I always thought that public speaking is a piece of cake, until I had to do my first presentation in front of a really large audience.
I remember that day vividly; the whispers (which at the time I believed were about how horrible I was, or how bored my audience was feeling), the sweaty hands, and legs shaking to a point I had no doubt I was going to fall.
Does that sound familiar? The fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears, but its also a very important skill to master. Luckily, good public speaking is something that can be learned with a few tricks and a whole lot of preparation. Here are some tips:
1. Know your topic
Knowledge is power! After choosing the topic you will speak about, research it well and get lots and lots of related information. Knowing your topic will help you be quick on your feet. It also prepares you to answer questions related to your material.
2. Practice, practice, practice
Practicing is a must. Practice in front of a mirror, in front of your family and friends, or even in front of an imaginary audience. As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” Looking more confident is the outcome of a lot of practice.
3. Body language is crucial
Your stance and hand movement say a lot about your confidence. Looking like a pretzel with your legs crossed while standing is a big NO. You should always stand confidently, with your legs apart. Do not make weird moves with your hands; use them to point to the slide show or to express ideas. Don’t use your hands excessively though; too many hand movements could take away the audience’s attention from what you are talking about to focusing on your hands.
4. Monotonic voice is boring
Make sure that you change your pitch from high to low and vice versa. If you keep a monotone pitch, then your audience will drift away and lose focus. Change your pitch to re-grab their attention.
5. Lose the script
Memorizing your speech is a sign of respect and appreciation in the eyes of your audience. You can keep a few notes in front of you to aid you while talking, but avoid having the whole thing in writing in front of you.
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6. Incorporate humor
Whatever your topic is, try to make room for some humor. You can start with a joke to break the ice, or try to include humor in your presentation. Your audience will feel more connected to you if they understand and laugh at your jokes.
7. Eye contact
Making eye contact with your audience is great. Skimming the audience might get you flustered in case you come across someone shaking their head, yawning, or about to fall asleep. Keep eye contact till you finish a sentence and then move to the next person.
8. Speak slowly
Fast talking will make you lose focus which may make you appear unorganized. Take a second of silence between sentences. It will help you say all the things you want to say and make people hang… on… every… word… you say. It really works.
9.Think of questions then prepare the answers
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes; think of the questions and comments which may come to their minds, and then prepare the points you would want to cover in your answers. This way you will be more at ease with questions.
10. Be your own reference point
Last but not least, record your presentations and watch them later on. What is a better way of improving than criticizing yourself and figuring out the points of improvements to focus on? Always work on to improving your skills, stance, pitch, and storytelling ways.
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