Handle This Type:

a) Do Not Assume

You won’t get much opinions or questions asked from a room full of these individuals, but don’t judge a book by its cover – they may not necessarily dislike or are bored of what you have say to say. This brings me to my next point.

b) Warm Them Up

Try welcoming them into the room with a smile on your face, so they’ll feel much more comfortable and relaxed. This creates a positive environment which makes them much more keen to voice out their opinions as well.

c) Ask for their thoughts

The Rocks are usually the most reflective members of an audience. Due to their detachment from the group, their opinions and thoughts are mostly unbiased and offer a fresh perspective into your topic or issue.

3. The Critic

This audience member is every speaker’s nightmare because all it takes is one mistake. One mistake and these people will jump on you like a pack of hyenas that finally cornered its prey. They will scrutinise your every detail and action before they deem you as a trustworthy or credible speaker.

How to Identify One: 

  • “Hi yes, I noticed that the second slide with the third paragraph overlaps the fifth paragraph with the second column on the first row”
  • Constantly questions your every intention while looking you up head to toe in scrutiny
  • Has a hostile or cynical attitude towards you or your topic

How to Handle This Type:

a) Welcome Them:

Listen to their comments and do your best to work with them rather than restricting them. This not only enables an open discussion; you may even get to gain a few insights from another person’s perspective as well.

In the end, they will also perceive you as a humble speaker who believes that their opinions matter too.

b) Agree with Them

If you still firmly believe your opinions are right, it’s okay to provide reasonable and tangible evidence to support your point. Just, make sure to do so in a calm and objective manner to avoid sounding defensive.

4. The Rebel

The rebel is basically someone who just wants to disagree with everything you have to say. Their reason for opposing you can vary. Sometimes it’s because they just hate your guts or worse – they do it because they think it’s fun to make the speaker squirm.

Either way, it’s important not to let them push your buttons or all the effort you’ve built for your image and credibility as a speaker will be thrown out the window just like that.

How to Identify One:

  • When You say the sky is blue, they yell back in protest, “No! Look out the window! It’s grey!”
  • Constantly finding ways to irritate you with irrelevant questions or statements

How to Handle This Type:

a) Turn the Tables

Most comics deal with this type by turning them into the target of the joke. This is good if you are naturally very good when it comes to improvised humour.

b) Do Not React

These types of individuals’ main goal are to fire you up so the worse think you can do is to let your emotions get the better of you.

One very quick way to stop them from constantly finding ways to get under your skin is to just stare at him or her with a neutral expression. They will eventually grow more irritated instead of the other way round since you’re not falling for their trap.

Winning Your Audience’s Trust

Now you know what to expect from the type of audience members you will be facing, it’s also equally important to know what you can do to gain their trust as a whole.

According to experts, trust affects a speaker’s credibility. This is because your audience view trustworthiness as your motivation to be truthful. Furthermore, gaining trust often makes audiences believe in your message as well.

Hence, here are the 7 Tips to help gain the trust and respect of your audience:

1. Embrace the ‘tough crowd’ 

“Embrace each challenge in your life as a an opportunity for self-transformation”  -Bernie Siegel

We all have to face a tough crowd at least once in our lives. It’s inevitable. But, instead of seeing this as a challenge, try turning the table around so that it works in your favour.

Come onto the stage with a positive mindset and approach them like they’re the best crowd you’ve spoken to. The key is to look at every laugh or any sort of interest in your speech as a gift. Think this way: Every laugh or moment a listener engages in your presentation is an affirmation that you’re doing my job.

Focus on what is working and put your insecurities and doubt aside. This is so you can free up your mind to work on the good things and go from there.

2. Don’t take it personally

So far, we’ve been talking about how you can gain the heart of your audience. But one sure fire way to lose them forever is to take their comments to heart.

We, as humans, are naturally driven by emotions. But sometimes, letting them get in the way prevents us from establishing a good relationship with our audience. To ensure this does not happen, focus on the result that you’re looking for and not on how the process is making you feel, or whether the person offended you.

Although this sounds simple, it’s easier said than done. This is especially so when we encounter a rude and unreasonable individual that steps out of line. Don’t stoop to their level. Instead, take a deep breath, remain calm and try to deal with this individual patiently.

In return, the audience will realise that you are being treated unfairly. Not only that, the audience will have a better and positive image of you as well. The rude individual on the other hand, will look like a jerk as a result.

3. Addressing the Elephant in the Room

There will be a point in time where something unexpected happens or the audience knows something embarrassing or controversial about you.

For example, it could be someone in the crowd that was insulting or throwing food at you before you could speak or a ‘scandal’ that you allegedly got into.

Either way, it creates an awkward atmosphere between you and audience. Hence why you should address it even more to get it out of the way.

If not, you risk losing your audience’s attention because they’re too preoccupied by the unspoken issue that you did not clear before your speech. This ‘elephant’ that surrounds the room is what’s hindering them from paying attention in the first place.

President Barack Obama strongly believes in this saying. He openly acknowledges his discomforts which often include his race, his ‘funny name’ and the fact that his father comes from a developing part of the world and once lived in a hut.

This is an uncomfortable topic for him as his background may make him seem less eligible than the other leaders in America.

Despite the discomforts he faces, he still addresses them head on with humour, easing the comfort of those to whom he speaks. The outcome? He successfully manages to lead his audience back to his main point.

4. Show you understand

No one and I repeat no one likes to be told that ‘they don’t understand’. So when someone in the audience decides to challenge your idea, don’t fight it; embrace it. Say: ‘Tell me more’ so you can have an effective, enlightening and calm discussion.

This will show your effort in trying to understand your audience and you are doing so by addressing their concerns.

Here’s an added tip: constantly ask for their opinion or thoughts from time to time. This makes them feel wanted and appreciated as they feel that what they say matters to you as a speaker.

5. Find the common ground 

A famous speaker for this is none other than former US President, Barack Obama. He has the uncanny ability to bring people together despite their differences. His method is simple, and it’s to focus on the similarities of him and his audience. This is how he manages to bring people of different backgrounds, race and ethnicity together.

So when you’re about to present, always ask yourself what are the shared beliefs, values, message or opinion you and your audience can agree on. This can help you gain their trust, flipping them from a tough crowd to future loyal fans.

Here’s a famous ‘I have a dream’ speech by Dr Martin Luther King Junior that brought people together despite their differences:

In this video, Dr King kept using the words, ‘I have a dream,’ before bringing his audience together with a common vision – the dream and the hope for a brighter future for America regardless of race, language or religion. This shared vision helped unite these people despite their differences in beliefs and values. 

6. Through storytelling techniques 

According to experts, recent scientific work is putting a much stronger emphasis on how stories change individuals’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.

It has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to data and statistics. Our brains activate on all our five senses which allows us to broaden our imagination and be part of the story itself.

If used correctly, storytelling can be a very powerful communication tool due to its ability to connect, gain the trust of and pique interest amongst the audience.

One example of a simple yet extremely effective storytelling technique is none other than ‘The Hero’s Journey Approach. This technique has a proven framework that never fails to keep your audience glued to their seats!

Here’s a video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about how school kills creativity. In the talk, he makes use of storytelling techniques to engage and hook his audience.

You’ll notice that he makes references through the story of others such as Picasso as well as his own personal stories to build rapport with his audience.

7. Ace your Q&A

It’s vital you Master the Art of Q&A. Many speakers are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? It’s unchartered territory since you can’t know the questions that will be coming your way.

In short, this session will demonstrate whether you truly know your stuff.

This is the crucial moment where you either gain the trust and loyalty of your audience, or you completely lose them and your credibility. Essentially, it’s the segment of your talk where a two-way dialogue takes place. It’s not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well.

In Q&A sessions, you may face a difficult questioner from time to time. In this setting, it’s important you know how to respond knowledgeably, calmly, and confidently. Don’t fear this obstacle but rather, embrace it. If you understand your content from the presentation, it’ll be half the battle won. All that’s left to do is to prepare questions to anticipate in advance and practice.

Summing It Up

So there you have it! These are the ways to handle and convince a tough crowd. Identify and understand the behaviours of a tough audience member so you can best approach them without compromising your credibility and image as a speaker.

Seize the opportunity to convince and switch a tough crowd with these tips:

  1. Identify the type of tough audience members
  2. Understand their behaviours and patterns
  3. React and approach them accordingly
  4. Embrace the problem and turn it into an opportunity
  5. Don’t take things to heart and dare to address the issues or problems
  6. Find common ground and show you understand your audience
  7. Engage your audience through storytelling
  8. Build your credibility through Q&A

Leave a comment below if you’ve applied these tips and if it worked for you!

The 3 Step Approach to Ace Your Persuasive Presentation

Everyone is blessed with a certain level of persuasive skills. Whether it’s a salesperson convincing a customer why they should buy a product or a mother convincing her child why he needs to sleep early – persuading is something that revolves around our lives whether we realise it or not.

This applies to persuasive presentations as well. It is a speech made with the intention of selling an idea, message, service or product to the audience. Some forms of persuasive presentations include sales pitches, legal proceedings and debates.

Persuasion is an art form, an effective weapon that impresses your ideas upon the minds of listeners.

Overall, a persuasive presentation is intended to reach people, convince them and then prompt them into taking action.

Although some are born with the art of persuasion, what about those who need to acquire it through practice? Here’s a definitive guide to help you step by step on how to frame and execute a great persuasive presentation:

The 3 Step Approach to the Art of Persuasion

According to one of the most articulate speakers, Greek Philosopher Aristotle, there are three forms of rhetoric to influence people: ethos, pathos and logos. You need to understand and skilfully apply the methods found in these three elements to conduct a successful persuasive speech.

Ethos (Credibility):

In every speech, it’s vital that as a speaker, you are knowledgeable at the topic you’ll be speaking about. This not only provides assurance to the audience that you know your content, it also shows you are able to clearly say what you need convey.

It’s important to follow these five steps so that you come in prepared and establish a favorable ethos:

1. Selecting a Topic

 People are naturally interested to stories that have a hook. This also applies for a speech. This ‘hook’ is none other than a speech topic. Every speaker wants their audience to be engaged. Hence, the first step to achieve this is they need to select a good topic that will interest their audience.

a) Brainstorm

A well-chosen topic is key to the success of a good speech. Brainstorming is a method that helps you generate topic ideas and it should feel less stressful than the other methods.

Once you come up with a list of potential topics, you need to identify what is a good topic depending on several factors such as who your listeners are and their interests.

