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Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured and deliberate manner in order to persuade, perform or entertain.
If you have fears about public speaking, you are not alone. It is estimated that at least 70% of people find public speaking stressful. However, I list below 15 tips that can help you get over your public speaking fears.
The most valuable things to talk about are your own experiences. Therefore, to have something to say, go out there and live life. Write down your experiences. Learn to tell stories that people can learn from based on your life experiences. Be very open about it and do not hide or conceal any mistakes you made along the way. People will learn from them.
This can be the most effective cure for nervousness or jittery gestures during a speech. Prepare adequately for a speech. You are unlikely to be nervous when you talk about something that you have deep knowledge about.
You must understand the audience so that you can deliver your message appropriately. For example, it will be of no use to get into the details of how a car engine functions if you are talking to a group of ordinary housewives who are looking for cars to buy. You have to distil your message appropriately. If your message is too complicated for your audience, they will lose interest.
It is also a good idea to get to the venue early and have casual chats with some members of the audience before making your presentation.
If you are given an opportunity to visit the presentation venue beforehand, you must utilize it. Familiarization with the venue ahead of time can help you feel more relaxed and build up your confidence. It is even better if you have leeway to give input about the seating arrangements and lightning. You can do it in a manner that suits your style and makes you more confident.
Opening with a story can be a good starting point. It will get your audience engaged right from the start, and it will also help you fall into the rhythm of the speech. Furthermore, it makes you comfortable and helps you eliminate early jitters. However, it must be a story that the audience can relate to, otherwise it will have the opposite effect.
Alternatively, you can start with a fact or anecdote that will hook the audience in and get them to pay attention to you.
Yes, good old water. If you are allowed to or if you feel it is necessary, you can take a bottle of water to the stage. Taking some sips throughout the speech allows you to keep your voice natural, and it also legitimizes some pause moments that will allow you to gather your thoughts or regain composure.
Maintain eye contact with the audience. This keeps the connection and trust between you and your audience. People will begin to doubt your message if your eyes are fixed on the floor most of the time. The other common mistake is that a speaker will have their eyes fixed on the notes. The notes you carry must only give you a guide or a reminder of the next point. Do not bury your face in the notes while you are speaking.
Public speaking begins with posture. Your posture must be of someone who is confident, enthusiastic and energetic. Also, a good posture will help you to breathe easier and speak naturally. Therefore, do not slouch. You must stand upright in a balanced and efficient manner. Do not stand with your legs closed or stand pigeon-toed.
If you are gesturing, you must do it appropriately and not overdo it. Be that as it may, you must not let your arms just hang by your sides or worse still put your arms behind your back.
Practice is the most vital thing in learning to say it well. Say it often by yourself. Use your phone or computer and record yourself speaking. Watch and listen to those recordings, and criticize yourself. You can even share the recordings with a few friends and colleagues and have them give you feedback.
You must be properly dressed for the occasion. If you dress improperly or shabbily, you will lose credibility.
While dressing appropriately is a priority, you must balance it by putting on something that you are comfortable in. You must also put on footwear that you are able to stand in for a fairly long period. Otherwise, wearing clothes that you are not comfortable in will only add to the stress, and you may not be able to breathe properly.
If are using a presentation aid such as a slide or board, make sure that the information on it is legible. Furthermore, it must be neat and not overloaded. Remember that the visual aid is supposed to aid you when you speak. If you then find yourself trying to aid the visual aid to be understood by the audience, you will have defeated the whole purpose of it.
Instead of only focusing on yourself and your words, you have to study the cues from the audience. Are they really listening to you? Are they bored? Are they excited, or are you driving them to sleep? If you do not read these cues, you will end up speaking to yourself.
You can tell when the audience is cold and has lost interest. When half of your audience are checking their phones while you are speaking, then you have not connected at all.
The audience usually shows engagement by maintaining eye contact and asking questions.
These are tips which are fairly easy to implement. However, preparation and practice are key. Once you have a good grasp of the subject of your speech, it will be much easier for everything else to fall into place.