It doesn’t have to be in front of a big crowd for it to be considered 'public speaking', even in the smallest of groups and even in many day-to-day situations, you might come across this 'fearful' concept, it is a concept that fears many of us and yet is in almost everyone’s daily lives.
One of my biggest lessons learned at EHL has been exactly this: public speaking. I still remember how I did not like it at all, and it was Ms. Zizka, of business communication, that would tell us to get up in class every single week (8am on Fridays…). She told us to practice before and to keep doing it at every occasion. I hated it; I was scared.
Today, I feel confident and it has become part of my routine as a hospitality consultant. It can be giving a short presentation to the hotel manager, selling your innovative product to a potential client, showcasing your report to a school, and so on.
Here are some survival tips for anytime:
1. Prep for success
Preparation is the biggest cure for stress. Prepare by knowing your audience, your topic and anything that come along. Be crystal clear about your purpose and speak with intend. Make sure you get to the room early, not just on time and that you tested the technology aspect of things. Preparation is key and this is not a time for procrastination.
2. What’s the outcome?
What is the whole point of your presentation, or speech? If there is no point, no outcome, then you might as well not speak. So really take the time what the outcome is, both for you and for the audience. Once you have this clear, you can create your structure and direction based on this.
3. Understand and know what you’re talking about
This is the golden tip. If you truly know what you are talking about, you can simply “talk” and not worry too much about the specifics. You could have a presentation with just a few words on them for reminders, but you would know the topic anyway.
4. People don’t want to see you read; they want to see you talk
If you know your topic in and out, you don’t need to read. You can have some kind of notes with you – make sure that they are just bullet points so that you still talk like in a conversation and don’t come across as a robot. A trick is to write out your presentation in full, then re-write it and make it shorter each time. Just until you have those few key words on these little tiny notecards and the rest is in your head.
5. Relax and smile
This is easier said than done but focus on your breathing and try to remain as calm as possible. The tips before should already have helped a little to relax more since you’ll be super well prepared. The key here is to be aware of your facial expressions and to at least look relaxed and positive.
6. Be aware of body language
The same counts for your body language. It is always a trick to know exactly how much to walk around or not and where to keep your hands. It is better to move only from one place to the other place, once. Rather than walking around too much. And your hands, it is often tricky, but whatever you do, do not cross them. Again, we want to look positive and excited, rather than upset.
7. Allow your personality to really shine
Be yourself and take your personality as a plus, not a limitation. So, if you are shyer and prefer to be quieter, then let it be. You’ll still have to speak publicly at times but keep the presentation per example calmer. And if you are more of an extravert, you’ll automatically make more jokes per example. Be yourself and let your personality shine in its own way.
8. Turn nervousness into excitement
Adapt it into something positive, so you get a positive excitement feeling rather than negative nervousness. If you’re not excited about the presentation, why would the audience be? Depending on the type of public speaking, there will almost always be some level of excitement. Your goals should be to try to turn it to the positive type and not the negative nervousness version.
9. Keep going no matter what
Whenever something goes wrong (and there is always at least one thing), then really try to accept the situation and then move on. Another thing is that often, the audience doesn’t even know if something went wrong or if you missed out a part. After all, they didn’t see your notes or the organization behind everything. Acting like nothing has happened and simply moving forward is the best thing you can do.
10. Practice makes perfect
This is so true and yes it counts every single time. Keep on practicing and you’ll become more comfortable. Practice before your actual moment of speaking in public and keep doing it throughout your studies and career. Embrace the fact that it is part of your future, make it an excitement, and keep on practicing so you will at least remove the fear out of it.
Public speaking is something that in reality is part of everyday life, especially of a hospitality professional. It is up to you to make the most out of each opportunity to improve and feel more comfortable in public. The more you practice, the better you become, and maybe one day will even start enjoying it.
Lynn Bruines, AEHL and hospitality consultant running an agency for technology companies in the luxury hotel industry.