If you type “public speaking” in Google you will get millions of results. Public speaking continues to be one of the most discussed topics in the business world today; hundreds if not thousands of books and seminars have been written and created on ways to be a better public speaker.
I love public speaking and look forward to any opportunity I get to be in front of an audience. However, this wasn’t always the case. At the start of my career, I struggled with it. I was nervous. I didn’t communicate my message in the most eloquent fashion. Sometimes I tripped over my words and other times I had awkward moments of pause between thoughts that I filled with awkward empty words.
The main difference between then and now has been shifting my focus to enthusiasm. I’ve learned over the years that whenever I paid too much attention to my anxieties, my nervousness, and my feelings of anticipation, I was NOT focusing on my excitement for the topic that I was about to present.
Focusing on your excitement and your level of enthusiasm is a great way to instantly improve your public speaking skills. As you begin speaking pay attention to what excites you so much about your topic. Why is it important that your audience listen to what you have to say? Focus on getting your audience as excited as you are. Shift your attention from the worry (fill in the blank negative or defeating issue) to your purpose.
There is a good quote that captures this shift in attention towards outward expression:
“Engage the lowest common denominator, someone with a negative attitude or who can’t concentrate. If I can engage that person, everyone else will fall like a domino,” Erin Gruwell.
Gruwell was onto something very important when he said this. The most effective way to capture the “lowest common denominator” is with intentional expression of your enthusiasm.
When you focus on your enthusiasm rather than your inadequacies, your audience will pick up on that energy. Think about the last time you heard a boring person speak. Did you feel energized after that or completely drained? Did you give them your complete attention or did you zone off? Were you convinced of what they had to say or skeptical?
Showing enthusiasm goes a long way. This is even more true to a seasoned speaker who perhaps has given the same speech over and over again.
If you are passionate about the topic then let it be known. The moment you start to express that your brain will most likely be too busy trying to push out all of the information you have; minimizing awkward moments of silence and resorting to filler words like: umm, yea, so, ya know…”
If you struggle with silence and filler words, turn the tables around and make it an advantage. Sometimes a few deliberate and well placed brief moments of silence can be very effective. Not only does it allow time to gather your thoughts if you need to, it can also make certain points more impactful.
Avoid using filler words to fill moments of uncomfortable silence when you don’t know what to say next. Instead, practice staying silent during those brief moments and that will break the habit of trying to use fillers.
Think about the last time you told your friend a really great story. How many times do you think you used filler words? My guess is not very many because you were so enthusiastic about getting the story out. Public speaking should feel like telling a friend a great story.