Once done, start eliminating the topics one by one till you find the perfect topic. Brainstorming is a creative process. If you don’t put in the effort to produce a creative presentation, it will never touch the minds and hearts of your audience.

b) Tailor The Content of Your Presentation to Your Audience’s Needs

Understanding who you are speaking to helps make you more persuasive as a speaker. This helps determine how you can make your tone suitable for them and make the content relevant.

For example, if you are speaking to a young audience, you should find out how they speak and their capacity for understanding towards the topic. If you’ll be speaking about difficult topics like insurance, it doesn’t make sense to use a lot of technical terms or jargons since they definitely wouldn’t understand what you’re saying most of the time.

Remember, if you come into the talk without any effort to adapt to your listeners, it will be a definitive way to lose their interest. When they do not see a need to listen to your talk, how can you sell your idea in the first place? 

Hence, make an effort to show that the speech was tailored especially to them. This will raise your credibility as a result and show that you’ve done your homework in advance.

Questions to ask to get yourself started:
  • Who will be attending your presentation?
  • What are their goals, motivations, beliefs and values?
  • How can I customise the slide images to resonate with their industry or line of work?
  • What are the words I can use that are relevant to them or are used in their daily conversations

c) Make It Personal 

In order to change the minds of your audience, you need to win their hearts first. To do that, it’s important to add a personal touch to your topic.

One way to incorporate this is to pick a topic you are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about. It shows how much effort and time was spent on understanding and learning the topic.

This passion will naturally make it easier for you to add your own personal experiences, research, and stories. As a result, it will help your topic resonate with others as much as it resonates with you.

One example is Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” where she spent years studying human connection. In her talk, you can see she has incorporated touches of personal experiences and stories that make the talk heartwarming.

 d) Make It Interesting

Even if a topic is already interesting by itself, that does not mean you, the speaker can just stop there. Even the most fascinating topics become boring in the hands of an ill-prepared speaker.  You have to spend as much time as possible in making your message interesting so that your audience will get hooked on your talk.

So try to figure out how to put a fresh and personal spin on topic – especially if it has been talked about a lot already.

2. Organise Your Content

There’s no point having a great topic with the best content and ideas if it’s not organised in a coherent manner. All it entails is a very confused audience at the end of your speech which meant you did not convey your key message successfully.

a) Create an Outline

Outlines help restructures your speech so that it is clear and concise. After you’ve decided the points you’d like to bring up, start organizing them in a way where it can smoothly transition from one to the other.

b) Inserting important key messages at the start or end of the speech

Another method is to insert the important parts at the beginning or end of your speech. According to a study done by Murdock, people recall information better in the beginning and the end of a presentation. This helps create an edge for your persuasive presentation.

3. Know Your Content Inside and Out

One of the worst sins you can commit as a speaker is to read your script off a cue card or worse – look at your slides throughout as you speak.

Not only do you sound rigid, monotonous and boring, you’ll definitely lose your audience’s interest as a result. If you cannot engage your audience to listen to you, how are you going to sell whatever that is you are speaking about?

Many tend to memorise their script word for word in an attempt to ‘know their stuff’ which is just a huge recipe for disaster.

What if you get stage fright and your mind turns blank? Or you simply cannot remember? Any hesitation on your part could sprout doubts from the minds of the audience about your speech and its contents.

Hence, focus on memorising the flow of your key points as well as the overall arching message of your speech.

According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This allows you to speak with conviction thereby convincing your audience as well. 

4.Confidence

 In order for others to have confidence in you and your message, it all needs to start with being confident in yourself first. By showing you are confident in your topic and yourself, this feeling with exude outwards towards your audience. And when they see this confidence, they’ll believe in what you have to say.

Confidence is key to making sure that you believe in yourself and that others believe in your too. Hence, the more confident you are, the lesser the reason for skeptics to doubt you and be convinced by your speech as a result.

Letting your nerves and stage fright get the better of you, however, will just show your listeners your doubtfulness and hesitation which will make it hard for them to be convinced with what you’re saying.

Confidence, however does not just come in the form of how you speak but your body language as well. This can mean having good eye contact and hand gestures to voice projection.

Pathos (Emotional Appeal):

The most eloquent speakers are found to focus the most on this component and with good reason. This is the main area to focus on when it comes to persuasive speeches because majority of people do things based on “feeling” or anything that connects them emotionally. In summary, emotional appeal is the key to persuade the audience.

Here are some ways you can connect with your audience emotionally:

 1. Storytelling Techniques

You want to capture the attention of your attendees with your very first words. To do that, start by telling a story. It’s important you do not bombard them with facts and data as it has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to hard facts.

Storytelling is one of the most effective approaches when it comes to persuading your audience to buy your idea, message, service or product. This is due to its ability to stimulate interest, increase engagement and help the audience understand what’s being said.

Hence, tell a short story to provide them with the vision of the goal. It also helps if you can make the story relatable to everyone involved so they are able to resonate with your speech. Storytelling is also extremely useful when it comes to deescalating the situation in a room full of people who may not be too keen on your ideas.

a) Hero’s Journey

There are many ways to tell a persuasive story but one of the most effective and foolproof methods is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ approach. This technique has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. This can result in an impactful speech that can inspire your audience to action

Described by Joseph Campbell as the The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters.

