Being a good public speaker comes naturally to some people, while others struggle to calm their nerves when they’re about to address a large group of people. If you’re among those who get mildly nauseated at the thought of public speaking, consider taking a few tips from one of the most successful businessmen in the world—Richard Branson.
Anyone who has heard the Virgin Group founder speak will realize that the tycoon doesn’t like giving pre-written speeches. In a recent blog post, the philanthropist said that the reason why he prefers to wing it is because he still gets a bit nervous when speaking in public and that rehearsed speeches add to the pressure. He also said that it’s “so much better” when one speaks from the heart.
“90 percent of the time it is better to adlib rather than read from contrived speech notes,” said Branson. He added that it’s not important if you forget certain parts of your speech, as people who are listening want to hear your passion and not just your words.
Branson suggests that even if you’ve been asked to come up with a serious speech, such as a wedding toast, it won’t hurt to come up with witty lines to make people laugh. The 66-year-old said that one should encourage laughter “especially at the beginning and end” of the speech.
“Start making people smile, have a laugh in the middle, be sure to include a bit of serious stuff either side of that, but end on a smile,” he added.
Lastly, the entrepreneur said that the best speeches are always short. He recalled a certain event in Japan where another speaker “droned on for two hours” which lulled people to sleep.
When it was Branson’s turn, he got onstage and instead of speaking, he decided to interact with the audience. It appears that the Q&A was so engaging that the crowd was wide awake during Branson’s time onstage, and he left on a high note.
In addition to Branson’s tips, one would also do well to make eye contact with the audience, and speak slowly when making a speech. Stand up straight, and turn nervousness to excitement. Most of all, practice. Before long, you’ll be enjoying your time onstage, and you’ll be looking forward to the next time that you do it.
For more, check out Jobs & Hire’s report on business lessons we can learn from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”