For some people, public speaking is a joy, a chance to stand up in front of an audience and talk, uninterrupted for as long as is needed to get the message across. But for the majority of the population, speaking in public is not just nerve-wracking, it is a terrifying experience that has them waking up in a cold sweat.
While we can do little to help with the nerves, we can offer some words of advice on how to look the part as you deliver your talk or speech from the lectern.
Standing at the lectern
The first thing to consider is how you stand at the lectern. Don’t sprawl all over it, don’t grip the sides so tightly that your knuckles turn white. Try to look as relaxed as you can. Certainly, don’t pound on the lectern to give added weight to your words – not only will it make you look slightly loony but it will distract the audience from your words.
Introducing another speaker
Never just abandon the lectern once you have finished your talk. If you are introducing someone who is following you, wait until they arrive at the lectern. Treat the situation as if you were inviting someone into your home, make sure they are at ease before you take your leave of the lectern. Resist the temptation to rush out your closing sentence and then make a mad dash from the stage. Wait patiently, enjoy any applause that might follow and then gracefully hand over to the next speaker.
Once at the lectern, preparation is everything
If you are able, make sure you have already practised speaking from this particular lectern. Make sure your notes are where you can comfortably see them and you can easily turn the pages without scattering papers everywhere.
If you do use notes, don’t staple them together, when you change pages there will be a distracting few seconds as you flip the page and bend the corner of the paper. Rather, just move the top page to one side as you finish it.
Make sure you have a glass of water at the lectern. You might cough or get a dry throat. Equally, you might just need a distraction to gather your thoughts and taking a sip of water is a classic ploy to gain some thinking time.
Vary the view
It is a good idea to move around a little during your talk. Try not to spend the entirety of your presentation behind the lectern as it puts up a barrier between you and your listeners. Take a wander, move to one side of the lectern – this keeps the audience focused on you and, strangely, helps you relax. By owning the stage in this way, you will feel more confident.
Of course, there may be cases when you are forced to stay behind the wooden blockade due to the need for the microphone or maybe because there is no way else for you to go. If you find yourself in this position, remember to stand approximately 10 inches away from the lectern and if you need to lay your hands on it, do so at the very edges closest to you and not the audience.
When you have ended your talk, leave your notes. Do not end your powerful presentation by sweeping up your papers and hurrying from the stage. Instead, end with a bang and enjoy the applause. You can always pick up your notes or props after the meeting has ended.