I have been asked how to become a good speaker many times. I have asked myself this same question. Like anything, practice helps so much, as does preparation, but there are a few other things you can do to jumpstart your success.

Start every speech with a story.

Not a story that you need to think about or look at notes in order to know.  A real life story.  People like listening to someone who is authentic and is giving a glimpse into their lives.

The best speeches I have given have been when I spoke from the heart and related things back to my life and my life’s struggles. You typically can keep the attention of the audience if you do this.

Also, if you are not looking at notes, you should make eye contact. Making eye contact with the audience is key for success.

Cheat sheet helps.

Not every speech is something that we personally care about so in those instances you may need to be more scripted. Be sure to read scripts countless times so that you remember the concepts enough to not have to bury your head and read while presenting. 

When you do not look up and gesture and move and speak freely, you will lose your audience. By reading or writing the script various times, you will start to identify with key topics ands words to stimulate your memory.

In situations like this, I highlight key words that I know will trigger my memory. 

If I begin to feel as if I don’t know what to speak about next, I look down to my highlighted paper to trigger what I need to go to next. This is a great safety net if you are not speaking from the heart.

Even though you are not speaking from the heart, try whatever it takes to get a story to intro your speech. If you can’t think of a story, ask your friends, coworkers, and family members for ideas. A good example of this was when I was speaking at a conference about recruiting talent, and I couldn’t come up with a good story to intro the concept.

I asked a friend who suggested telling a story about the prettiest girl in the bar and how she pulls people towards her. I used this concept to detail the shift in recruiting. In 2016, we need to pull people towards us not chase them down. Funny thing is, this is the part of the presentation everyone remembered.

Get the audience involved whenever possible.

That doesn’t mean you need to interview the audience or call someone out, but what it can mean is you ask a big picture question like, “Has anyone in this room ever felt they couldn’t accomplish something, but tried anyway?” then pause.

Even if no one yells out, you have gotten everyone’s attention and can continue to pull them in by saying, “Well that is me today, so bear with me while I am up here”. You can also have someone staged in the audience, which works like magic.

You meet with a friend or co-worker ahead of time and ask them to answer a question for you a certain way. That way you know someone will answer and it will give you a break on stage to look at notes or drink water.

Hypnosis works.

At this point, some people might be thinking why are you telling me what to say in a speech?   There is no chance I will ever get myself up to give a speech. For these people, there are classes and, in my opinion, an even stronger, more viable option.

Hypnosis is a proven solution for people who are paralyzed by fear. I have seen it work on numerous people and I have done it myself. The one caveat is you have to be open minded to it working and want it to work. To me that seems pretty easy if you have found a well recommended hypnotist that specializes in this field.

Don’t count this out, it really does work.

Shake the audience up.

It is fine to ask everyone to stand up and stretch if you are the 4th speaker during a day-long meeting. It is fine to make a joke if you feel comfortable like “I am sure by 3pm on a Friday you are just dying to hear what I have to say…”.

It is also helpful to use people’s first names while speaking. This is extremely engaging. 

For example, “John, I know that you had a similar situation with HR and can appreciate this topic. John is not alone so I am sure there are others of you out there. Let’s take a look at the challenge John faced”. This makes your speech more of a relatable story and conversation. This engages the audience.

Power Point works.

Presentations are not always for people you know and like and often are on boring topics. When this is the case, I find it useful to use a Power Point or keynote presentation on a big screen. I will use basic images to illustrate a point, but really what it does for me is remind me of where I need to go next with my speech.

This is a way to avoid looking down to read something and instead engages the audience with visuals, which will help them remember after your presentation. It is very important to move around and not stand static behind a podium while you are presenting. By gesturing and moving, you will loosen your self up and create a more comfortable environment for you and the audience.

No one cares as much as you.

Many people feel nervous when they are about to speak as they want to be perfect. In these situations, I think back to the countless presentations that I have attended and thought to myself have I really even paid that much attention when someone is speaking?

The sad reality is the audience is always very interested in their phone, their notes, their computer and who is sitting next to them. People are focused on themselves, not really on you.  When you shift your perspective to realize this it alleviates some pressure.

The bottom line is you don’t have to be great, just good enough. If you touch one person in the room you have done your job and that is enough.

Practice is critical.

There are extremely smart and talented people that I know that practice for hours and weeks before presenting. Know your strengths and weaknesses and prepare. 

Be sure to write out what you will say, have notes, highlights, outlines and practice in front of someone at least once or twice to see where you trip up.

This is a game changer.

When I hear that someone is nervous to present and they haven’t practiced – I laugh. That is setting yourself up for failure. You will get out what you put in. 

Feedback from others is very helpful. If you have friends and coworkers that have seen you speak before, ask for their feedback. I constantly ask people how I was, what I could have done better and what they took away. That way we can begin to gain some insight into how others see us.

Video is your friend.

I have been speaking at events, conferences, charities, and luncheons for years and I had never seen a video of myself. I think that I was just too nervous to see what I actually sounded like because I assumed I would hate it. This was an epic fail.

I was asked to put a reel together of myself for someone to view and I had to go back to so many people begging for them to dig up video that they had and unfortunately because I had waited so long most people could not find it.

Fortunately for me, one person did and I almost hid under the table when it launched.  Surprisingly, it was good. It is funny that we are always our own toughest critics.

What I learned was that I was not good at reading the video monitor, but I was great when I spoke freely. I learned something. My new goal is to capture video on each speaking opportunity so I can build a great reel and learn from each occasion.

Imagine how well you will know yourself if you have a self-recording for your own viewing. Why not see what others are seeing and why not practice while video rolls as well. I promise you it will not be as painful as you thought it would be.

Confidence is usually the real barrier to success with speaking.

What I have done to help remind myself that I am pretty good at speaking is I have put together a secret list of success stories about me. I use instances where I was really nervous and then got positive feedback from others after the occasion.

Remember you get more feedback when you ask for it than when you don’t. I ask a lot. 

I keep this list of 5 instances where I was nervous and things turned out good enough. Keeping the expectations on myself that I don’t need to be perfect, asking my friends for support and keeping my secret list of mini success stories usually works.

For anything tougher than that, I write on the sole of my heels YOU CAN DO ALL THINGS.This is a powerful reminder that my son taught me. Give it a shot, it works.

You get what you put in

Heather Monahan Boss in HeelsHeather Monahan is a women’s empowerment expert known as the “Boss In Heels”. She is a social media influencer, keynote speaker, Glass Ceiling award recipient and Pop Sugar contributor. Heather is committed to advancing others via www.heathermonahan.comRead her interview on LadyBossBlogger here.