Most people possess at least some degree of fear of public speaking. However, developing your public speaking skills can put you at a big advantage in your career, as it can lead to opportunities that others may avoid.
Below, you’ll find public speaking tips and techniques that will help you get comfortable in front of audiences and speak with confidence.
Giving a great speech or presentation starts with planning. Identify the core message you want to transmit. Look for interesting facts and statistics to back up your point. Prepare for possible questions that might come up.
Preparing also includes logistical planning. Visit the event location beforehand to get familiar with the environment. Use this opportunity to identify any technical requirements, such as a microphone or projector.
Consider using a visual aid, such as a PowerPoint presentation. But if it’s going to give you more anxiety and stress worrying about clicking through the slides, then don’t. There is no hard and fast rule on visuals.
Practice in front of the mirror or record yourself speaking, then watch it back. Analyze your speed, tone, body language, and facial expression to identify areas for improvement. Look for public speaking opportunities — whether it’s giving a presentation at work or joining a local public speaking club.
Practice your speech as many times as possible before your public speaking engagement. You can do this in front of the mirror, record yourself, or practice in front of friends and family.
3. Have a positive mindset
Everyone gets nervous before a performance. But don’t let your nerves suck you into a spiral of negative thoughts. Instead, embrace them and use them as performance rocket fuel. In fact, research shows that a healthy amount of nervousness enhances performance.
To cultivate a positive mindset, visualize yourself giving the best speech of your life. Top performers use visualization to improve their results.
4. Involve your audience
Not only does this grab their attention, but it’s also a way to take the spotlight off of you. Sharing the starring role with your audience members will help you establish a connection with them and feel less nervous.
5. Start with a story
Humans are wired to pay attention to stories. It activates the same parts of our brain that would activate if we experienced the events first-hand. We all respond to stories in this way. There is no difference across cultures. This means you can harness the power of storytelling to establish a connection with anyone.
When you start your speech, you only have one minute to make a good impression on your audience. A story, anecdote, or question can pique their curiosity and make them want to keep listening.
6. Dress for the occasion
When you look good, you feel good. And feeling good is the key to giving the best possible performance. Think about it. Do you feel more confident in your favourite suit or dress or in your pyjamas? Dress to impress, but make sure you feel comfortable. Don’t wear anything that’s not your usual style. Avoid wearing anything that you will constantly have to adjust as it will be uncomfortable and distracting.
7. Be yourself
It can be tempting to emulate a strong public speaker you admire. But this is a mistake. We are all unique, and although you can never be someone else, you are great at being you.
Perhaps you wish you were funnier, but you’re not a natural comedian. That’s okay. Don’t start cracking jokes as soon as you get on stage. Instead, embrace your other quirks — we all have them — and let them shine through in your speech. You never know how many audience members might resonate with you.
8. Ask for feedback
Ask a trusted friend or colleague to watch your presentation with a critical eye and give you feedback. Ask them to be as specific as possible. Tell them to analyze what you do well, as well as what can be improved. You probably already have some perceived strengths and weaknesses regarding your presentation skills. Ask your feedback buddy to look out for those specifically.
Know how to improve public speaking skills and master your fears
Even if you’re an introvert or suffer from social anxiety, it’s possible to overcome your fear of public speaking. It will also boost your confidence, and you may even discover you enjoy it.
But if you still need more information on how to improve public speaking, consider taking a public speaking course. Alternatively, you could engage a coach to help you improve your confidence and become a better public speaker.