We all have fears: of heights, insects, animals… or of public speaking. You might be shocked (or not) to learn that most people are nervous about public speaking; even the most confident speakers can experience jitters before a speech. This blog post is designed to help you overcome those fears using a few useful tips.
1. Get organised
In order to feel prepared and calm before starting your speech, you definitely need to be organised. Make sure you have all your notes or keywords prepared and ready at the get-go. If you get stage fright quite easily, don’t try to wing it – rather be prepared. A clear mind results in organised thoughts, which reduces anxiety overall.
2. Be prepared and practice
You don’t want to be that person who reads their speech word for word, so be prepared. Know your speech well enough so that you can move from one topic to the next by looking at single keywords only. Reading your speech not only makes you look nervous, it also makes it seem like you are unprepared and unsure about the message you are trying to convey to your audience. Prepare well enough so that you can answer any possible questions your audience members may have. Answer all questions with confidence and knowledge. If you don’t know the answer, don’t make it up – be honest.
3. Practice in front of a mirror
Ever wondered what you look like when you speak to others? A useful public speaking tip is to practice in front of a mirror. First, pay attention to your gestures. If you use your hands too much, so much so that it takes the attention away from your speech, you should focus on using your hands less. Second, look at your facial expressions. They should correspond with what you are saying. Don’t look excited when speaking about a serious topic or vice versa; you get what I mean, right? Third, your body movements. Don’t pace up and down the stage, it may exude a feeling of anxiety on your audience. If you feel the need to move, do so in a slow fashion. Also, it is not a good idea to stay in one position the entire time so keep that in mind too.
4. Practice your speech on someone
A great way to get some useful feedback is to say your speech to a friend or someone you know so they can give you tips and advice on ways to improve. What may seem great to you may not be to others, so independent opinions are a good thing. If you are preparing a speech for a 21st birthday or a wedding and you want to include some funny jokes or sayings, remember that these jokes may be funny to you and not others, so ensure that they are understood and relatable to everyone.
5. Don’t speak too fast
Often, nervous speakers will talk faster than they should… avoid this at all costs. When you practice your speech, look out for this little detail. When you talk fast, you become breathless. When this happens you will panic and experience fear more easily. Make a mental effort to speak slower and in turn you will feel more calm and relaxed.
6. Powerpoint presentations
Powerpoint presentations have pros and cons. Make sure you utilise all the pros and avoid all the cons. Powerpoints are great for helping you keep track of your speech or your key words. It is also a great way for your audience to take notes or see your presentation visually. Beware of making your slides too word-heavy. Don’t put paragraphs; stick to short sentences or keywords. Your audience will not read long segments and they will get bored very easily.
These tips should make a big difference in your speech making, but remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time and practice to make a confident speech, be it at a family celebration or a business gathering. If you need more help, please see these books. Good luck!