I interviewed Nathan Swan, a public speaking coach for Magnetic Speaking (based in San Francisco). In this interview, we discuss the most important things you can do to become a better speaker. In addition, we talk about how to become more comfortable with public speaking in the United States when English is not your first language.
Listen to it below:
While a full transcript is unavailable, here is a summary of some of the questions and answers.
Nathan works as a coach for Magnetic Speaking, and he specializes in helping high school students as well as people who speak English as a second language.
Advice for ESL speakers
The top three things Nathan tells people who are ESL and trying to improve at public speaking:
1. Focus on engagement, not on getting all the words right.
2. Be expressive.
3. Connect with your audience, don’t stay in your own head. (Memorizing can cause this issue.)
I added that a lot of people obsess over saying “um” or other filler words too much. In reality, filler words are not the biggest deal in a public speech. An occasional filler word will not bother your audience. If you’re passionate about the topic and you’re expressing that passion, it will make up for any filler words you use.
Common speaking advice that is not good
I asked Nathan what common public speaking advice is not good advice. He agreed with my sentiment on filler words, then said that the common advice to “look at the back of the room” is not good. Instead, find 1-2 friendly faces and focus on them throughout your speech.
In addition, we talked about how adding pauses can drastically improve your public speaking. Pausing helps you manage your breath, your pacing, and your speech’s emotional impact.
Dealing with nervousness
One of the best ways to improve your mindset for public speaking is to gather more positive reference experience. What that means: the more good experiences you have with public speaking, the easier it’ll be to get up and speak!
Many people will never get over being nervous—I shared how I still get nervous every time I speak, even though I have plenty of experience with it and even though it always goes very well. But I turn that nervousness into excitement instead of worrying about it. The hormone that causes you to be nervous is the same one that causes you to be excited—they’re two ways of interpreting the same thing.
Nathan provided a great breathing technique: breath in for 6 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, then breath out for 6 seconds. Afterwards, say “I’m feeling alive”.
What is the #1 thing a newbie should know about public speaking?
Nathan: pause, and slow down. People who are new to public speaking want to fill the time that they have to speak, and they are afraid of pauses.
What sets the best speakers apart?
When you look at the top TED talks, you’ll realize that not all of the speakers are particularly great. You can move people emotionally and persuade without being a perfect speaker. That’s why a speech at a funeral can be so powerful—despite the speaker breaking down crying.
Advice for executives leading meetings
Focus on your message and your audience, not on yourself. Do everything you can to keep the audience engaged. That means: don’t stare at your PowerPoint!
Nathan: Public speaking is not public broadcasting. You’re not just reading a script out loud.
Where to find Magnetic Speaking
Go to www.magneticspeaking.com.
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