How can you learn to speak like a natural when you present?

How to be a natural presenter

Public speaking is a great fear for many people. One study from researchers at the University of Nebraska Omaha found that public speaking was chosen as a common fear more often than death! But it doesn't have to be this way. Public speaking ability can be developed, and your fear of it can be quelled to the point where you're able to speak confidently in any situation.

So, how do you become a more natural public speaker?

Understand your physiological response

Acknowledging that your fear is simply a biological response and that it doesn't mean anything bad's going to happen is a powerful way to speak more naturally. Presentation skills training can help you learn to feel your palms sweating and your heart thumping, but continue to speak calmly regardless. 

Woman making business presentation.Speaking naturally when presenting can be learnt like any other skill.

Often when people fear presenting or speaking, the thing that gets them is falling into a negative emotional spiral. It starts with rumination – "what if I make a mistake and everyone laughs at me?" This starts the physical responses: shaking hands, sweating palms, thumping heartbeat. These physiological responses can then fuel the rumination further – "I'm so nervous, I'm definitely going to make a mistake now!"

Cultivating mindfulness about your responses to public speaking can help you avoid the negative spiral. Stepping outside your head for a moment and noticing that your thoughts are just that gives you space to approach things in a more rational way. You may still feel nervous, but you'll be better able to ignore those fight-or-flight responses and keep your focus.

The importance of storytelling

Nervous or not, a major part of presenting like a natural is telling an engaging story.

The world famous TED talks are a great example of this. The format involves researchers, writers, journalists, designers and thinkers giving 15-20 minute talks on thought-provoking topics. The content is engaging, sure, but the talks are arguably just as famous because of the way all of the speakers weave their information into a story.

Stories are the framework on which we can more easily remember facts and information. A bunch of figures and statistics are harder to remember if they're not given with any context. So while a business presentation might not have the scope for the literary storytelling a TED talk might employ, you should always think about the structure of your presentation as a narrative. How does this part lead into the next? What are the key themes? When you approach a presentation or speech this way, you don't have to remember individuals lines or statistics – all you have to do is understand the story, and then tell it.

Nervous or not, a major part of presenting like a natural is telling an engaging story.

Don't speak to the crowd

The most natural and charismatic speakers are the ones that make each member of the audience feel like they're being personally addressed. This might seem like a kind of wizardry, but it's actually as simple as it sounds: speak to each person individually, rather than the group. Make eye contact with an individual, speak to them for a few seconds, then look to someone else and repeat.

It's analogous to spinning plates – every so often you need to pay direct attention to each person. When you do this, you tend to speak more naturally, because you simply let your natural conversational instincts kick in. We all know how to talk to people one on one. Approach your public speaking in that way and you'll find it's no more difficult than chatting to a friend.

With the right direction and understanding, speaking to a group in a natural way becomes easy. If you'd like more information from ICML about our communication courses such as "Presenting with Confidence", contact us today.


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