Public speaking is one of the most common fears in America, but it’s also one of the most useful skills to have.
Whether you’re presenting at a company meeting or giving an interview for a job promotion, public speaking can be an important part of your professional life.
It can also be stressful and terrifying if you don’t know how to prepare yourself or deliver your message. However, with some practice and preparation—and maybe after reading this article—you’ll find that public speaking isn’t as scary as it seems!
Know Your Audience
The key to effective public speaking is knowing your audience. You need to know what their needs are, what they want to hear, and also the level of expertise they have in the subject matter.
For example, if you’re giving a talk on how weight loss programs don’t work, then it would be wise to speak at a higher level of detail than if you were talking about ways people can make their own healthy meals at home.
The more you know about your audience before stepping up on stage will help ensure that not only are you providing them with useful information but also that they’re able to understand everything that’s being said by someone who isn’t necessarily an expert on this topic (i.e., yourself).
A good opening line is essential to the success of any speech, and the first thing your audience will remember.
The opening of a speech should be engaging, memorable and relevant. It should also draw the audience into the topic by making them curious about what you have to say next.
To begin this way, think about how you can catch their attention as soon as they enter the room or begin watching or listening to your presentation. A great way to do this is by asking a question that makes them want to know more about your answer—and that leads into your topic: “What does it take for someone who has never spoken in front of others before?
How do I overcome my nervousness? What tips do experts give for giving an outstanding presentation?”
Know the Topic
One of the most important tips to keep in mind when delivering a speech is to know your topic inside out.
If you are familiar with the topic and can speak about it comfortably, then your audience will be more likely to listen attentively as well. This also helps you avoid any surprises during your speech, which is always good!
Asking yourself questions like: “Who am I talking to?” or “What do they already know?” can help you tailor information appropriately for different audiences.
When delivering a presentation at work, for example, it may be helpful to provide some background information on previous projects that were similar but not identical in scope because this will give them more context for what’s coming next and help them understand why certain strategies would be effective here vs there (or vice versa).
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is essential to improving your public speaking skills. You have to practice in order to overcome the fear of speaking in front of a group. When you’re practicing, keep these tips in mind:
- Practice with a mirror. This will help you get comfortable with your body language, facial expressions, and voice intonation so that it all comes naturally when you are up on stage.
- Practice with friends or family members. If there is someone who doesn’t mind watching you struggle through rehearsals and providing feedback on what works well and what needs improvement (without making fun), then ask them if they would be willing to help! It can be really helpful for building confidence before going out into public knowing that someone supports you 100%.
- Practice presenting without notes or slides for an audience of one person at a time until it feels natural enough for larger groups! This way we won’t feel nervous about forgetting anything during our presentation because nothing has been written down yet anyway! We’ll just have fun talking casually about whatever topic we choose!
Confidence Beats Anxiety
Most of us know the feeling. You’re standing on stage, about to give a speech, and your heart is pounding.
Your mouth feels dry as you try to swallow past it. Sweat beads form on your forehead, and even though you brought water with you, you can’t seem to find it in your bag among all the other items that are rattling around inside.
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Your mind starts racing: “What if I forget what I’m supposed to say?” “What if they don’t like me?” “Why did I ever agree to this?!”
If public speaking makes your palms sweat and makes you feel like there’s a pit in your stomach—like most people who have never given a speech—you’re not alone! But as with any anxiety-inducing situation (like test taking), there are ways that we can manage our nerves before stepping up to the podium.
The key is practicing these techniques until they become second nature when speaking publicly:
- Take deep breaths before beginning each sentence or thought
- Remember that it’s not about YOU – it’s about THEM!
Memorizing lists and speeches is not a good way to learn, communicate or think. In fact, it’s probably the worst way.
That’s because when you memorize something, you’re not doing any of those things—you’re just copying someone else’s words into your head. And that person may be wrong or misleading, which means that by following their example and reciting them back to an audience in your own voice, you could be misinforming people through no fault of your own!
And there are other reasons why memorizing isn’t ideal: It limits creativity because anything said with spontaneity will likely be more interesting than what comes out of a rote recitation; it requires strict attention to detail (i.e., saying everything exactly as written) versus paying attention to meaning; and finally, it can lead to mental blocks if something unexpected happens during delivery (like forgetting where one was in her notes).
Avoid Nervous Gestures
There are a number of nervous habits that can undermine your ability to present, even if you don’t realize it.
Whether you choose to fidget with your feet or play with your hair, whether you scratch at your face or touch the tip of your nose, each one sends a signal that breaks the flow of what you’re saying.
You might try consciously limiting these actions before stepping on stage. The more conscious awareness we have of what we do when we’re nervous, the better prepared we can be to stop doing them in public speaking situations!
Pausing is one of the most important parts of public speaking. It can be used to emphasize points, help you collect your thoughts, and even give you time to think about what you’re going to say next.
This is crucial if you want to give the impression that you are well-prepared for your speech and have a thorough understanding of the topic at hand.
Pause before making a statement or asking a question: A momentary pause may allow others to process what was said before moving on with their own thoughts or questions. For example “and then…” followed by silence allows listeners time for reflection without feeling rushed or pressured into providing an immediate response themselves.
Pause in between sentences when listing things: Pauses will help keep track of your lists as well as make them easier for listeners/readers consume when they need time between each item on said list (elevator pitch).
Be Conversational in Tone and Language
If you want to be a better public speaker, it’s important to use a conversational tone. You don’t need to sound like a talk show host, but you do want to avoid sounding overly formal or stiff.
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If you’re having trouble with this, imagine that the audience is sitting in their living rooms—not at some stuffy auditorium. Now think about what kinds of things would make sense for them to say and how they might respond if they were talking with someone else.
The same is true when it comes to language. You should use clear language that an average person could understand without having specialized knowledge or training in your field (e.g., jargon).
This will help make sure that everyone gets what’s being said on stage—and enhances engagement with the subject matter for those who don’t know much about it yet!
Sounding more conversational makes it easier for people watching from home too:
They feel like they’re just hanging out with friends watching something interesting unfold before them rather than being forced into silence by someone who doesn’t seem like he’d be fun at parties after all…
The most important tip for becoming a better speaker is to be yourself.
If you’re not comfortable with being in front of an audience, don’t try to be someone else.
Your audience will see through that quickly and lose patience with you. Being natural and authentic is the best way to make your audience feel comfortable with you as well as encourage them to trust what you have to say.
If the only experience you have with public speaking has been from watching others, try not to mimic their style because it can make it more difficult for others in attendance who are used to seeing those speakers’ habits rather than yours (this can cause confusion).
- Don’t Try Too Hard To Be Funny/Interesting/Dramatic
Public Speaking is actually about communicating a message to an audience.
Public speaking is actually about communicating a message to an audience. Sure, you may know the basics of how to speak in front of people and sound like you’re making sense, but if your audience doesn’t understand what you’re saying then it’s all for naught.
So how do you make sure that everyone understands your message?
- Focus on the audience: A big part of public speaking is knowing who your audience is and what they expect from you. If their expectations are different than yours or different than the material, then there will be confusion and frustration on both ends. Make sure that whoever is listening knows why they should care about this topic and how it relates to them personally (or at least why it matters in general). To do this effectively requires researching not just what topic/issue/idea/etc., but also studying various audiences so that they can be addressed appropriately (e.g., millennials vs baby boomers).
Public speaking can be intimidating, but with the right tools and tips, you can become a confident speaker. Public speaking is not just about the words you say; it’s also about how you say them. So, remember that when you’re practicing your next speech!