Typically the hero’s journey would somewhat go like this:

  1. The hero starts out as an ordinary person.
  2. He or she then gets a ‘call to adventure’—sometimes by choice or by circumstance.
  3. As the hero leaves the comfort of home and family to begin the journey, he or she faces life-threatening challenges along the way.
  4. The hero’s situation looks bleak and it further escalates to the Hero’s defeat.
  5. Then, just when all hope seems lost, the hero finds some inner strength to win despite the odds.

If you noticed, these tales of heroes have three things in common – the problem, the solution and the reward. These three elements are always or mostly used in every hero tale and it never fails to attract the audience.

Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

2. Make Use of These Two Persuasive Words

There are words that hold more power in swaying our decision making than others. If we can learn how to utilise them, it’ll be easier to persuade our audience:

a) You

When you’re speaking, writing or even pitching to persuade, use first-person language. That means making use of the word ‘you’.

This word not only gets your audience’s attention it also makes them feel special – like they’re a part of something. Using ‘you’ makes you sound much more conversational and friendly which makes it easier to establish a connection with your audience.

Here’s an example: “You are capable. You are strong. And you can make a change in this world” This word is powerful as it holds your audience accountable for what you’re saying and instantly makes them feel involved.

 b) Because

A study found that using the word ‘because’ would make people more inclined to allow someone else to do something.

Here’s a proven scenario:

Person A: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

Person B: “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I need to make copies?

Look at both of these sentences. Are you more inclined to allow Person A to cut the line or Person B? Studies find that only 60% would allow Person A to cut the line while a staggering 93% will do so for Person B even if the reasons are ridiculous.

This is all because they simply heard the word ‘because’ accompanied by a reason. Human brains love explanations and hence we need to know why. Why do I need that feature? How does it benefit me? So what?

Your audience thinks this way as well. Hence, provide them with the why after the ‘because’ to further convince them.

3. Reinforce Your Message

It is vital that you drive your message home. This is to ensure your audience does not lose sight of the key message of your speech. Here are some ways to help reinforce your message:

 a) Power of Repetition

A study of managers in the workplace by Professors Tsedal Neely of Harvard and Paul Leonardi of Northwestern found that:

“Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

Knowing this, try to apply the power of repetition in your speech to drive home your goals. Don’t rush trying to get your point across but rather, try to convey the message as many times as you can.

However, be creative in repeating your message. Do not say the exact same thing over and over again or you’ll just sound annoying. Instead, find other creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your audience.

b) Visuals

Using visual aids like presentation slides or images not only provide the opportunity to enhance and drive your message home, it also provides 43% added recall according to Prezi.

As humans, we are all naturally visual people – even more so when it comes to listening. A study even found that those who were provided visuals during a speech remembered 55% more than those who only heard it.

Here’s an example: A speaker is giving a talk about the severity of plastic waste. Which one of the scenarios would make you more inclined to do something about this issue? 

Scenario 1: Speaker talks about why plastic is bad for the environment.
Scenario 2: Speaker shows devastating photos of the consequences when we ignore the severity of plastic waste.

Naturally, we would feel a sense of responsibility more so when a photo is provided.

Hence, make use of evocative images to stimulate emotions amongst your audience. It does not steal your audience’s attention but reinforces your key message instead. All while evoking a certain feeling in your audience which helps in persuading them to believe in your idea.

c) Colours 

Just like imagery, colours can evoke emotions in your audience as well. Colors signify different emotions and associations.

Look at this video to help you understand how you react to different color stimuli:

 d) Interactive Content

According to Time magazine, the average person has a very short attention span – they lose concentration after 8 seconds.

A study found that interactive ads were found to be twice as memorable as compared to static ads. Knowing this, you should find ways to create interactive content to further engage and persuade your audience. This can be done with the use of PowerPoint as you can add animations, transitions or even embed videos to spice up your speech.

Furthermore, recent statistics show that video content isn’t just effective, it’s also on the rise. Furthermore, 64% are willing to watch a video if it’s interactive. So if you find that your speech may be boring or full of data, try to present it in a form of an interactive video.

Here’s a video of Hans Rosling, one of the few speakers who know how to present data in a fun and engaging manner:

4. Adopt the Golden Circle Approach

In order to convince others to buy your idea, message, service or product, find out your purpose for what you’re doing.

Here’s a video of Simon Sinek, explaining how the Golden Circle approach is effective in making others buy your idea, message, service or product.

In the video, Simon Sinek mentions that many of us communicate from the outside in. This means we always start with What, How and then Why.

He explains that persuasive speakers do the exact opposite. They start from the inside out. This is also known as the ‘Golden Circle’ Approach:

  1. Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
  2. How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
  3. What: What is the result?

One example who makes use of this approach is Apple.

Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing? Their purpose is to challenge the status quo and they believe in thinking differently.

How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing? By making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.

What: What is the result? They happen to make great computers.

As Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.”

Find what you believe in and you’ll realise it’s easier to persuade your audience into buying your message and taking action upon them.

Logos (Logical Appeal): 

Have you ever found yourself arguing with a friend over something you definitely know is a fact but somehow they just don’t want to believe you? This is because you lack providing facts or evidence to prove you’re right.

Logos is the final seal of act to convince your audience into buying your idea. This strategy makes use of providing evidence and reasons to support your front. Here are ways to utilise logical appeal effectively:

1. Provide Evidence

Use evidence so that your audience cannot argue or doubt your point. This is because it establishes an objective foundation to your arguments, and makes your point more than just a mere speculation, personal opinions or prejudices.

