Afraid of public speaking? Follow these steps to overcome it!

Posted on March 27, 2014

Public speaking makes you nauseous? Having trouble presenting material that will be digestible and fun for your audience? Don’t worry, almost everybody’s been there at some point. If your job is to deliver a speech and get your message across, there are unchangeable tips to ensure a smooth experience 1. for you and 2. your audience. Not convinced it can be done? Let’s take a look:

Don’t let yourself be surprised. Double-check the equipment with the organizers to make sure your mic, projector and whatever gizmos you’re using are in order. Otherwise, technical hiccoughs may only make things dreadful for your already uneasy mind.

Work out your structure. There’s this ancient rule that you’ve seen hundreds of times – ‘tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said’. It works for many, but some will argue against it. That’s not all there is to it, anyway – your speech’s structure is created long before going onstage. What makes the profs sound so effortless in delivering their thoughts? It’s because they’ve done their research. They have their structure, opening keys, and a planned wrap up (you’re not likely to hear about new points toward the end, are you?). The point is, they never present unprepared, and neither should you.

Respect the time. It’s two-fold, this one. A point to make is that you definitely should establish your pace of speech. The more nervous you are, the faster your words will want to come out. Resist that if you don’t want your audience lost within seconds. Try to enunciate, emphasize important points and make pauses after each one. If you’re lost for words, don’t stumble. Take a breath, focus on the point you’re at (now the outline comes in handy, doesn’t it?) and get back on track.

On the other hand, people will pay most their attention from 5 minutes to 25. Don’t torture them with a session that has no end and that even your biggest supporters will yawn at.

(Image courtesy of Interaction South America 2013 organizers.)

Be there for them. You should stick to the subject you’re talking about and appear knowledgeable, but the audience also wants to feel you’re with them on a human level. Keep eye contact so they feel you address them, or crack a joke every now and then. Be likeable. And above all (this has been stressed so many times), don’t let it slip that you’re feeling bad. The audience doesn’t care, and they never will. You are here to educate and entertain, not make everyone feel about making you appear. Smile, deliver and only when you’re offstage, can you say ‘boy, I need a rest’.

Aim: a comfortable professional. Your argumentative delivery isn’t the only thing that counts. People will judge the whole package and that includes the way you look. Make it work for both sides, so wear clothes you’re comfortable in that will also make you look professional.

Also, be natural. If you speak, someone wants you to speak. They want to listen to something interesting, funny, educating and inspiring. They want it to be good, so they don’t want to see you fail. You can get out there, calm yourself as you go along and focus on what everybody’s there for: your subject.

 (Image courtesy of Interaction South America 2013 organizers.)

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