Public Speaking Techniques
Spiders? No worries. Heights? Totally fine. Public speaking? No way!
If, like many others, the prospect of public speaking leaves you feeling somewhat nauseated, know that you are not alone. Glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking, is very common and believed to affect up to 75% of the population. Although it can be overwhelming, stressful, and even anxiety-provoking, there are many people with a genuine fear of public speaking who must bite the bullet, get up in front of groups of people, and speak.
We’ve compiled a list of techniques you can take away which will be sure to help you next time you need to prepare for a public speech.
Being nervous is normal. Practice and prepare!
Your body experiences physiological reactions when you’re nervous, such as a pounding heart or trembling hands – this is totally normal. It’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean that you will perform poorly. Overthinking these reactions can be detrimental, causing you to become distracted, fearful and in turn, stumbling. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge these reactions and accept them. Even people who present on a regular basis get nervous, it’s about managing these nerves and finding your own comfort zone. If the nerves get too much, a great tip would be to focus on your breathing to help centre yourself.
Have key points written down – but no more!
Having a script written down might seem like a great idea – especially if you’re nervous and worried you’ll forget what you need to talk about. However, in reality, having a script will make you far more likely to read word for word, making you sound pretty robotic, it’ll also limit your eye contact with the audience. Maintaining eye contact with the audience is a great way to keep them engaged. You’ll also be able to adapt and adjust your content accordingly too, depending on the reactions from the audience.
By having key points noted down only, you’ll have the opportunity to adapt your speech accordingly. The speech will come across far more natural and even though you might be nervous, as long as you know the topic area you’ll be fine!
Know your audience. The speech is for them, not you.
Before you start scripting your presentation, it’s important to think about the audience. To do this, you’ll want to learn as much about your listeners as you can. This will help you determine your choice of words, level of information and whether humour is applicable or not. By knowing your audience you’ll be able to tailor your speech to them – and this will ensure that you capture their attention and inform them throughout. This will also help when it comes to questions at the end – if you’re thorough with your information, the chances of questions being asked are reduced significantly.
Let your personality come through. It doesn’t need to be rigid.
Be yourself, don’t just recite a pre-written speech in a monotone and boring manner. You want your audience to become engaged, while also establishing your credibility. You can do this by letting your personality shine through, a great way to do this is by talking from past experiences. This personal touch will also make you feel comfortable and will help aid the story you are trying to tell your audience. Don’t be afraid to incorporate humour into your speech (if it’s appropriate of course!) to help your personality shine through and help your audience warm to you and your speech.
Keep an eye on the audience.
Your audience will be providing feedback throughout your presentation. Do they look bored, or uninterested? Are they frantically scribbling down notes? Did their attention peak at a particular point? These are things you should be looking out for – that way you can be flexible and adaptable. This is a skill that will come with practice, but it’s great to be aware of this tactic, so you can begin to adapt your presentation as time goes on.
Don’t forget the tech!
Having a presentation with aided visuals will help massively. They’ll not only be great for the audience by making the content easily understandable, memorable and increase audience interest. These visuals can also act as notes or reminders for the speaker – great for prompting you on to the next talking point without holding cue cards! You’ll also get the opportunity to relax somewhat, by pointing at the visual and having the audiences gaze on the screen instead of directly at you – this will be sure to relieve some of your anxieties.
It’s a good idea to make sure the technology you’re using is working correctly prior to your presentation. This includes both your presentation visuals and microphones alike. Making sure your audience can hear and see your visuals clearly is so important, without these fundamentals, they’ll quickly lose focus on your presentation. Our delegate microphone systems utilise high-quality audio which takes off the pressure when it comes to public speaking.
Practice your speech.
We’ve heard many times before that “practice makes perfect”. This doesn’t necessarily apply to public speaking. Why? Because we are human and mistakes happen. Always remember that nobody is expecting you to be perfect. If you make a mistake simply correct yourself. If you forget a talking point – go back to it at a later stage. Although practice doesn’t make perfect it can certainly help you minimise your nerves – which will have an impact on performance! A great practice audience is your friends and family – they will be able to give you constructive criticism on your presentation – was it too long, too fast? Did you lose them with long words and jargon? Try not to take this criticism personally – and come back to them with a second practice to see if your tweaks have helped.
Let others do the talking.
Look for opportunities to ask your audience questions throughout the presentation. This will help ease your nerves, taking the spotlight off you – for a little while anyway. It’ll also engage the audience keeping them alert and attentive throughout which will be motivating for you. There isn’t much worse for a presenter than an uninterested audience…
If questions and collaboration are a key part of your presentation – ensure that you’re presenting in a space with the facilities to support this. A great way to incorporate interactivity into your presentation is to ask questions and allowing the audience to live vote. This is a great way to keep the audience members engaged, as real-time voting allows them to become involved in the conversation with you, and the audience as a whole. You can even use this as an opportunity to inject a bit of humour/personality into your presentation – which will be a welcome break for your audience (particularly if the subject matter is quite serious!).
Natural movement is great when you’re delivering a talk, moving across the stage or using your hands to emphasise a point can help aid the audience’s experience. Although, you’ll need to make sure that you aren’t displaying any nervous movements such as finger tapping, hand wringing or nail picking. That’s why practising your speech in front of a friend or family member is beneficial – they’ll be able to critique your presentation and will be able to highlight things you haven’t even considered.
We’d love to hear about some of the techniques that you use when preparing to speak in public; let us know via our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn channels, and make sure you keep up to date with the latest news by clicking ‘follow’. You can also stay up to date by signing up to our newsletter here.