Whether we’re talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time. We can do this well or we can do this badly, and the outcome strongly affects the way what people think about us. The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well. This article explains how!
The Importance of Public Speaking
Even if you don’t need to make regular presentations in front of a group, there are plenty of situations where good public speaking skills can help you advance your career and create opportunities. For example, you might have to talk about your organization at a conference, make a speech after accepting an award, or teach a class to new recruits.
Good public speaking skills are important in other areas of your life, as well. You might be asked to make a speech at a friend’s wedding, inspire a group of volunteers at a charity event. In short, being a good public speaker can enhance your reputation, boost your self-confidence, and open up countless opportunities.
Strategies for Becoming a Better Speaker
First, make sure that you plan your communication appropriately. Use tools like the Rhetorical Triangle (There are three elements form the points of the Rhetorical Triangle: the writer, the audience, the context ), the 7Cs of Communication (According to the 7 Cs, communication needs to be: Clear, Concise, Concrete, Correct, Coherent, Complete, Courteous) to think about how you’ll structure what you’re going to say.
When you do this, think about how important a book’s first paragraph is; if it doesn’t grab you, you’re likely going to put it down. The same principle goes for your speech: from the beginning, you need to intrigue your audience.
To get practice, seek opportunities to speak in front of others. If you’re going to be delivering a presentation or prepared speech, create it as early as possible. The earlier you put it together, the more time you’ll have to practice. Practice it plenty of times alone until they flow smoothly and easily. Then, if appropriate, do a dummy run in front of a small audience: this will help you calm your jitters and make you feel more comfortable with the material. Your audience can also give you useful feedback, both on your material and on your performance.
Engage With Your Audience
When you speak, try to engage your audience. This makes you feel less isolated as a speaker and keeps everyone involved with your message. If appropriate, ask leading questions targeted to individuals or groups, and encourage people to participate and ask questions. Keep in mind that some words reduce your power as a speaker. The words “just” and “I think” limit your authority and conviction. Don’t use them. Also, pay attention to how you’re speaking. If you’re nervous, you might talk quickly. This increases the chances that you’ll trip over your words, or say something you don’t mean. Force yourself to slow down by breathing deeply.
Pay Attention to Body Language
Many people prefer to speak behind a podium when giving presentations. While podiums can be useful for holding notes, they put a barrier between you and the audience. Instead of standing behind a podium, walk around and use gestures to engage the audience. This movement and energy will also come through in your voice, making it more active and passionate.
Positive thinking can make a huge difference to the success of your communication, because it helps you feel more confident. Fear makes it all too easy to slip into a cycle of negative self-talk, especially right before you speak, while self-sabotaging thought such as “I’ll never be good at this!” lower your confidence and increase the chances that you won’t achieve what you’re truly capable of. Use affirmations and visualization to raise your confidence. Use positive affirmations such as “I’m grateful I have the opportunity to help my audience” or “I’m going to do well!”
Cope With Nerves
When we have to speak in front of others, we can envision terrible things happening. We imagine forgetting every point we want to make, passing out from our nervousness, or doing so horribly that we’ll lose our job. But those things almost never come to pass! We build them up in our minds and end up more nervous than we need to be.
First, make an effort to stop thinking about yourself, your nervousness, and your fear. Instead, focus on your audience: what you’re saying is “about them.” Remember that you’re trying to help or educate them in some way, and your message is more important than your fear.
Watch Recordings of Your Speeches
Whenever possible, record your presentations and speeches. You can improve your speaking skills dramatically by watching yourself later, and then working on improving in areas that didn’t go well.
As you watch, notice any verbal stalls, such as “um” or “like.” Are you looking at the audience? Did you smile? Did you speak clearly at all times?
If you speak well in public, it can help you get a job or promotion, raise awareness for your team or organization, and educate others. The more you push yourself to speak in front of others, the better you’ll become, and the more confidence you’ll have.