Steps to prepare for public speaking
Public speaking is an integral skill for leaders and a hugely important part of communicating in a crisis, and that is why our latest webinar installment focused on preparing both the voice and the mind for public speaking.
During a crisis, people look to leaders to instill a sense of calm, build back trust, and display a sense of action, so remaining calm and distilling confidence when faced with an issue, the scrutiny of the press or the pressure of hostile stakeholders is vital.
At Alder, we often advise senior leaders and spokespeople on what to say in difficult times, but it is equally important how you deliver it.
With this in mind, in our recent webinar, our specialist partner for Voice and Public Speaking, Aled Pedrick, set out the key exercises you can do in the hour prior to making a public announcement to best prepare your voice and mind for the task ahead. What would you do to prepare? How do you calm your nerves? What can you do to sound engaging?
Taken from our webinar and Aled’s extensive experience of public speaking and voice coaching, here are some of his top tips that you can try next time you are preparing to address an audience.
Prepare the voice
If sound is the journey, the body is the vehicle, and the voice is the fuel.
The body can be broken down into the breathing body (the spine, ribs, shoulders and hips) and the speaking body, which is everything above the neck. The speaking body includes the sternocleidomastoid muscle which if tight can constrict the throat.
If you have one hour before an important announcement, then take yourself off to a quiet room and practice exercises to prepare the voice. Some of these exercises loosen up the vocal cords but also allow you to breathe out for longer and remain calm, which is an especially important emotion to convey at times of crisis.
Aled’s exercises help us activate the lower abdominal nervous system which tells our brain all is well and to calm down. You can play the video below to watch Aled’s demonstrations of these exercises.
Prepare the mind
Even if you are used to public speaking, you may deal with anxiety and stress before an important announcement.
If this is the case, then the best way to prepare would be to steady the nerves and build confidence.
Once you have prepared your material, understood your audience and familiarised yourself with the location, then you need to focus on meditation techniques to improve your mindset.
In the video below Aled will take you through a meditation to prepare the mind.
Body language is an important element of public speaking that can significantly impact how your message is received by the audience.
If you were one hour away from giving an announcement, then Aled’s advice is to redirect attention away from the body. Think about who your audience is. What do you want them to feel? What is your key message?
Once you have decided what you want them to leave the room feeling and thinking, then distill this message into one mantra and the verbal and non-verbal will work in harmony with each other.
Refining your message will help you bring clarity and inform your delivery.
One of the questions we asked Aled was the difference between projecting and shouting. This comes down to phonation and the difference between projection and pushing.
Aled gave the example of greeting a life-long friend across a busy room versus trying to get a stranger’s attention in the same scenario. This difference, highlighted by a range in tones, captures the skill of harnessing your projection to avoid shouting.
The last element to your preparation before public speaking would be exercises focusing on a range of tones. Spokespeople are often easier to listen to and for longer when they have more musicality to their voice.
Follow Aled as he takes us through an exercises to project your voice.
Here we provide some simple steps you can take to prepare for public speaking, but everyone’s approach will be different. For some it may be focusing more on the voice, whereas for others it will be the mindset and confidence building.
Whether you are in a senior leadership position, aspiring to be there one day, or have a speech you want to prepare for, our voice and public speaking coaching provides you with the knowledge and skills to help you excel in these positions. If you would like to watch the full webinar, or want to find out more, then contact our team at [email protected].