It’s corporate events season again—that time of year when you’re getting colleagues, clients, investors, collaborators, affiliates and all sorts of different groups together.
This is a crucial time to deliver key messages to all of these groups while conveying the right image. Maybe you need to motivate your team or reassure investors after a turbulent period.
Whatever the message, it’s that you deliver it well. But all too often our public speaking skills get in the way, impacting our businesses in ways we often don’t see...
To help you hone your message and project the right image, we’ve put together a list of key public speaking tips for your corporate events season.
This might seem like a silly suggestion. You’re thinking to yourself, quite sarcastically, ’Of course... Why didn’t I think of controlling my anxiety?’
But when we say control your anxiety, we’re not talking about magically making it disappear. We’re talking about reducing it to the point that it doesn’t get in the way.
Researchers suggest that around 73% of people experience fear of public speaking. But while that fear often seems inevitable, it’s actually within your control to change it.
What happens when we get anxious about public speaking—when we freeze up, have blanks, or trip over our words—is that we are going through a version of ‘fight or flight’. This is where the amygdala hijacks your brain. The upshot is that a bunch of hormones get released and your emotions take over all your normal cognitive faculties. It’s useful in some circumstances (like fighting a bear), but not useful when you’re trying to give a speech. This is because simple brain capabilities like recalling what you wanted to say or finding the right words to say it go out the window.
The easiest way to stop the hijacking is to breathe deeply and slowly. What this does is it gets oxygen to your brain, activating your parasympathetic nervous system. This immediately counteracts the ‘freeze’ effect of your anxiety, makes you feel calm, and reactivates brain function.
The words flow from there.
One of the most overlooked problems of speech anxiety is the speed of delivery. When we are nervous, we naturally talk faster. Now, this might not seem like the worst thing in the world. But if your goal is to deliver a message to your audience, speed is not your friend.
On the one hand, talking fast gives a clear signal to your audience that you’re nervous, which isn’t good if you want to look like you are confident in what you do.
But more fundamentally, speaking fast means that our audience has a much harder time understanding what we’re saying.
To make sure your audience doesn’t have to work too hard, you should incorporate pauses and intonations into your speaking. This will not only give your audience time to understand your message but also highlight the most important things you have to say.
So, you’ve got the speech all written, and you’ve rewritten it a thousand times. Now, it’s perfect. But your speech is more than the speech itself. It’s about how you present it.
There are two aspects to this: projecting confidence and adding emphasis to your message.
Just as with the speed and tone of your voice, your body language is critical to making people believe you are confident in what you are saying. To project confidence, you should be assuming a strong posture. Keep your head up and your back straight, and avoid putting your hands in your pockets or hunching your shoulders.
But you also want to vary your body language to generate interest. Focus on emphasising certain points with hand gestures and moving across the floor from time to time.
You might have been doing the corporate events circuit for a few years now, and you might think you’ve got a real gem of a spiel in your pocket. But the chances are that, each time you give a speech, you’re going to have a different kind of audience—different sizes, different clients, different employees, etc.
Because of this, you need to be tailoring your speech to your audience. Not just the content, either. You should be changing your language, style, and tone as well.
A casual business meeting might call for more colloquial language and a relaxed tone to create good vibes amongst your team. On the other hand, board members are probably going to respond a lot better to formal language and style, as well as a serious tone.
The importance of practice cannot be overstated because it helps on so many different levels.
On the one hand, practising your speech is going to make you a whole lot more confident when delivering it. When you can recall your lines mechanically, you’ll be able to worry far less about stumbling or freezing up.
Also, practising your speech allows you to refine both content and delivery. You should practice in front of someone else to get feedback, or even a mirror or video camera. You should be looking to see where your intonation can improve, where you can add pauses, and where you should be slowing down.
Lastly, you should be analysing your body language to see how you can appear more confident and add emphasis to your words.
Many people stick their heads in the sand when it comes to speech-making. They see it as an uncomfortable but necessary part of the job—something to skip through at the work Christmas party and forget about till next year.
But speeches are not a mere formality. A speech is your chance to represent your organisation and yourself. If you want your corporate event to be a success, therefore, aim to deliver a clear and confident message.
In the business world, that’s what you and your organisation should stand for.