Despite its prevalence in the corporate world, public speaking is a difficult skill to master. Standing in front of a room full of people and speaking about a topic is a common fear for many people from all industries.
So how can a person not only get over their fear of public speaking, but refine his or her skills to become a public speaking expert? Here are a few tips that can help novices polish their next speeches and feel more comfortable while giving them.
Prepare (Make Sure You Practice)
Improvising a speech isn’t such a great idea – an unrehearsed, ill-written speech will bore the audience and harm the speaker’s credibility. Solid preparation is key for a stunning presentation.
First, identify the audience that will be listening to the speech. Are they friends, family members, coworkers, upper leadership, board members, or executives? Each audience type will require a different presentation purpose. For more professional settings, for instance, tone down the informal aspects of a speech and highlight moments that teach, inspire, and motivate.
After writing the speech or outlining the presentation, rehearse. Make sure to take time in the days leading up to the speech to practice a few times a day. You can practice a speech during a commute, while you’re on a plane flying to a conference, or during a morning exercise routine. Practicing in front of other people will help a presenter build confidence and reduce nerves, as well as provide an opportunity to hear feedback to make the presentation stronger.
Use Gestures, Expressions, and Body Language
If a presenter is standing still, not moving his or her hands, slouching, or wears a blank-faced look, the audience becomes bored. If a presenter is talking about a happy subject and frowning, or talking about a sad subject and smiling, the audience can become confused. The presenter then loses credibility – and no one will remember the presentation.
Incorporating gestures and practicing open and positive body language will help a presenter retain credibility and excite the audience. A presenter should always:
- Stand or sit up straight – no slouching!
- Make sure that the facial expression matches the words
- Make eye contact with the audience
- Incorporate hand motions and gestures to emphasize their speech
Speak Slowly and Clearly
Lots of presenters are so nervous about their speeches that they tend to speak as quickly as possible to get the speech over with. The problem? The audience likely has no idea what the speech was about!
Nerves tend to make us speak faster. When giving a speech, it is important to speak slowly and take time with the words on the page, presentation, or notecards. The audience needs to hear those words, and they won’t be able to if the speech goes by too quickly. Don’t be afraid to take pauses for emphasis or to breathe.
Take a Deep Breath
Before the speech, make sure to take time to relax, decompress, and de-stress. Pre-speech nerves can carry over into the speech itself, leading a presenter to shake, speak too fast, fumble over words, and otherwise show the audience that they’re nervous.
Do breathing exercises, listen to calming music, drink a cup of hot herbal tea or water, and meditate. Everything will be okay with some solid preparation and relaxed nerves!