We talk every day. We answer questions. We provide details and information. We share sorrows and joys. So why is it the thought of giving a speech or interview make even seasoned communicators break out into a cold sweat?
If you stop and think about these opportunities as simply conversations, you can begin to put the fear behind you and concentrate on delivering a great message.
Let’s start with a planned speech. Even a scripted speech can have passion and expression. In fact, when giving a scripted speech, you need to really think about your facial expression, making eye contact and the choice of words. Speeches need that personal element to gain the audiences trust and belief. You’ve got to be real.
Interviews are different. You’re never sure what question you might receive. The first thing you need to do is practice active listening. Make sure you wait for the entire question. Think about the tone of the question. When you answer, speak with passion and conviction. Be transparent.
What if you are walking into a setting you know will be hostile? The same rules still apply. Listen closely. Don’t take the question personally. It’s not about you. Don’t belittle their feelings. Empathize if you can. However, make sure your answers are factual and don’t get drug into an argument. The calmer you appear, the more likely you are to diffuse the situation. Don’t let defensiveness break you.
In every situation, there are a few things to avoid. Jargon rarely means anything to the audience. Make sure you aren’t using acronyms or industry terms people are unfamiliar with. Don’t hedge on a question. If you don’t know, say so. Tell them you’ll get the answer. Then follow through. Don’t give guarantees you can’t deliver.
When you speak, don’t forget it’s not just your words that matter. There are many non-verbal clues that your listeners will be watching. Make sure you maintain eye contact. Make sure your body position appears open and inviting. Don’t cross your arms in front of you and block people out. Lean in slightly if possible when answering a question. Find a comfortable position and relax and if possible, don’t put barriers like a podium between you and the audience.
Speaking doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience.