5 Public Speaking Tips
Public speaking is considered the number one fear among most people. In fact, if you’re like most folks, you might have had a public speaking nightmare once or twice too. Meaning your mind went blank and/or you froze right as you stepped in front of the crowd. Public speaking can be scary.
So how do you become more comfortable speaking in public? Below we share our 5 top public speaking tips that we believe will help you become a more confident public speaker both in person and on video.
1. Practice, Not Perfection
Practicing your presentation or speech will help you gain confidence when speaking in front of a crowd. It’s a numbers game. The more you do it, the more at ease you will feel. However, the goal of practicing is not to be 100% perfect.
Oftentimes when someone tries to memorize a speech word-for-word, one little misstep will cause their minds to go blank.
Instead of focusing on memorizing every word, practice going through an outline with bullet points. Use certain words as cues and reminders. Every strong public speaker never memorizes word-for-word.
A few things to consider while practicing your presentation:
- Pause – Make sure you are incorporating and practicing strategic pauses. For many of us, when you are nervous you will speak much more quickly. Awareness is key. Be sure to give yourself strategic pauses in between thoughts, or to drive a point home. Pausing will also help you regulate your breath and make you much less nervous as it helps you regain control.
- Pace – Practice varying your pace from normal to slow and having variety. Just like above, the tendency for most people is to race through their presentation so that it gets done. But if you slow your pace at points you want to drive home you will not only seem less nervous to your audience, but it will be much more engaging to listen to.
- Tone – It is always a good idea to practice your tone of voice. Like pace, having variations in tone will make your presentation more exciting to your audience.
It is okay to feel nervous, but the more you prepare the less your nerves will affect your presentation.
2. Pay Attention To Your Body Language
Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how the message is being conveyed. Your body language can have a huge impact on how people perceive your comfort and your speaking ability.
Consider the following when practicing your body language for a presentation:
- Good Posture – sitting up straight, with your shoulders back and down makes you automatically look more confident and at ease.
- Hand Gestures – using slow, symmetrical hand gestures rather than more frantic, chaotic gestures.
- Smiling – this can make you look warm, comfortable and inviting.
You want to make sure that your body language is communicating confidence, even if your mind is not feeling it at the moment. But what people see is what they perceive. So if you can signal motions of confidence, that can help with your delivery and performance.
3. Know Your Audience
When preparing to speak in front of a crowd, it is critical to have a good temperature check of your audience. Focusing on what they came to hear and what they care about will help you as you prepare for your speech. This means asking yourself some basic questions for context, such as:
- How much does my audience already know about my topic?
- Do I have to be more general and high-level, or can I get more technical and they’ll still understand?
- What do I think my audience came here to achieve?
The more you know about your audience and their motivations, the better you will be able to prepare for your speech or presentation.
One big trick in speaking to your audience is to treat your public speaking as if you are just speaking to one person at a time. Don’t think “I’m talking to 10 or 100 people. I am talking to Joe who cares about xyz.” Or, “I am talking to Mary who cares about abc.” This will make your speech more personal. The more personal the conversation, the less nervous you will become and the more it will resonate with those listening. It’ll feel like you’re talking to them, not above them.
Be aware of who you will be presenting to. Your topic should focus on what your audience is interested in to keep them engaged during your speech.
Remember, your audience is all ears for a reason. Be sure to make them feel that their time spent listening was well worth it.
4. Use Visuals
Using visuals can help keep your audience engaged and excited. In fact, directing people to look at something other than you can make you feel more comfortable.
A few key things to remember about incorporating visuals into your presentation:
- Make them exciting
- Keep visuals relevant to what you are speaking about
- Use clear visuals that offer clarity or expand your points
When using visuals, you can incorporate images, animations or even physical products themselves. The point is the visuals should help enhance the point you’re trying to make.
5. Have A Contingency Plan
Part of being a great public speaking is preparing for the unexpected. This doesn’t mean that you should expect your speech to go sideways! Instead, prepare yourself with a few mental backups just in case things or situations throw you off course.
Use/Bring Notecards – While you don’t want to memorize your speech, sometimes having notecards with your bullet points can help you stay on track. If you plan to carry them with you at your next presentation, practice with them in hand.
Technical Difficulties – No matter how many times you check and recheck your PowerPoint, there may be times it may freeze or just not open. So, what can you do? You need to prepare for the off chance that you won’t be able to use your PowerPoint presentation. This means having a backup presentation on another drive or on a USB to pull up. It’s better to have multiple files just in case.
Remember these 5 public speaking tips the next time you prepare for a big presentation. The more prepared you are the higher your confidence will be!
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