These evidences can come in many forms such as:

 2. Solutions to Your Problem

Have you ever sat through a presentation and thought the speech was engaging, the content informative and stories compelling? You’re convinced by the issue brought up but you don’t know what to do with it.

This is because the speaker forgot to include one crucial thing– the solution. Without this, your audience will think, “What do I do with all of this new information?”

As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates the action.

Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action because of what you’ve said.

If the audience does take action, this means you’ve successfully persuaded them since they are motivated by your message.

“That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember, and retell.” –Nancy Duarte

Knowing this, you should be prepared to provide solutions to overcome any obstacles or challenges your idea may face or anticipate.

Summing it Up

And there you have it! Leverage on the 3 Step Approach – Ethos, Pathos and Logos – to create a great persuasive presentation that’ll easily get your audience to believe in what you’re saying. If you want your persuasive presentation to have that cutting edge, take a read of some of our recommended books to help boost your persuasive skills as a presenter.

Remember:

  1. Identify a good topic and research on your content thoroughly
  2.  Organise and tailor the content to your audience’s needs
  3. Reinforce your key message
  4. Know the motivation behind your speech
  5. Back up your points and provide solutions

 

 

Empower Your Audience with the Hero’s Journey Approach

Imagine this. You’re attending a presentation hoping to be inspired on a particular topic. Instead, all you notice is the presenter spilling fact after fact  just like the presenter before him. And the presenter before him. And the presenter before him. It just seems so… mundane. You simply cannot pay attention. Every presentation looks and sounds the same and none of the presenters stood out. In the end, you come out of the room bored and uninspired.

Constantly being bombarded with hard facts and data can be overwhelming, which can explain why we zone out from a presentation, lecture or speech after a while. According to the theory of cognitive load, our minds become overloaded and blank out if we’re required to process too much complex information at once. So what can you do as a speaker to empower and captivate your audience?

The Power of Storytelling

Enter Storytelling. Stories help to connect with your audience which makes it easier for them to remember your speech. They will also walk out of the room feeling inspired, driving them to take action. It has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to data and statistics. Our brains activate all our five senses which allow us to broaden our imagination and be part of the story itself.

However, story structures on their own aren’t enough. Stories only truly become powerful when the audience can experience the adventure and challenges the characters of the story face as well.

This is where the hero’s journey storytelling technique comes in. Almost all films make use of this approach and with good reason. It is the most powerful pattern out there for telling stories. Not only that, it has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. The result? An impactful speech that can inspire your audience.

Regardless of whether you’re trying to captivate a room of investors with your startup pitch deck or to boost your chances with your ICO deck during a private sale, the hero’s journey can be a powerful structure to utilise.

So what exactly is the hero’s journey?

Described by Joseph Campbell as the ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters. Though the journey’s process can be in various manners, all of them have a few things in common – the call to adventure, a mentor, challenges, victory and the return.

The 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey

“[Heroes] are only mortals, ones that try their best to accomplish feats while fighting against external and internal forces. The only difference between them and other people is their response to the call to be heroic” – Julie Harris

There are typically twelve stages that compose of the Hero’s Journey. Not only does
each phase helps the audience to connect with the Hero, it also leads the audience to the key message of your speech.

We’ll use the film, KungFu Panda to reference these 12 stages of the hero’s journey:

1. Ordinary World:

The ordinary world is the hero’s home and a safe haven. Here, we get to understand the Hero’s background before his or her journey begins. We also get to identify the hero’s urges, needs, and problems and what makes the hero uniquely them. The idea is to ensure that the audience is able to relate to the Hero who helps them become emotionally invested in the story.

E.g. Po is a commoner who idolizes the Furious 5 and is unable to achieve his dream of being a Kungfu Master as he helps out with his Dad’s noodle restaurant.

2. Call to Adventure:

The Call to Adventure sets the story rolling by disrupting the ordinary life of the Hero, either making him or her face a challenge. Depending on the situation, the hero may either accept the adventure by choice or due to a circumstance that forces him or her to. This is a crucial moment in the story, where an alarm goes off for both the hero and audience. This issue that the hero faces is what will get your audience’s attention. This ‘Call to Adventure’ can take a multitude of forms such as a message, announcement, a sudden disaster, the arrival of the villain or a death. The idea, however, is to convince the audience why they should care about this issue that has surfaced. Only then can you get them glued to their seats.

E.g. Po is proclaimed the Dragon Warrior – the one kung fu master worthy of receiving the Dragon Scroll and capable of defeating Tai Lung.

3. Refusal:

Depending on some heroes, they may initially refuse the ‘call to adventure’ due to fear or insecurities. The hero is not receptive to changes preferring the safety of the ordinary world. This sign of weakness makes the hero relatable to the audience as it shows everyone struggles with self-doubt and insecurities.

4. Meeting a Mentor:

The Hero then meets a mentor to gain confidence, insight, advice and training to overcome their initial fear. This is because some heroes may not wish to or are unable to rush into an adventure without gaining some experience and wisdom through his or her mentor. Some examples include: Po when he meets Master Shifu who will train him to be a KungFu Master (KungFu Panda).

Here, the audience gets to be part of the journey the hero takes to improve and strengthen him or herself as an individual.

E.g. Po meets his red panda master, Shifu, who puts Po through a torturous and agonizing training regime.

