Mark Twain once said, “There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”
We can all identify with the sleepless nights, sweaty palms and increased heart rate associated with public speaking. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to stand up in front of a group of peers and give a speech. The fear of failing can be overwhelming for many people, myself included. Almost 75% of Americans suffer from glassophobia – the fear of public speaking. But it’s difficult to avoid public speaking.
Public speaking is inevitable. At some point or another in your career, you’re going to have to give a sales pitch, accept an award or present information.
To help calm your nerves and organize your thoughts, here are 5 simple tips to succeed at public speaking!
It’s likely that your audience has gone out of their way to hear you speak, so make sure you’re prepared. This might seem like an obvious tip, but you’d be startled at the number of speakers who step up to a podium without rehearsing what they are going to say. Don’t wing it, you need to be over prepared! Rehearse your presentation in front of a mirror or with friends. Run through the lines over and over until you feel super confident. When you’re developing your presentation ask yourself a few important questions. What will the audience take away from it? How will you motivate them to change their behavior?
Being over prepared will make you look confident and natural, which leads me to my next point: be authentic.
The best way to keep your audience’s attention is to be passionate about what you’re saying. Illustrate your enthusiasm and authority through carefully crafted stories and examples relevant to your topic. Don’t make the presentation about you, make it about the audience. Scan the audience, making eye contact with individuals in the crowd. Direct eye contact makes people feel more connected; like you’re speaking directly to them.
Show up to give, not to take. Be open to having a conversation with the audience. Don’t be afraid of interruptions or questions. It’s a sign that the audience is engaged and interested in what you’re saying. I’m not saying let your audience interrupt you in the middle of speaking. Give them the opportunity to engage in conversation throughout the session by opening the presentation up for questions and comments. The shift in conversation also gives you the chance to catch your breath and refocus if you’re feeling nervous!
One of the most recognized movie scenes of all time is from Ferris Buller’s Day Off when the economics teacher is presenting a painfully boring lesson to a disengaged group of high school students. His monotone voice asks “Anyone, anyone?” over and over again. This scene is a great example of what not to do. If you’re truly invested in what you’re saying, you need to sound passionate. Be sure not to misconstrue passion for fast, loud talking. There’s a difference. Speak slowly and methodically. Take short pauses between points so people can easily digest information.
The only way you’ll learn and grow from your experiences is to listen to feedback. Watch a replay of your speech and identify areas you can improve. Ask colleagues or friends what they thought about the presentation, both when you’re preparing and after the live event. Applying those tips and suggestions to your next presentation is a great way to keep fine tuning your public speaking skills.
Don’t live in fear of public speaking! With a little practice, you’ll be well on your way to delivering powerful and insightful presentations.
Bonus! If you’re looking for additional resources on public speaking, check out Toastmasters, an organization dedicated to educating people on effective communication tips!
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