Some people who are quite expressive in conversation, have difficulty speaking with emotion when addressing an audience because of their nervousness. If this sounds like you, then those nervous jitters are in control and not you. When that happens, it is not easy to allow for any expression in public speaking aside from the look of near death because you are allowing for your ‘flight’ or ‘frozen’ response to have the upper hand instead of your ‘fight’ response.
We make public speaking more difficult than it really is because of the unknown. Will something go wrong? Will you forget your words? Will you make a fool of yourself? (Incidentally, all of our presidents have done this and have survived!) Admittedly, if you are not prepared and have not rehearsed your material, then there is much more likelihood that your results will be less than ideal.
Assuming, however, that you know your material and have practiced it out loud diligently, you have much less to fear. In that sense, taking control of your nervousness and putting it to good use can make your delivery that much more interesting and effective. And that means allowing for your emotion to be seen and to be heard.
- Use variety in your voice when you present your material. You can slow down, speed up, change the tone of your voice, pause, use force on a particular word or words, change the inflection – all characteristics that you probably make use of in normal conversation. There really is no difference between relaying a story to your friends or family and relaying a story or an anecdote to those in an audience.
- Speak with your face. If your words are hopeful, you may lift your eyebrows; if your words are humorous, you should smile or laugh; if your words are questioning, your brow may furrow. Again, these are all typical means of facial expression you would use when talking to family or friends.
- Speak with your body. A great problem for many speakers is not knowing what to do with their hands in public speaking. Let me ask you, what do you do with your hands when you are in conversation? Do they hang limply at your sides or do you express yourself with them? Do you move when talking to your friends, switching your wait from one leg to the other, for example? Does your head move as you look from one person to another?
If you do all of these things when talking to others in conversation, why should you not do the exact same thing at the lectern, or on the podium or stage?
If you will allow yourself to be you the next time you give a speech or presentation, you may be pleasantly surprised at how expressive you really are.
If you would like to improve your voice and presentation skills, check out my Voice Training Services page. Either by means of video training, private Skype sessions, or 2-day workshops, you can discover how to speak with emotion, with life, with color!