5. Crossing the Threshold:

Once the hero crosses the threshold, it shows that he or she is finally committed and ready for the Journey. Crossing the threshold will directly affect the Hero, raise the stakes and force some action. External forces may push the Hero ahead, such as an abduction of someone close to the Hero (Taken) or the hero may cross the threshold when the earth’s population is on the brink of being wiped out in half (Avengers: Infinity War).

Internal forces may also push the Hero to accept their ‘call to adventure’. Such examples include Belle sacrificing herself in exchange for her father’s freedom (Beauty and the Beast) or when Rapunzel finally musters the courage to leave her tower with a man she just met (Tangled).

E.g. Shifu decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies:

This Stage is the most important for the hero and audiences alike. Throughout his or her adventure, the hero will encounter obstacles and fights with enemies. They may forge allies or may even form a Hero team as well (Avengers Assemble). The Hero must prepare for the greater obstacles that have yet to come. He or she also requires this stage to test his or her skills, power and commitment to the Journey. For the audience, seeing the hero struggle as he or she fights obstacle after obstacle will naturally make them root for the hero. This hooks your audience to stay as they now want to find out whether their hero is able to succeed or not.

E.g. Tai Lung (enemy) escapes from Prison. Po and the others attempt to defeat him.

7. Approaching the Inmost Cave:

The Hero must make the preparations needed to approach the inmost cave after facing a setback or a failure in a mission. He or she is now forced into trying a new approach or idea. This makes the audience empathise with the character, forming a type of connection with him or her as they understand that everyone experiences failure at some point of time in their lives.

However, some confident heroes may bypass these preparations and head straight to the inmost cave. Despite so, a new approach is necessary after they faced their setback – whether it be a teammate dying along the journey or whether the villains have won the fight during that moment. In summary, the approach is nearing the climax of the story.

E.g. As Shifu decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll, it reveals nothing but a blank reflective surface. Unable to understand the message of the scroll, Shifu and Po are thrown off balance by it which distracts them from fighting Tai Lung (enemy) to the best of their abilities.

8. The Ordeal:

The Ordeal marks another crucial moment in the story, where a transformation takes place. This stage is where all hope seems lost and the hero is on the brink of losing. Some examples include Mulan when she was cast out after the soldiers found out she was a girl (Mulan) or when powerless Thor loses to Loki in a fight on earth (Thor).

The hero finally faces the ordeal where not only do they confront their greatest fear but also confronts the most difficult challenge and experiences “death”. Only through ‘death’, ‘loss’ or ‘failure’ can the Hero be reborn, experiencing a resurrection that makes them stronger. This is where the hero sees to it that he or she finishes the journey till the end.

E.g. A distraught Po finds his dad who, in an attempt to console him, reveals that the long-withheld secret ingredient to his famous “secret ingredient soup” is ‘nothing’, explaining that ‘to make something special you just have to believe it is’. Po realises that this is the message of the Dragon Scroll, and goes back to confront Tai Lung.

9. Reward

The hero manages to overcome the ordeal successfully and has earned the reward. The reward can come in many forms like greater knowledge, wisdom or recognition. The Hero deserves the right to celebrate. At this point in time, the audience has become part of the story and will rejoice with the hero as they felt a connection with this character.

E.g. Po becomes a formidable challenge for Tai Lung (enemy), eventually defeating him in combat.

10. Road Back:

After the celebration, the hero finally sets out on the road to return to the ordinary world where he or she continues to live in his or her regular life.

E.g. Po returns to the Valley of Peace.

11. Resurrection:

While on the journey back to the ordinary world, the hero encounters his or her final challenge which will test the hero. This will be the toughest challenge the hero will face. Most Heroes will come out of the challenge reborn or transformed as a better version of his or her ordinary self. This is due to the lessons and insights from the experiences gained and characters that he or she has met along the road.

In some cases, this battle may not necessarily be just about the Hero’s life. It may also include other lives or the entire world that may be at stake. Thus, the Hero must prove that he or she is willing to accept his or her sacrifice for the benefit and safety of the ordinary world. Other allies may lend assistance, but at the end of the day, the hero must rise to the occasion.

 

12. Return:

The hero finally returns to the ordinary world with his or her final reward. In most tales, the return with the elixir not only resolve storylines, it also restores balance to the ordinary world. The hero may also embark on a new life with another adventure stored for them, influenced by the journey traveled. The return also helps the audience understand the meaning and key message of the hero’s journey, bringing a sense of completion to the story.

E.g. Po is praised by the Valley of Peace and earns the respect of the Furious Five, who fully acknowledge him as a true kung fu master.

 

Incorporating The Hero’s Journey Technique in Your Speech

So now you have a better understanding of the cycle of the Hero’s Journey, you’d know that most of the stories go somewhat like this:

The hero starts out as an ordinary person. He or she then gets a ‘call to adventure’—sometimes by choice or by circumstance. As the hero leaves the comfort of their home and family to begin the journey, he or she faces life-threatening challenges along the way. The hero’s situation looks bleak and it further escalates to the Hero’s defeat. Then, just when all hope seems lost, the hero finds some inner strength to win despite the odds.
Good prevails over evil. The hero then returns to his or her ordinary life, but with a new addition – wisdom. This wisdom is then communicated to the rest of society for everyone’s benefit.
If you noticed, all the tales of heroes have three things in common – the problem, the solution and the reward. You’ll notice that these three elements are always or mostly used in every hero tale and it never fails to attract the audience. Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

How Is the Three Step Approach Effective?

a) The Problem

This is what really keeps your audience glued to their seats. There’s no point providing all the hard information and data if you cannot make your audience understand why the problem is a problem. However, once you convince them otherwise, they will be interested and curious as to what will happen next.

