Thursday, August 11 2022
  • Eileen Smith is a public speaking coach and frequent keynote speaker.
  • She suggests planning how you project a professional image when you return to offices and places.
  • Connect with the audience before you speak, make eye contact, and move with purpose, she says.

I can feel the electricity in the room when I’m in front of a live audience. I know if there is a heated conversation before the event starts, and I can read people’s faces and body language.

Eileen Smith

Eileen Smith.

Eileen Smith

All of these clues fuel my energy and the way I return it to my listeners.

Of course, when everything moved online during the pandemic, I had to find a way to pick up those signals. I found myself reaching out through discussion forums and using polls to take the pulse of my virtual audience.

As we return to the office, even though it is a hybrid workplace, many of our public speaking skills can be a bit rusty. Here are five ways to dust yours off and excel in that first in-person gathering.

Read more: 10 Tips for Landing and Delivering Your Own TEDx Talk, From a TEDx Speaker Whose Talk Has Over 15 Million Views

Remember that your performance begins when you enter the hall

The start of an event or meeting is not the time to go back to your phone or study your notes. When you enter a room, your performance has already started.

Project a strong executive presence by entering eyes up and shoulders back. Say hello to people you know and introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Keep the conversation going until the meeting begins. Greet everyone like a boss or an old friend.

For a more formal speaking event, once you’re equipped with your tech and gear, stand at the door and introduce yourself to people as they arrive. If you’re locked in a green room, you may find your fellow speakers or even a few staff to talk to.

This approach has a few advantages. First of all, it gives you the opportunity to ask people what brings them about and what they want to learn the most from this event. Then incorporate their stories or questions into your speech to make it more personal.

Second, staying involved in the conversation until the event begins can help calm your nerves. Otherwise, you could spend the last few minutes worrying about how your first foray into a live audience will turn out.

Third, audience members who have had the opportunity to greet you will feel more connected to you as a speaker.

Make eye contact

Your goal when speaking in person is to make real eye contact. Don’t look over your audience on the back wall, stare at a spot on the table, and stare at the forest, but miss the trees.

I like to separate my audience into three sections. In each section, I’m looking for my new best friend. It doesn’t matter if I’ve met this person before. I’m looking for someone who gives me positive feedback – smiling and nodding at what I have to say.

Once you’ve found your three new best friends, one for each part of your audience, take turns making direct eye contact with them as you speak.

Wait until you hit a punctuation mark in your sentence before moving on to your next best friend. It helps you regulate your eye movements. If you switch too quickly from one person to another, you risk giving off the windshield wiper effect. If you dwell on a person for too long, it can become uncomfortable.

Gesture with meaning

At home on a video screen, small gestures are the rule. Perhaps you consciously kept your gestures in the camera so that they weren’t lost sight of. Or maybe the low-key home work environment has exhausted your inspiration for grand gestures.

Either way, in person, you can flaunt yourself.

If you are someone who speaks naturally with your hands, that is wonderful. However, check in on your phone to verify that your hands are saying what you think they are saying. A little emphasis is good. Too much is, well, too much.

One important thing to keep in mind after bending over in your home office for so long is to keep your posture strong and your body open. Arms crossed, hands folded in front like a fig leaf, and waving with the hands are signs of discomfort.

Look confident with confident hand gestures. Steepling “is a universal display of confidence and is often used by those in leadership positions,” Joe Navarro, a retired FBI agent and author, told Insider. You can also try to lightly nest your hands together or hold them separately to your abdomen. Hands down by your side is another confident position. It’s a favorite for many world leaders, as seen at the recent G7 summit

Move with a purpose

Moving around when speaking in front of people is an effective way to get their attention.

Position yourself to one side of the stage or conference room to connect with that part of the audience. Stay there until you have finished your thinking. Try that solid eye contact. Then move to the other side of the stage or to another location. Finish your thinking before you move again.

Be measured in your movement. When you are still, avoid dragging, patting, or letting your legs betray your nervous energy. When you are not walking, adopt a firm stance, keep your posture straight, and keep your feet firm.

Treat nerves like arousal and energy

Keep in mind that your audience wants you to be successful, if only for the simple reason that it is uncomfortable to watch someone who is seemingly nervous. Transform this tension into positive energy and project the confidence outward.

If your nerves are threatening to take over, take a moment. “Breathing is a direct line to the nervous system and the brain,” corporate wellness expert Tara Antonipillai told Insider. “Remember that you can turn off the panic reaction in the brain and activate this part of the brain’s thinking reasoning by simply slowing down and deepening the breath.”

Also, try to mentally reframe your nervous reaction to arousal. Build your self-confidence through preparation and practice, print your notes as a safety net in case you forget what you want to say, and focus your thoughts on all the wonderful things that can happen, instead of thinking about it. that could go wrong.

Eileen Smith is a public speaking coach, keynote speaker and former diplomat. Discover his tips to help business leaders, policy experts and emerging professionals prepare, gain confidence and succeed in their careers at

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