Public speaking pushed me out of a lot of my comfort zones. I got to learn not only about the content I was presenting and about the delivery, but also about myself. I found out how I react in certain situations, what feels genuine and what doesn’t, and what I should work on more.
Public speaking is a journey of discovering yourself.
For example, I learned that I can control my speech rate and can use that to improve the effect of my words. But most of all, I learned that indeed, public speaking is one of humanity’s biggest fears, but that I can restrain it and decrease it and that hopefully, one day, I can transform it into contagious energy and enthusiasm for my audience.
I saw that before my talk, doing breathing exercises and a power pose stabilises my heart rate and reduces my nervousness. But, once I start talking, I still need a few minutes until I’m calm, and get into my speaking flow. My voice still shakes a bit.
The public speaking theory says that the intro and the conclusion should be the most powerful parts of a talk. I’m far from mastering the conclusion, but I’ve been working on the intro.
I decided to embrace the emotions and share them with my audience, to use them as a way of creating a better connection with them.
The theme of my latest talk was “Telling Our Story”. I started by telling the audience that it’s hard for me to share a personal story in front of strangers and that I want to get to know them a bit first. Then I introduced myself and asked who else in the audience is like me, a developer, who is a QA, who’s a Product Manager and so on, trying to find out who my audience is. Once I knew them a bit, so we weren’t strangers anymore, I declared that I was ready to start sharing my story.
This intro served several purposes:
- It allows the audience to identify with the speaker — for most of us is hard to share personal details on stage.
- It allows me, the speaker, to get to know the audience and then, later on, in the intro but also in the conclusion, to mention that what I’m saying is addressed to them; to my fellow devs, to the QAs and PMs in the room. Like this, I’m trying to make the communication feel special for every one of them. To express the fact that each of them is important to me and are the target of my message.
- It gives me those two minutes that I need for my voice to calm down.
Of course, the intros differ from one talk to another, depending on the topic, and the target audience. But the main roles for me are to create a connection with the audience and to give me those few minutes to get into my flow.
It took me quite a few talks with crooked beginnings to find what works for me. So don’t be afraid of talking, of experimenting and finding out what works best for you and what doesn’t because being genuine is important.
How are your intros? How do you deal with your initial nervousness? How do you try to connect with the audience? I would love to learn more from your experiences.