Many make the mistake of identifying the solutions first but not the problem when it comes to their speech. Some don’t even mention the problem at all! The problem is crucial as it gives reasons why the audience should care about the issue.

So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?

This is the reality of the audience’s mindset. The quicker we grasp this, the sooner we’ll craft and deliver presentations that engage our audience.

b) The Solution

“A presentation that doesn’t seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.”
–  Seth Godin

Have you ever sat through a presentation and thought, “Interesting but what can I do to help?” Overall, the content was great, stories were compelling, and valid points were brought up about the issue. Everything except one thing is missing – the solution.

Without this, your audience will think, “What do I do with all of this new information?”. As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates the action.

Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Is there a way you can make their lives easier, help them grow, or do something better, faster, or more efficient than ever before? Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action during your speech.

c) The Reward

All great stories have one thing in common and it’s the key takeaway of the story. After addressing the problem and providing the solutions, this is where the audience will learn the message that you are trying to convey.

The message is the core of your speech as it helps you to create a narrative that provides information, inspire action and solidify the public opinion. Not only that, it ensures your whole story is consistent which is crucial as it ensures your speech does not get out of point. For instance, the moral of “Mulan” is that we shouldn’t let limitations stop us from doing what we want.

Here’s a tip: To ensure your whole speech remains consistent, develop your key message first to get the ball rolling. Distill it into one or two very specific yet concise lines that you can easily repeat for your speech or presentation.

This key message will be a reminder of why you are making your speech or presentation in the first place.

Here’s a video of an inspiring talk by chef José Andrés who made use of the three elements in his storytelling to empower his audience:

 

In summary

And there you have it! An in-depth understanding of the step-by-step phase of the Hero’s Journey. Use the three core elements found in this storytelling technique to personalise, connect, engage and inspire action amongst your audience. Let us know if this approach worked for you in the comments down below!

 

The Key Guide To Overcoming Your Fear Of Public Speaking

Overcoming your fear of public speaking. Seems like an impossible feat right? Most of us have experienced it. You have likely experienced it yourself too. Hundreds of eyes staring at you as you come up on stage to speak. Beads of sweat trickling down your forehead as your heart palpitates uncontrollably. The pressure becomes overwhelming and you freeze, unable to utter a single word.

When it comes to public speaking, it’s important to effectively get your message across. But stage fright can get in the way of your performance no matter how much practice you put in to make a great public speech.

This type of stage fright is also known as glossophobia or speech anxiety which is the fear of speaking before an audience.

Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before the anticipated activity. This occurs when you think of the negative consequences, causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline as a result. At this point in the process, we all start having cold sweat, tense muscles or breathlessness – all the common signs of stage fright.

According to experts, roughly 80% of people get increasingly nervous and lose sleep before a big public speaking moment. Some experts even suggest that the fear of public speaking rivals death. Yet, most people will be put in a situation where they are expected to speak in front of a crowd.

The fear of public speaking is very real.  These moments can sometimes be career-defining which then leads to the question: How do the pros make public speaking look easy?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” ~ Bob Proctor

When you feel nervous and have not prepared enough for it, chances are, your audience will know. It is important to prep your body and mind before the big show so that you come up on stage as confident, collected and ready as possible.

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to your brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, help calm the mind. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

a) Warming up

If you are nervous, your body will feel the same way. You may find that your body is tense, breaking in cold sweat or you may feel stiff and your muscles are tight. The audience will notice you are nervous.

So do a couple of stretches to loosen your tense muscles and relax your body. According to experts, it’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps increase the functional potential of the body. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and movement of an individual.[1]

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

  • Neck and Shoulder Rolls

This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure. Rolls help focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.

  • Arm Stretches

We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.

  • Waist Twists.

Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions. Without this, it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

  • Forward Stretch.

Touch your toes while keeping your knees straight and legs together help loosen nearly all of your upper body muscles and gets your blood circulation flowing. This can instantly help to make you feel more comfortable and relaxed.

  • Breathe

When you are nervous, do you tend to breathe faster and take shorter breaths? Nervousness is always accompanied by these very symptoms. If not addressed, you may end up mumbling and stuttering your way throughout the speech.

To ensure that does not happen, take slow, deep breaths. A study has shown that slow breathing is extremely helpful for individuals with high levels of anxiety. Reason being, it helps lower your heart rate, making you focus on your breathing rather than on your anxiety and insecurities.

Here is an example of a breathing exercise you can try:

  1. Stand up, shoulders back and hands on your stomach. Let your stomach muscles relax.
  2. Breathe in through your nose, filling up your abdomen (you should feel and see it expand), then your ribs and all the way up to your chin.
  3. Hold this breath and count to 10.
  4. Now exhale slowly. As you exhale, keep your ribs expanded and tighten your abdomen. The lower abdominal muscles should come in first as though you were rolling up a tube of toothpaste.

