Presentation Part II: Speech
Last week, I began this short series on presentation with a few thoughts on attire. This week, I turn to speech. Public speaking is among the most common fears people have, and even professional performers such as musicians are not immune to this. If you have this fear, I have a few suggestions for you. You won’t become comfortable speaking to a large crowd overnight, but in time, these ideas will show their value.
Take a public speaking course. Not only will this serve you well on stage, but it will give you useful tools for job interviews, teaching work, and other opportunities that require delivering information in a clear and engaging manner without wanting to melt into the floor the whole time.
Form a speaking practice club or join a Toastmasters group.
Consider the impact the rest of your presentation might have on your speech. If you are dressed and groomed well, and your stride and body language (more next week!) communicate confidence, you will feel more confident and have an easier time speaking.
If you aren’t great at speaking extemporaneously, there is nothing wrong with preparing your words in advance and memorizing them or even referring to notes, if that is what it takes.
If you are a funny person, use that to your advantage. Humor is almost always effective at making a group of people more comfortable.
If you are not a funny person, avoid joking too much on stage. If your authentic self doesn’t make people laugh often, that’s fine. Embrace it, and don’t try to be someone else. Insincere people make insincere music, and nobody needs to hear that.
Tailor your level of speech to the audience. Read the room. A concert hall will usually call for more formality than a presentation at a middle school. A nightclub setting can traditionally bear off-color humor more readily than a library concert series.
As with music, copy people whose style you admire. Put your attention on informing and entertaining your audience rather than on avoiding damage to your ego by misspeaking. If you have what it takes to play music at a high level in front of other people, speaking to them should eventually become a snap if you just commit to doing it regularly.
Worse than the fearful and shy on-stage speaker is the on-stage speaker who should be afraid, but isn’t. Regaling the audience with endless boring and poorly worded anecdotes, this speaker holds court confidently, all the while forgetting composers’ names, misspeaking, failing to correct errors, gleefully spreading misinformation and apocryphal stories as if they were the truth, and otherwise wasting time and testing patience. Remember: The easiest way to sound like you know what you are talking about is to know what you are talking about.
As always, I welcome your questions and comments below. Thank you for reading!