10 Tips on How to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
The Fear of Public Speaking
This topic of public speaking is one that is very close to me. I used to be terrified to speak in public. However, over the years I learned how to overcome this fear and I am now able to speak at conferences, conduct training classes, and talk to my employees in a group setting.
I want to pass my knowledge on to others so they won't have to experience the same fear I did when I gave my first public speech.
Prepare for Your Public Speech
When you know you have a public speaking event coming up, ensure you prepare for it. There are some basic steps in preparing for a speech:
- Get your material together. This would include reference material, slide shows, etc.
- Prepare your speech. This includes writing it out, proofing it, and finalizing it.
- Practice your speech to yourself. It's best to do this in front of a mirror and have a way to time yourself. This will allow you to see how long it takes you to run through the speech and how you look when you are conducting it.
- Practice your speech in front of someone. Performing your speech in front of someone else can help as well, so you can receive feedback on your speech and how you present it. Try to pick someone who is unfamiliar with the topic. They will be able to watch how you present it and how clear your topics are, without focusing too much on the subject matter.
Dress Up for Your Speech
Remember that all eyes will be on you during the presentation. So you need to dress the part. Wear your best clothing, groom yourself properly, and ensure you look sharp. Avoid anything flashy or distracting. This means avoiding jewelry that could reflect light or make noise. You want the audience to focus on you, not on what you are wearing.
Use Technology in Public Speeches
Presentations don't have to be dull and boring. With today's computer technology, your presentation can have various layers of media. Audio, video, and enhanced graphics can really make a presentation stand out, putting less pressure on your public speaking skills. In training classes I conducted, I use a visual slide show presentation which helps me get through each step in the class.
Use the Restroom Before a Public Speech
Using the restroom before your speech will allow you to freshen up your look and do any business you have to do beforehand. Having to use the restroom during the speech will only distract you and possibly cause issues during the speech.
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Keep Hydrated During a Speech
I have seen a lot of public speakers talk for close to an hour without taking a drink of water. As the presentation goes on, I can see it affecting them. To avoid that, keep a bottle of water near you during the speech. When necessary take a drink from it so you keep hydrated and avoid having a dry mouth. Just don't drink so much that it would cause you to need the restroom while you are speaking!
Alternatively, take breaks during the speech so you can step away to take a drink.
Smile During a Public Speech
Facial expressions are very obvious when you are giving a presentation. People are watching your mouth since you are the one speaking. Smile as you give your presentation. If you don't smile, it will seem like you don't enjoy what you are talking about. In turn, the audience won't care what you are discussing if they think you don't care about it.
Use Your Hands When Speaking
Don't keep stiff while giving a presentation. Instead, move your hands as you speak. it doesn't have to be over the top, but something subtle to show that you are relaxed and know what you are talking about. An audience likes to see a speaker whose words match their body language.
Encourage Audience Participation
During a conference I went to, the speaker had people clap to show if they had done something before. She admitted it was to show those outside the room that she had a good presentation people were clapping for. Most presenters have people raise their hands, which generates no noise at all. It worked and made people laugh. Find a way to squeeze in some audience participation to loosen things up. Also, allow the audience to ask questions at the end of the presentation.
Be Prepared for Anything During a Public Speech
Things can happen during the presentation that will throw things off. A random question in the middle of it, technology failing, or some of your information being inaccurate the day of the presentation. Even though it's hard to prepare for the moment something happens, you have to be prepared to play it by ear.
Confront Your Fear of Public Speaking
In the end, it's up to you to confront your fear of public speaking. I was terrified when I was first asked to conduct a training class in front of dozens of people. In the end I followed the tips above and the training class went great. Since then, I have come to enjoy the idea of public speaking and proudly say I have overcome my fear.