10 Easy Tips For Better Public Speaking
Help, I have to give a speech!
Most people don't have trouble getting up and speaking in front of a small group of friends and family, but the thought of having to speak in front of a group of strangers, especially a large group of professionals can often bring about an attack of "stage fright." I used to get nervous from public speaking, but now I enjoy it. As with just about any skill, you really do get better with a bit of time and practice.
I had to get up and talk in front of an audience for the first time when I was in grade school, as I did a summer camp program in acting. In junior high, I had a teacher that made us do book reports in front of the class. High school brought even more presentations. Then there were self-critiques in college, and an extremely nerve-wracking Master's thesis defense in graduate school. By the time I got to the working world, talking in front of a group had almost become easy.
Here are my ten best tips and suggestions for how to improve your public speaking skills. Some things are advice I was given and some are things I've learned along the way.
Did you hear the one about...?
A touch of comedy is something that many speakers find as relaxing and pleasing as do their audiences. Here is a light but sincere guide to adding some humor to your presentations.
1) Breathe - don't be afraid to pause or just take a breath. I had a high school teacher who was the one to point out that those long awkward silences we think we've fallen into are in fact only about 2-3 seconds and the audience doesn't think you've stopped or gotten lost. Most of the time, they won't even register those pauses.
2) Make an outline for yourself and print it out in type larger than usual print size, so that it's easy to read at just a glance. Having the outline helps keep your presentation on track so you don't ramble off and prompts you if you lose your train of thought. You don't want to actually read a speech, as your audience doesn't want to look at the top of your head while you talk to your chest. And don't be afraid of losing your train of thought and having to check your notes. That's what they are for.
3) Own what you know - this wonderful saying came from my graduate school adviser. Remember at the presentation that the audience presumes you are the expert. If you act confident, they really will believe you are confident. This helped me so much when it came time to get through my thesis presentation for my Master's Degree. And it comes in really handy when a co-worker in a meeting gets stuck and suddenly turns the discussion over to you!
Public Speaking, Movement and Gesture (Highlights) - 1940s
4) Make eye contact - slowly scan across the audience and look people in the eye as you talk. A good audience gives energy back to you and participates when you demonstrate a friendly presence, so invite them in. This is also how you can see if your information is being comprehended, and helps you spot people with questions.
5) If you are really nervous, practice your speech ahead of time - Even if you wind up talking to your pets, kids or significant other, hearing yourself run over the presentation can really help you feel more comfortable with it and iron out any awkward spots, as our ears are really smart and will catch stuff that sounds "off." Some people tape record themselves for practice and listen to it to catch and note their verbal mannerisms (see #9)
6) Take all questions at the end so that you can get through the material you intend to present - It's better to run short on time for questions than to have the audience derail the presentation. Sometimes for longer presentations, you might want to pause after key sections and ask for questions then. Don't be afraid to tell some that their question will be answered by material you have yet to talk about, or ask them if you can take it at the end if that works better for you.
Develop Your Public Speaking Skills
Avoiding Bumps in the Road...
7) Don't freak out heavily on timing - People speak a bit faster when they're nervous, so if you time the presentation at home, it can often run shorter when you actually give it. Make sure you know if you absolutely have to wrap up by certain time so that you don't run over. It's better to take off your watch and put it where you can see it, or find a clock you can see while you speak than to keep looking at your watch during your presentation. That can really turn off an audience. If all else fails, bring along a friend or ask a colleague to give you time signals during your talk from the back where no one will see them doing it.
8) Be mindful of nervous habits - i.e. twirling hair, playing with a necklace, bracelets, etc. The audience will often be distracted by the movement and watch your behavior thus losing the presentation part. As part of this, don't wear clothing or jewelry that will make noises as you speak. Again, the audience's attention will wind up focusing on that instead of what you are saying.
9) If you find yourself about to say "Um..." or "Uh....." just close your mouth, take a breath and think what you need to say next - Ever been to a lecture or talk where the presenter said "ummm...." every other word? We all have, and it doesn't sound very good. Not saying anything sounds more professional than thinking aloud. (This was another gem from high school and it can take some practice to master) One of the best ways to work on this is to tape record yourself giving your speech or presentation and then listen to yourself talk.
10) Bring water along if you might get thirsty, and have some tissues in a pocket - There is nothing so uncomfortable during a presentation like having a dry mouth or having to sneeze and not being able to take care of yourself. Have the water in container that is hard to spill but not hard to drink from and take very small sips when you do. That way you don't run the risk of coughing on a mouthful of water that "went down wrong" or giving yourself hiccups.
Public Speaking Tips
- Conquering your fear of public speaking | Train Wreck - CNET News
People fear public speaking more than anything else. The anxiety can be debilitating. It can also affect your career, especially in high-tech. Here are some tips for conquering your fear.
- Public speaking
Techniques and strategies for speaking in public and presenting presentations