How to Speak with Intention and Own a Room

Picture this: You’re staring towards the wide-eyed audience who are patiently waiting for you to speak. Through the dimmed lights, you see a familiar face in the front row. Everyone else? Complete strangers. As it slowly gets brighter you hear the whispers soften and you know it’s your time to shine. With arms wide, you walk on stage, shine a toothy smile, then confidently begin to speak...

But center-stage isn’t where your path to public speaking begun. It started as a young girl, rehashing your day at the dinner table or raising your hand to defend your point-of-view in class. It strengthened through job interviews, celebratory toasts and is refined each time you lead a meeting. Still, with years of communicating under your belt, you don’t have the confidence to own a room. Why?

The thing is, public speaking is damn hard. With the tips below, it doesn’t have to be.

Speak with Your Body

If you tiptoed on stage, fixed your glasses or cleared their throat before speaking, you will have lost your audience’s attention before even speaking. More than half of all human communication takes place nonverbally. If you want to excite your audience, you best believe you are working that stage. You achieve this by being yourself.

Related: The Key to Speaking With Confidence | Inc

Nowadays, audiences want information delivered to them conversationally - they’re not expecting a performance. If you pretend like you’re chatting with your friends, the audience will reward you with their full attention. This takes practice, which leads me to my next point.

Know your Material

Nothing spikes confidence more than preparation. That’s why memorizing the flow of your big ideas is key for effective speech delivery. Memorizing a speech word-for-word can defeat your preparation because the conscious effort required to recall each word will make you nervous and tense. So, rehearse your material until it becomes a part of you. You’ll find the words will spring forth spontaneously. Once you have your content down pat, the next step is refining your delivery.

Related: 4 Tips for Memorizing a Speech Without Sounding Like a Nervous Robot | Muse

Don’t Lead With the Punchline

Comedians don’t start with the punchline, nor do movies start with the climax. Similarly, great speakers don’t lead with their hook. Storytelling is a powerful thing my friend, use it to your advantage when you’re up on stage.

That’s why I recommend you try prompt talking. Prompt talking is the act of slowly revealing information to “prompt” the listener to keep listening.

Imagine you’re telling your bestie you just landed your dream job. There are two ways you could tell the story.

“Guess what! I got the job. You’re never going to believe how nervous I was going into the interview….”

In this case, your friend’s attention will immediately drop after you told them the good news. You’ve given them what they wanted to hear.

Alternatively, a prompt talker would say something like this:

“You will not believe how nervous I was going into that interview. It’s as if the moment I walked through the doors, I blacked out. Maybe it was exhaustion. I was awake until 1:00 AM, wired on coffee, preparing for this interview the night before. That’s why I was completely shocked when I got a call this morning with news I landed the job!”

In this case, you put your friend in your shoes, making them feel as anxious as you were for the call. Prompts are used to build anticipation around the big reveal. Using prompts is a practice you can apply in your day-to-day life, give it a try!

We’re not all destined to be experts at public speaking. If you speak comfortably, know your stuff and practice effective storytelling, confidently owning a room will come naturally. You got this girl!