It has been said that public speaking is the single greatest, and most common, fear of your average human being. Not even second to the thought of dying. I don’t know how true that really is. However, it is a well-documented fact that the prospect of public speaking makes a large percentage of people’s legs tremble, their skin crawl, and their hands shake uncontrollably. Why? Who knows. But that’s the facts. Getting up in front of people is oftentimes a terrifying and dreaded task. However, the fear can be relieved, and anybody can get better at public speaking by putting into practice a few simple ideas. Here are eight. Give them a shot at your next presentation!
Practice, practice, practice!
Don’t worry too much about your nerves. The bodily adrenaline rush can be a positive thing. It can make you more alert and ready to give your best performance. Having said that, those sensations can be a bit unpleasant. The best way to ensure that you will be minimally anxious at your next presentation is to practice and then … practice some more. You might consider videotaping yourself or even getting a friend to critique your performance to get a sense of how you are doing.
Know your audience
A big part of crafting your message beforehand should be considering who your message is intended for. Learn as much as you can about your audience. This information will inform what you include, and exclude from your speech. It will also help you decide your organizational pattern, levels of information and even your choice of words.
Think about presentational organization
Make sure that your speech is organized in such a way that it grabs the listener’s attention right from the get-go. It doesn’t hurt to write down the topic, general purpose, specific purpose, central ideas, and main points of your speech in an outline. Just to get a feel for how the speech will flow.
Feedback is important, so adapt
Keep your focus on the audience. Gauge their reactions and stay flexible and fluid. Adapt to how the audience is responding. Delivering a canned speech will guarantee that you lose the attention of your audience. Make sure your speech is a living breathing organism that changes and responds to non-verbal cues from your audience members.
Let your personality shine through. Your audience will react better — and just generally like you more — if you aren’t just a talking head. You will establish better credibility that way, and your audience will trust what you have to say if they can see that you are a real person.
Inject a funny anecdote or two into your presentation. Or maybe just a joke. Audiences like it when there is a bit of a personal touch to a speech. A story or a joke can provide that personal touch pretty well.
Don’t read off a sheet
Reading from a script or slide fractures the interpersonal connection. Try your best to maintain eye contact with your audience instead of maintaining eye contact with a scrap of paper with your notes on it. You should already know what’s on that piece of paper by heart by the time you start your presentation. Although, having said that, a brief outline in-hand can serve to jog your memory when you happen to stall, and it can keep you on task.
Grab attention at the start, and close dynamically
Don’t start your speech with “today I’m going to talk to you about X.” That’s just boring. Instead, maybe begin your speech with an interesting statistic or an interesting and concise quotation that will spark the listener’s attention. Then, conclude your speech with a summary and a strong statement that your audience is sure to remember.
Good communication is never perfect. What’s more, nobody expects you to give a perfect speech in any case. Remember that! As long as you go up there and are personable and genuine, that will take you a very long way indeed. And you may not learn to ever shake your nerves entirely. Most people never do, in fact. But with a little practice, and by utilizing some of this advice, you can learn to minimize those nerves quite substantially.
Have something to add to this story? Comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.
Header image: ShutterStock