By Monserrat Irazoqui.
You know that look you give to someone that admits to stuff like “I ate my Reese’s-flavored lipstick, I jerk off in airplanes, I like Taylor Swift”? You know that look that screams “You’re such a weird person”? Well, that’s the look I get every time I say that I like public speaking.
When I was a little girl, I would participate in different poetry and speech contests and won most of the times. I stopped doing it during middle school and retook it during high school. I admit that I was rusty and wasn’t as good as I used to be, but my teacher gave me a lot of advice that has stuck with me until today.
After high school, I took a year off to do volunteer work which required A HELLA LOT of public speaking so I got better at it and started to really like it. So, I made it my goal to find ways to improve; I did a bunch of research and read some books and practiced, practiced, and practiced a lot more.
A couple of years later, I transferred to an international business school in San Francisco. Absolutely all my classmates were business students just like myself. When we were assigned to do a presentation or pitch, all I could hear was “F*ck, I hate speaking in public”. I was shocked, because I realized that I was the odd one. I thought that all business people were comfortable with it by default, but I was wrong; it’s a global human fear that doesn’t discriminate against race, age, nationality, or profession.
I remember that after one of my pitches during college, one of my classmates told me “Monse, you were born doing this, weren’t you?” Well, you know what bro, I wasn’t. There’s a lot of preparation and practice behind every single presentation I do that helps me deliver a good performance and I want to share it with you just so you can become good at it too or at least start to lose your aversion to it.
- Write a speech. First, I make an outline of what I will be presenting; I include every section of what I need to present and key points of each. After that, I proceed to write the speech. I always write everything down, and I mean everything from “Good morning, xyz” to my little jokes. I write everything that I want to say in the way that I want to say it.
This has proven to be very helpful because it takes away any worry that is related to the delivery and my memory. Even though I like speaking in front of an audience, I do get a little nervous and I can forget certain stuff, but if I have my speech there with me, I feel safe and confident.
- Record and time yourself. Whether it is a school presentation, pitch to a VC, or a TED talk, you have a limited time frame to present. Always make sure to ask prior to the presentation day how much time you have in order to prepare accordingly.
Once your speech is done, grab your phone and record yourself delivering it. This way you can see how much time it’s taking you so you can snip stuff out or add information. It’s good for timing yourself but also to know where your delivery is flaking. You might be talking too fast or pausing too much, or there could be lots of “um”s, or it can sound monotonous.
Make the right modifications to your speech, but also add some marks on it so you know when to pause for dramatic effects or when you need to raise your tone to make an emphasis on a point.
Do this as many times as you need until you’re satisfied with the results. Make sure to make one final recording that sounds the way you would like it to be when you present and listen to it a couple of times before you go to bed.
- Practice gestures and facial expressions. Public speaking is quite a performance, it’s not only what you say but how you say it that is important too.
Hand gestures must go from the waist-up and out; your arms can’t be pressed to your body.
When I record myself, I practice the gestures and expressions at the same time. I practice when to smile, give a deep stare, count with my fingers, etc. You can practice the gestures whenever you want, but make sure to plan them out before you present.
- Do a power pose and give yourself a pep talk. Write positive mantras and compliments on post-its and stick them to the mirror the night before the presentation. The next morning, after getting ready, stand in front of the mirror with a power pose and read each of the post-its or give yourself an inspirational pep talk. I swear on ramen that this helps to boost your confidence. Repeat each mantra, compliment or pep talk as many times as you want until it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.
- Boost your energy. One of the things that any audience wants to see in a presentation, besides a good speech and delivery, is energy.
Every person is different, so do what works best for you. Personally, I listen to my “Workout/Dance” playlist on my way to the presentation. Also, I find it very useful to listen to music that is in the language you’re going to present. For example, my native language is Spanish so my presentations during college in San Francisco had to be in English obviously, so I listened only to music in English during my commute to school.
For some people, meditation is a good method or some yoga poses as well. Others like energy drinks. Do whatever you need to do to have good energy, just don’t overdo it; they want to see you excited about what you’re talking about not a bunny on crack.
These are some tips that I can give you that have worked wonders for me. But, if something else helps you, please share it. Contrary to popular belief, a good public speaker isn’t born, he/she is made.