People often say they hate public speaking, and it’s easy to see why. After all, nothing can send chills down your spine like standing in front of a silent, scrutinizing audience and not knowing how to get your ideas across effectively.
Having done a lot of public speaking ourselves over the years, we totally understand where the fear is coming from, and we thought we’d share a few tips on how to overcome it.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but learning how to get comfortable in front of a crowd and give a great presentation is one of the best skills you can ever learn. Here are a few steps to deliver a compelling talk:
Preparation is a key component of public speaking. Even professional hosts and actors, who do it for a living, have to plan ahead before a performance. Part of getting ready for a presentation is knowing the topic and your audience, determining your message and its purpose, and enumerating your main points.
Make sure that you identify and jot down all of these things before you even write the first paragraph of your speech. This way, you can easily come up with an outline that works for you, from the introduction to the conclusion of your entire speech.
2. Get to know your audience
When delivering a presentation, it’s not enough that you know the demographic profile of your audience (i.e. age, location, gender, etc). It’s important for every speaker to go beneath the surface level and understand people more deeply.
What are their likes and dislikes? What hobbies do they usually get into? Who are their favorite music artists? What problems do they go through on a daily basis? What belief systems do they subscribe to? What motivates them? This is important because you want to be talking about something that your audience genuinely understands. Otherwise, it could feel like talking about Friendster to a group of Gen Z’s who have never even heard about it.
Now, as you analyze your audience, you will find that some questions are so mundane (i.e. interests), whereas some are a bit profound (i.e. culture). But all of these have to be taken into consideration when crafting a speech, primarily because these will help you understand how to approach a certain topic, pique their interest, and make your presentation more relatable.
3. Tell a story
Speaking of becoming relatable, one of the best ways to get people in sync with you is by telling them a story that they can experience vicariously. You want them to resonate with you throughout the presentation, so you have to make them see ideas from your perspective.
Let’s say you’re a brand ambassador for a tech company and you want your audience to understand why your company’s software is essential in this day and age. You can share a short anecdote about how, before you learned about the software, you struggled to meet monthly quotas for your business because you had to take care of everything on your own.
Give them specific details to help them picture your message or dilemma such as how many hours you’ve wasted working on a task when you could have been focusing your energy into putting your business strategy in high gear. Consequently, you can share with them how you were able to overcome this hurdle by using this new software, and how it has made all the difference.
Needless to say, storytelling is a great way to let your audience know that you’re as human as they are. Meaning to say, you experience things the same way they do—you just have something valuable to share out of these experiences that can also make a difference in their lives. By being more relatable, it helps your audience to place their trust in you more eagerly.
4. Use humor from time to time
It’s true that you have to present yourself as professionally as you can when delivering a presentation, but telling jokes sparingly shouldn’t come in the way of that. Aside from breaking the initial ice, humor can also make you appear genuine and approachable, thus, helping you create a safe space where your audience can participate sans the anxiety. Don’t let the enthusiasm wane!
5. Engage your audience
If you think your audience feels safe and comfortable, that’s a good time for you to start engaging them. Do not hesitate, because engaging your audience will foster a meaningful exchange that contributes to everyone’s (including yours) learning process.
Remember that your goal as a speaker is to inform, educate, and empower. Whether you are presenting to students, your teachers, your colleagues, your bosses, or just the general public, you have to remind yourself that they are not waiting for you to fail. Rather, they are rooting for you to be as engaging as possible because they want to learn from you.
6. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Before you set out on giving an actual presentation, you need to make sure that you know your speech like the back of your hand. Rehearsing is one of the best ways to do that. This can mean that you have to speak in front of the mirror as if you’re at a large public event. You can also invite a friend over to watch and listen to you talk.
Rehearsing allows you to spot errors in case there are any. It’s also a good way to see what you should trim and tweak, and what you should leave in, as well. Lastly, it ensures that your words have the same impact when said out loud as they do when written.
7. Be in the present moment
To keep yourself in the present moment, avoid focusing too much on what you forgot to say or how you’re about to end your speech. If you missed a small detail, that’s okay. Do not fret over it and jump forward and backward through your storyline as this can only confuse your audience. As long as you can still convey the gist of your speech, you will be fine. Do not let mistakes get in the way of you delivering your important message.
Take things slowly and avoid rushing through your points so that you can also avoid stuttering. Just speak at a pace that allows everyone to follow everything you say so that your audience absorbs your speech in full and gets the complete message.
Public speaking is tough. It’s scary, intimidating, and it makes you feel vulnerable in front of a room full of people, but public speaking doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to get through a speech effectively, and following these seven simple steps can help you become more confident and comfortable while delivering a presentation.