Have you ever had to walk up to a stage in front of tens, hundreds or even thousands of people? Perhaps feeling quite choked up all of a sudden or even feeling so tense you lose your ability to speak? It feels daunting, but feeling nervous is actually something that many feel in situations like this. Luckily, there are simple things you can do to overcome the public speaking nerves that many TED speakers use to relax, regain control and deliver an impactful talk.
Do vocal warm ups before you give your talk
Our body reacts to stressful situations in different ways. One of the main reactions can be shown in our voice. TEDxPittsburgh speaker, Jackie Gartner-Schmidt, says in her talk that the muscles in our voice box tend to sometimes react by closing up in response to stressful situations including public speaking and that we can use vocal exercises to relax them.
One vocal warm up she suggests doing is to place your index finger a few inches from your mouth and exhaling steadily while making a ‘woooo’ noise for several seconds. Watch her demonstrate the vocal exercise here.
Your Voice Says a Lot About You | Jackie Gartner-Schmidt, PhD | TEDxPittsburgh
Focus on your tone and manner of speech
How you use your voice is essential when giving a great talk and by doing so, you have to focus on your voice articulation and tone. From your manner of speaking, you can add more depth, power, impact or persuasiveness in your talk. In Julian Treasure’s TED talk, he describes our voice as a toolbox that has many different aspects and tools you can use to change or adjust how you speak so that people want to listen.
Treasure breaks it down saying that our voice ‘toolbox’ is comprised of six items – register, timbre, prosody, pace, pitch and volume. With parts of this ‘toolbox’ for instance, research shows that the timbre of the voice that is well received and liked are those with voices who feel ‘smooth, rich and warm’ and people with lower voices are more associated with ‘power and authority’ compared to those with higher voice registers. You can even use different volumes to add more emphasis to parts of your speech by speaking slightly louder or speaking a bit softer. By becoming more aware of these parts of our voice, we can use it to add power to our talks. For more on Treasure’s talk, watch here.
How to speak so that people want to listen | Julian Treasure
As Treasure says, pace is an important part of your voice to create a great talk. When we get nervous, we tend to talk really fast involuntarily and sometimes even too fast for audiences to grasp what we’re trying to say. In fact, it can actually communicate a slight insecurity or fear if not on purpose. By talking slowly, you can feel more in control of the situation and showcase your confidence.
Use silence and change your pace
When you walk up to the stage, don’t feel obliged to have to talk right away. Relax and take a deep breath to familiarize your surroundings and audience. You can also take pauses in between your talk to emphasize the importance of what you said previously or to change the tone completely.
Great talks come from preparing one of the most important tools we have, our voices, the thing that we sometimes tend to neglect. So next time you have to do some public speaking, it’s worthwhile paying attention to your voice to ease the nerves and add impact.. For a final TED talk that manifests the importance of the power of our voice for public speaking, watch Will Stephen’s TEDxNewYork talk and notice his tone, manner of speaking, change of pace and use of silence here.
How to sound smart in your TEDx Talk | Will Stephen | TEDxNewYork