Matthew Cossolotto wants you to know: There is no such thing as public speaking.
In fact, he's writing a book along those lines. Cossolotto is a consultant and coach with his own communications and public affairs company, Ovations International, in Westchester, N.Y.
Cossolotto's new book will outline five secrets for being more effective and a great deal more comfortable with speaking to audiences. By using these secrets, he says, any person who has to make a speech will be able to connect with an audience.
1. There is no such thing as public speaking. By thinking this way, Cossolotto says, you can start to lower the terror associated with the idea. "After all, speaking is something we all do quite comfortably and effortlessly every day," Cossolotto says. It's not standing on a stage and performing brain surgery, he says; it's just speaking, and the moment you start thinking of it as more than that, the panic will start to set it.
2. You can only speak to one person at a time. By this, Cossolotto doesn't mean that you should speak to only one person at a time. He means that you literally are able to speak to only one person at a time. There may be 500 people in the room who can hear you, but by making eye contact with one of them, and thinking of it as speaking only to that person, you reinforce with yourself the idea that you're just speaking, the way you do every day without blushing or having a pounding heart.
3. Don't be content with content. Cossolotto points out that it's easy to get obsessed with what you're going to say, and forget to think about how you're going to say it. Speakers often focus on their content because they're afraid of forgetting something. But Cossolotto says that speakers who just get up there and read what they planned to say won't engage the audience's imagination or be able to be spontaneous. By connecting this way, the audience will be much more receptive to your message.
4. The audience supports you. You may not have ever thought of it this way, but Cossolotto argues that the audience wants you to be engaging, funny and enjoyable. "Every time I - ve been a member of an audience, I - ve been pulling for the speaker. I haven't wanted them to be nervous or uptight," Cossolotto says. Also, he says, when you think of the audience as being on your side, you - ll be better able to connect with them.
5. Make sure the real you shows up. "You have to decide for yourself what 'the real you' is, but your body tells you if you - re not being the real you—you're sweating, your knees are knocking, your palms are sweating." One way to let the real you out is to observe the third step carefully. If you focus on content too much, your spontaneity won't come through, and your authentic personality will be caught behind PowerPoint slides and note cards.
Remember, Cossolotto says, no technique will help if your mind is against you. If you think of speaking as something you do comfortably every day, you - re halfway there. "If we buy into the idea that speaking to an audience is different from speaking to a person, and get stressed about the idea that the stakes are higher, that's when people want to shut up," he says.