Transitioning from Small to Large Audiences: Public Speaking by Ivanka Trump

Excerpt from “Women Who Work” by Ivanka Trump

Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

VISIT THE STAGE OR VENUE BEFOREHAND. Stand where you will actually present and get a sense of the room. The goal is to eliminate uncertainty and gain familiarity. You can prepare yourself by knowing how long the walk is from the entrance to your spot, and visualize where you’re going to present as you practice. Find out if you have a podium to stand behind, and, if so, where it’s wood or glass (you wouldn’t want to put a big binder on a glass podium, for example). If you’re going to be holding a microphone in your hand, without the podium, you’d better have that speech down cold as you won’t be able to discreetly refer to note cards.

STAND UP WHEN YOU’RE PRACTICING. Time yourself as you say your speech aloud. It always takes a lot longer to get through a speech or presentation than you think it will. Practice speaking aloud as you would when presenting—seek to modulate your tone, speed up and slow down, and punctuate certain words for emphasis.

PRACTICE IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. Classic studies by the late Standford psychologist Robert Zajonc demonstrated that the mere presence of other people raises our awareness. If you practice alone, you won’t have a chance to adjust to that factor. When practicing for the RNC, I lined my kids up on the couch and made them listen to me countless time! Rehearse over and over again, out loud. If you keep stumbling on the same sentence or word, change it.

USE YOUR BODY. Once in front of your audience, plant your feet for balance and confidence. Consultant John Paul Engel, who began his speaking career on Capitol Hill delivering briefs on employment numbers and economic data, says that over the years he’s learned that using some of the same body language cues you use in conversation—but in a more exaggerated way—can be useful in reinforcing key points. Moving when you’re transitioning to a new message, stepping forward and bending slightly toward the audience as if you were telling them a secret when delivering an important point. or raising three fingers when you have three points to make are some examples.

GET IN THE ZONE. “The single most important thing a great presenter does is carve out a quiet space before stepping onto that stage or platform,” says Joan Detz, author of How to Write and Give a Speech. Clearing your head and rehearsing mentally result in laser focus and positive energy.

RENAME YOUR ANXIETY TO “EXCITEMENT”. Adam Grant warns, “Don’t try to calm down. Not only do people who try to relax (and succeed) before speaking show a lack of persuasiveness and confidence during their speech, one of the hardest things to do is to relax on command, which, in turn, can make you more anxious. Instead of saying, ‘I am calm,’ or ‘I’m nervous, scared and anxious,’ repeating ‘I am excited!’ can actually help you feel less afraid and more enthusiastic about tackling the challenge at hand.”

CHECK THE NEWS. Be aware before you speak of anything that might be relevant to your presentation. There may be something timely that you’ll want to either include or eliminate from your content.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. There are no shortcuts if you want to nail your delivery and maximize your message’s resonance.