5 Ways Southeast Asian Founders Can Speak More Confidently
Win the room with these tips
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
One of mankind’s biggest fears is public speaking. Standing in front of an audience is enough to give some people nausea or panic attacks.
“I had been plagued by that fear my whole life,” says Jean-Patrick Bisson, co-founder and CEO of Loansolutions. “I remember several school presentations where I would lose my voice and not even be able to speak.”
As an entrepreneur, however, speaking in front of an audience is somewhat inevitable. Sooner or later you will have to present your product to clients, convince investors to give you that much-needed capital, or you will be invited to give a talk at, say, a conference.
“However, I was determined to fix that and become a great presenter. Through a lot of practice, I think I'm getting much better at it and I don't have the same fears I once had,” Bisson says.
Rather than giving in to your temptation to flee rather than fight, here are a few things to remember to get over your fear of public speaking:
1. Make eye contact
This may sound counter-intuitive — after all, you are already feeling vulnerable standing on stage — but it may help to humanize your audience.
Shahab Shabibi, co-founder of Machine Ventures, says making eye contact with the audience acts as a reminder that you are talking to people who are just like you. Plus, it helps them feel more engaged.
“When we consider the audience as one whole group of strangers, we could easily fear it, but a better approach is to humanize and look at each one of them just as individuals,” he says.
Bisson adds, “Interact with the audience. It makes you feel like you're having a conversation with them and makes it much easier. It also gives you the positive reinforcement that they're listening.”
2. Remember, it is not about you
To put things in perspective, remember that the talk is not really about you, rather, the content of what you are saying. Professional speaker Joel Comm says in his Inc. article that when you stress out about your performance as a speaker, you are putting the focus on yourself rather than your audience. Speakers should instead remember the reason for the talk. It may be to teach, inspire, or entertain.
He says, “It's not about you. Your audience is counting on you to deliver value. Simply give the people what they want.”
3. Prepare, but don’t overdo it
Bisson advises entrepreneurs to prepare, but not overdo it. Instead, practice the big lines and the points you want to make and improvise around that.
“You’ll have much less to memorize and you’ll feel much better about that,” he says.
He also shares a structure he learned in his “dreaded presentation course in university” that goes: Start with a story and introduce your three points for one minute, talk about your three points for one minute each, and make a conclusion that ties into your first story while reiterating the three points you made.
As for your presentation, don't have many words on your slides and avoid writing in full sentences.
Bisson says, “You'll feel like people are reading your slides—which they will—and not be listening to you.”
4. Don’t give yourself the option to bail
Shabibi says it helps to commit to speaking engagements and not give yourself the option to bail on it. He also recalled an experience when he was only a student.
“I signed up to run for student council and during the so-called ‘campaigning’ period I had to give a speech in front of more than 500 students. Since I couldn't just bail like that, it pressured me to deal with it,” he says.
For Bisson, “The fear doesn't go away but it's become much more manageable. My perspective about it has changed completely. I've now spoken at many conferences and I'm often invited to speak to crowds of entrepreneurs about various topics.”
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Comm reminds speakers that no one is going to remember your mistakes. Relax and go with the flow, he says. If you make a mistake, just laugh it off, in all likelihood, the audience will laugh along and support you.
“Most people are much harder on themselves than others are with them. Go easy on yourself, physically, and emotionally,” he says.
“Smile and have fun with it. It should be something you find fun to do and not scary,” Bisson says.
Instead of fretting about your speech the night before, enjoy a good meal or get a good night’s rest. Pat yourself on the back for having the courage to do the talk in the first place and let your passion, knowledge, and experience guide you through it.