Did you know most Americans fear public speaking more than they fear death? If you are one of the many, fear not! I am one of those who does not enjoy speaking in front of large audiences, so I wanted to share my favorite tips and tricks that I use to help make public speaking a lot less terrifying and a lot more manageable.
Practice, practice, practice!
Take the time beforehand to go over what you will be speaking about. Read your presentation out loud to friends and family and even just to the mirror. Practicing actually speaking out loud will help you realize what words and sentences will be stumbling blocks you might face.
Telling personal stories is one of the best ways to connect to the audience and keep their attention. Whether it be a happy story or a sad story, this avenue allows the audience to connect what they are hearing to everyday life. It also makes you, the speaker, human… just like them.
If you can make the audience laugh, you will put both them and yourself at ease. Maybe begin your presentation with a joke or a funny story to help everyone in the room relax. It is also ok to laugh at yourself. If you make a mistake, laugh it off and move on. If you trip over your own feet? Laugh it off and move on!
Keep the focus on you.
Try not to print out papers to handout before you begin speaking. This will be a huge distraction as people will read the papers instead of listening to what you have to say. The same goes for power points. If you decide to use one, keep the number of words per slide to as few as possible. Using just pictures and only a word or two per slide would be best (and be sure to test the technology in the room before presenting!) If you do need to hand papers out, either wait until the end of your presentation or give out a link to a website or blog where they can reread the highlights of what you said.
Be aware of your body language.
Nonverbal communication is one of the strongest forms of communication. It is important to be aware of it especially when you are the main focus of everyone in the room. Be sure your body is sending the same message your words are.
Start strong and end strong.
Begin your presentation on a strong note… it is your one chance to make a first impression on your audience. In addition, be sure to end on a strong note as it is the last thing people will remember. While you should practice your whole presentation, make sure you go over your first and last points a few extra times.
Always be yourself! If you let your passion show, the speaking will come easily. Connect with your audience and speak directly to them--being authentic and genuine will "speak volumes" to your audience.