We must all do things in life that we don’t enjoy, and I imagine public speaking is that thing for a lot of people.
If there comes a time where you need to speak publicly and you’re not quite comfortable yet with this concept, carry on reading for some tips and tricks that will hopefully make it less of a dreaded event.
Spoiler alert: no.1 will not be ‘picture the audience naked…’
- Be prepared:
This might go without saying but knowing the subject of what you’re going to be discussing (back-to-front) will help make you feel more prepared. By doing this it will also mean you’ll be ready if your listeners ask questions.
Another way in which you might prepare is by creating hints to the topics you want to cover. This might be in the form of flashcards, notes on a PowerPoint or visual cues for yourself. Hints can be very helpful especially is you’re not feeling completely confident, they add that level of security for yourself which is good to have when giving a speech.
There is a reason why ‘practice makes perfect’ is a saying. It’s because it’s true. There are no rules saying that you can’t say your speech more than once, so practice where you feel comfortable. Practising in front of friends and family who you’re comfortable around is also a good idea, you can test out the content and the delivery of your speech.
Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, discusses the importance of body language when it comes to being confident. She explains that ‘high-power poses’ increase testosterone levels and decrease the cortisol (the stress-inducing hormone). By doing a ‘high-power pose’ for a few minutes before a stressful situation, it can alleviate some of the nerves and anxiety. Check out Amy’s Ted Talk here for more information about this.
If possible, supply some imagery to support what you’re saying. Not too much so that it distracts away from your speech, but visual context is effective and, in some cases, can make what you’re saying even clearer to the audience.
In most situations, a presentation will be a good idea to display your visual content. Avoid putting too many words onto the slides as you may be tempted to read off the screen… which isn’t very good public speaking etiquette. For smaller audiences, print-outs with activities, information or examples of what you’re talking about may be effective.
- Audience interaction:
In most cases, the audience have chosen to be there and therefore want to hear what you’re going to say. This is helpful in regards to audience engagement, but to increase engagement even more you could get the audience involved. Ask open questions and request responses, this will help to settle nerves as it shifts the dynamic to more of a large-scale conversation.
Ice breakers are a classic and effective way to open a speech. It starts the interaction between you and the audience straight away. You could do an introductory activity if the group is smaller. For a larger group a ‘raise-your-hand’ question might be more practical.