When you are about to give a presentation, speak at an important meeting, have a call where the pressure is on, or even just heading back to the workplace to talk to people IRL again, the last thing you want to feel is powerless. It is important that you feel at ease and in control of the situation.
There are many ways to control speaking anxiety, but what speakers often forget is that they are in control of the room when they present.
Now, it is important to remember what your audience wants to hear and to tailor your message to your specific audience. However, you do have a few superpowers up your sleeve that will allow you to take control of the room, your speaking, and your message.
If you keep the following three points top of mind, you will find yourself in the driver’s seat and in control of both your speaking and the room.
The power of your thoughts
Too often there is an obligation to say everything you had practiced in your living room. Keep in mind that the best speakers stay in the moment. They read their audience and stay flexible. Many people tend to forget is that those listening have no idea what they are about to say. They may know the topic, but they do not know the context. Only the speaker is in control of this.
The reason this is such a powerful tool to remember is that if you forget what you are saying and get lost, only you will know. The audience will never know. If you flub or forget your train of thought, just move on to the next topic or summarize. They have no way of knowing you “skipped” a part of your presentation. Being fully aware of this gives you so much flexibility in the moment and gives you the power of ease while you are presenting. And that, in and of itself, puts you—not the listener—in total control.
The power of the pause
While it may seem counter-intuitive, pauses and silence are very useful when communicating. When preparing for your presentation, a few well-placed pauses can emphasize your message. And the longer the pause or silence, the more emphasis you give your key message. Think of it as the ready-made bold or italics to your point. A well-placed silence increases audience listening and retention by 30-40%.
This power is also useful in unplanned moments, especially when you get off track or notice yourself speaking too fast for your audience to understand. If you are off track or racing through your message, it probably means both you and the audience could use a break for a moment. It may be uncomfortable at first to test this superpower but remember, there is power in silence. Take it from Justin Trudeau. Now you are able to get back on track and the listener is able to refocus.
The other reason to use a pause…
You were curious to read what is next. It’s the same when you speak. If you are making a sound and then suddenly stop, we are eager to find out what is next, what you are doing, and what is happening. Now you have us fully engaged as listeners.
The power of time
This is the hardest one to remember. When you are speaking, it’s your time. It doesn’t matter if you were scheduled to speak at length at a board meeting and now because of time, you get only five minutes. The point is, you have five minutes and those minutes are yours alone.
This is important to remember because what you do with that time is completely up to you. Will you panic and try to squeeze an hour’s worth of detailed information into a five-minute timeslot? Or will you channel your inner charisma to engage your audience and make your most important points and land them with the time you have?
The other reason why time is on your side is that it is universally understood that when a speaker is talking, most audiences will wait until you have concluded, or you have been cut off, to interrupt you. This is empowering is because you hold the attention for the time you are allotted. What you do with that time is entirely up to you. The power is in your hands to teach something new, provoke meaningful thought, and above all else, put your thoughts out into the world.
You will quickly reap the benefits of being in control of your speaking and having command of the room if you use these techniques. So don’t be a regular speaker. Be the speaker with superpowers.
Vanessa Wasche is the owner and founder of On Point Speaking.