We’ve all heard it before, public speaking is categorically the most frightening experience one can endure but in fundraising, it’s an inevitable part of advancing your career.
While you might not ever have to speak in front of the nation, you’ll likely lead meetings or be asked to present at a CASE or an Institute of Fundraising conference.
Like many things, the secret to public speaking is to look like you know what you’re doing. Here are my top tips to speaking like a pro:
- Memorise your main talking points Remember why you’re speaking in public because you know your stuff and you have something to say. So, channel that confidence and speak from your mind, not from paper in front of you. Do your homework and think through what you’re going to say and memorise your main talking points. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need notes, don’t use sheets of paper— they are noisy, flop and can show up a shaky hand from across a room. Use a notebook, clipboard or thick cards instead.
- Speak with confidence Public speaking is 10% what you say and 90% how you say it. It doesn’t matter if the audience is two people or 2,000—if you’re presenting, it’s because you have a reason to be there. Embrace that authority and deliver your content like you’re the best person for the job, even if you don’t fully believe it. Speak up, enunciate, and smile — it’ll make even a boring speech seem much more engaging.
- If you’re already nervous, an iPad that’s not connecting properly, a faulty projector or microphone can seem like the end of the world. If this does happen make a joke to ease the tension in the room and win over the audience. You can’t be funny under pressure? Prepare something in advance as a contingency plan.
- Ground your feet Nothing is more distracting to an audience than a speaker who’s fidgeting, or moving constantly. Try your best to plant your feet in a comfortable stance and keep them there. Whatever you do, do not cross your legs while you’re standing – people may think that you’re not confident and even worse, could cause instability.
- Make eye contact What’s the best way to connect with your audience? Look them right in the eye! Don’t let your gaze wander aimlessly around the room—it makes you look shifty and untrustworthy. If you find eye contact difficult, try this trick: look directly at one person for each full sentence you say. When it’s time for a new sentence, move on to someone nearby, and so on. Avoid the temptation to dart back and forth between opposite sides of the room; transitions from person to person should be smooth and steady across the audience.
- Give the audience an unobstructed view of your face so you can engage them with eye contact. If you really, really prefer it down, be sure to clip it back out of your eyes or think about putting it up.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets It may seem comforting putting your hands in your pockets when you’re talking but don’t do it. Not only does it look unprofessional, it redirects the audience’s eyes downward, calling attention away from your face. Your hands should be loosely by your sides unless you’re making a purposeful and confident gesture.
- Don’t touch your face A common reaction among presenters is to bury their face in their hands and sheepishly apologise upon making a mistake. Remember, public speaking is about confidence. Resist the temptation to say, “I’m sorry,” unless you really have reason to be. If you don’t call attention to your flub, the audience may not even notice it. And even if they do, your grace-under-fire will impress them.
- Take a second or three If you lose your place or make a mistake, just pause, recollect your thoughts, and resume speaking when you’re ready. Audiences are surprisingly tolerant of a quiet moment—it’s better than the alternative of awkward stammering. Silence can be your friend, so just take a breath and let your mind catch up with your mouth.
We’ll be putting a list up of where you can come and hear The Collectivists at events near you.
Any comments of suggestions for speaking like a pro to @niamhini