Ever since I was a young girl I have had a clear life mission: to work on behalf of women and help others find their own voice. Such a pursuit has granted me many satisfying challenges. One of them, has been learning to become a public speaker.
Speaking up for women´s rights has become a rewarding and empowering experience. Nevertheless, there was a time when I used to get cold feet before speaking in public. Time and experience have taught me that becoming a good communicator is just a matter of will, practice and speaking from the heart.
I would like to share a few tips so that they may be of help if you ever experience stage fright:
- Prepare. When you are in front of your audience, people have given you a valuable gift: their time and their attention. They deserve the best of you, and you can only transmit that if you feel confident and relaxed enough to be yourself. Learn about your audience, have a clear thesis or idea to present, and organize your ideas to deliver a pleasant experience. Rehearse, always. On the day of your speech, let your inner self shine through.
- Engage your public! Make sure your opening is powerful. Just like a symphony or a novel with a catchy opening line, your speech needs to grab your audience´s attention. Hook them with a powerful statement, an anecdote, a question, a joke. Once you have their attention, make each person feel as if you’re talking directly to them. Make eye contact and pause. When possible, walk around and look at the people sitting in the room.
- Flow. Once you have prepared your speech, make an outline with the main ideas; just the main ideas. Don´t try to memorize them all, instead, let your mind flow freely through the ideas you want to share. Refer to the outline only to avoid missing any important points, the rest of the time, connect with your passion and inner wisdom, and transmit it in a natural, conversational tone.
- Transmit your essence. Don’t rush through the speech, enunciate, use different tones, pitches and textures to transmit your message, your feelings, your passion, in sum, your true self. Don’t fear silence, use it in your favor to provoke reflection, trigger emotions, or to simply let your audience think for an instant about what you have just said.
- Use the power of body language: Never underestimate the power of non-verbal communication. You communicate as much with your posture, gestures and eye contact as you do with words. Take advantage of this tool to emphasize and project enthusiasm and sincerity. Practice in front of the mirror, or even better: record yourself, analyze your strengths and weaknesses and polish your style — be your own speech critic.
- Be interculturally savvy. Always keep in mind that certain gestures or phrases might have completely different meanings to other cultures. Carry out a bit of research before including any local jokes, sayings or gestures. What is funny to one culture can be offensive to the other.
- Finally, enjoy the power of communication, it’s what makes us free. Think of the immense transformational impact of your words.
Our language gives us the power to influence others, and that influence can change the world. Communication is not about imposing viewpoints, but about building bridges among people and sharing experiences to learn from one another.
Next time you’re in front of an audience, remember that your voice is the best gift we human beings have been endowed with to learn and share –that, is what humanity is all about — so, enjoy the journey!
Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest
Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.
Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.
Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.
Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.
Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.