For some, public speaking seems to come naturally, like a gift they were born with. For others, public speaking can bring about sweaty palms and butterflies in the stomach, sometimes even worse. Here are some easy tips for good public speaking, even if you have a fear of talking in front of groups.
You don’t need to read a script, but make sure you are comfortable with whatever you will be speaking on. Make an outline and practice with notes. Using talking points is one of the best formats to follow. Practice using any unfamiliar or hard-to-pronounce terminology to avoid stumbling.
Avoid memorizing key points or specific phrases, this will make it difficult to get back on track if you forget something. If you’re using slides or visuals, don’t read from them.
Humor is fine if that’s part of your personality. But using humor or jokes if that isn’t something you normally do can make you, and subsequently your audience, uncomfortable.
Share a personal tidbit or story. You know yourself best, and sharing something personal will help you relax, and will pull your audience in.
Have someone videotape you or use a tripod to record yourself. Watch for distracting habits like bouncing on your heels or making wild hand gestures. Once you’re aware of what may distract your audience, you can try to break these habits.
You can also enlist a friend or family member to watch you and give a critical (and constructive!) eye.
Join a group
If the thought of getting up in front of a crowd terrifies you, or you’re interested in furthering your public speaking skills, joining a group to practice your skills can be a huge help. Toastmasters International has groups, even some held virtually, to help you become a more confident speaker and communicator. Alternatively, you could try the National Speakers Association or even Meetup for groups near you.
Whether you are nervous about public speaking or have adrenaline running through your veins and you’re ready to get going, one of the best ways to speak well publicly is to remain calm. Try to breathe slowly and deeply, regulating your breathing. Speaking coaches, like Jimmy Cannon, offer helpful videos on belly breathing. There are a plethora of breathing videos on YouTube and apps, like Pranayama Lite, that have breathing techniques to help reduce anxiety. Find one that makes you comfortable and have it handy!
Engage with your audience
Smile — smiling releases endorphins! Make eye contact and move your eyes around the room. It will help you feel connected to your audience. If it’s appropriate for the venue and it makes you feel more comfortable, walk around the front of the room.
If you’ll be speaking in front a very large group of people, or presenting at a conference, arrange to present in front of a small group first to get the bugs worked out. Ask coworkers or a small part of your organization if they would mind being a test run. Presenting in a similar format to the larger scale presentation will help you gauge your level of preparedness and avoid going in cold.
Keep in mind that being nervous is normal! Even the most seasoned public speakers get nervous.
Lots of people suffer from a fear of public speaking. But that doesn’t mean that you must avoid it. With practice, you can improve your public speaking skills and with time, it’s very likely that your nervousness will decrease.
Written by: Sheila Rupp