While you are breathing, check your shoulders and stomach. Your shoulders should not be going up and your stomach should be going out.

b) Stay Hydrated

Ever felt dehydrated seconds before speaking only to find your voice sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? It is essential we stay hydrated before a speech because it prevents your voice from sounding bad and prevents you from being tongue-tied.

This is because stage fright will likely make your body pumped with adrenaline, causing the mouth to dry out. This can lead to the feeling of being tongue-tied.

A sip of water is recommended. Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. Not only can they dry out your mouth and make it harder to talk smoothly, it’ll also amplify your anxiety.

With that said however, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

c) Meditate

According to experts, meditation is a powerful tool to calm the mind.

ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend as well as author of a book titled, 10% Happier recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel calmer.

This is because meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular meditation method. According to experts, this meditation helps lessen anxiety as it makes an individual stop thinking of unnecessary and negative thoughts.

The practice involves focusing on your breathing while bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future.

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with stage fright have in common is focusing too much on themselves. Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? DoI look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m saying?

Too often, most people tend to lose themselves in their self-consciousness and vulnerability. Instead of that, try shifting your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

Rather than keeping their eye on the prize —also known as the audience’s receptivity to their message— they look back at themselves, wondering how they’re doing. At the moment when they need to aim their attentiveness most precisely, they miss the mark by a mile. If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does: like building trust with your audience. This brings us to our next point.

3. Convert negativity to positivity

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one – Hans Selye”

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us. One is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

According to ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend as well as the author of the book titled, 10% Happier, most of us can’t help but have negative thoughts about ourselves. It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we get a chance to prove ourselves.

Also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy, this is a belief that comes true because we’re acting as if it already is. So if you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Knowing this, try to take advantage of this self-fulfilling prophecy by thinking of your strengths and positive thoughts about yourself. Start by saying: I’ll ace this speech and I can do it! Make use of this adrenaline rush into a positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it.

 

4. Understand Your Content.

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps to reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. So one way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech. However, you don’t want to memorize your script word by word. It can work against you should you forget your content.

No amount of reading or memorising will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts – Bob Proctor”

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from the slides. Or, they memorise their script word-for-word without understanding the content and it’s definitely a way to stress themselves out.

According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This makes it easier to ‘memorise’ what you want to say because you know what you are talking about. This will then allow you to talk more comfortably as there is one less thing to worry about.

One way to understand is to memorise the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. This helps you speak more naturally and allow your personality to shine through.

Speaking exactly from a memorised script will only make you sound rigid and monotonous – a sure fire way to lose the audience’s interest.

Still, if you need to have a reference just in case you forget your speech, it’s okay to have prompts in your presentation slides or cue cards.

5. Practice Makes Perfect!

Like most people, many of us are not naturally talented when it comes to public speaking. Rarely is there an individual who can walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

Yet, many people seem to mistake that it is possible to do so. Great speakers like John F. Kennedy will spend months preparing his speech beforehand so why shouldn’t you?

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice. Whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Mouth Your Words When Rehearsing

Another method that most speakers use to embed their presentations into their conscience is to ‘mouth’ the words as they rehearse.

Not only do they begin to instinctively memorise your presentation each time you practice, it also aids in muscle memory when you need to deliver the speech on stage naturally.

7. Be Authentic

It’s important to know that there’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience. In fact, public speaking anxiety is incredibly common, so you are not alone.

Learning to be yourself in front of others is an important key factor to overcoming fear of public speaking. Although this seems like a simple method, it is easier said than done. Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self.

If you can drop the pretense of being someone of how you think you should act or speak, you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You’ll realise that the tension and anxiety dissolves. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous.

This makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations like getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing a technical difficulty.

Your listeners will also be engaged as they prefer someone who is authentic and able to connect with them.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic you’re passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend.  It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting

Public speaking does not need to be different. Now, imagine speaking to one audience member at a time when you’re up on stage. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others, may take a little time and some experience depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others but once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

8. Fake It Till You Make It

 The truth is everyone gets nervous, even seasoned speakers. As Mark Twain put it nicely, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

These liars “fake” their confidence despite their insecuritties and reservations about themselves till they succeed. This can be through achieving the desired outcome, overcoming a fear or selling an idea successfully.

When you fake confidence, you naturally create a positive impression of what your capabilities are instantly. This makes you more confident than you actually are.

Embracing that you’ll always get those butterflies in your stomach leading up to your presentation is half the battle won. Learn to harness that flush of adrenaline and energy to engage with your audience early on.

Post Speech

Last but not least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try to see it as a good takeaway to further improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up After a Presentation

We’re the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back. You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve Your Next Speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during your speech. Then, watch the video afterwards and observe what you can do to improve next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Was I tense or stressed? Why?
  • Did I forger or stumble on my words? Why?
  • Did I say “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed and keep practicing and improving. In time, all of your fears of public speaking? It’ll vanish into thin air.

Summing it up

And there you have it, these are the five stepping stones that’ll help you overcome your stage fright and ace your public speaking.

Make full use of the opportunity and apply these tips:

  1. Prepare Yourself Mentally and Physically
  2. Know and Focus On What You Want Out of the Presentation
  3. Understand and Rehearse for the Speech
  4. Practice The Art of Faking Your Confidence or Embrace being You
  5. Learn from the Outcome and Get Feedback to Improve

 

Leave a comment below if it worked for you!