Does the thought of public speaking make you weak in the knees? Does speaking at a meeting leave you nervous and anxious? This article will show you how to be prepared for your next public speaking event, and to decrease the nervousness inherent to public speaking.
Most importantly, you need to know your subject matter. It is imperative that you research the topic you are speaking on, and that you have as much information as possible. Compile your research and study it, so that you are familiar with all concepts of the topic. This will allow you to anticipate questions and formulate answers to these questions in advance.
After performing thorough research, prepare your presentation. Do NOT write or type out your speech verbatim. If you simply read or memorize a speech, it will sound canned and rehearsed. This will decrease the interest in your presentation, and give a negative reflection on your public speaking skills. Instead of typing out your full presentation, write out an outline of the major topics, with a few bullet points for items that must be covered within the main topics. It is okay to bring this outline with you while performing your presentation. The outline will help to jog your memory, in the event that you lose your place.
To ensure that you do not lose your place in your speech, you MUST practice. Practice is the key ingredient to becoming successful at public speaking. Once you are comfortable with public speaking, you will need less practice, but for the first few speeches, repetition and practice is essential. You should practice your presentation multiple times, using your outline for guidance. Eventually, you should try to practice for your public speaking event without the outline in front of you. You can practice public speaking in many different places. You can practice at home, in the car, and even in the shower. While practicing, you will notice that you develop a certain pattern and rhythm to your presentation. You will begin to use phrases that you like, and some parts of your speech will remain the same each time. Other portions will change slightly each time you practice. This is okay! These nuances are what makes a good public speaker. Becoming comfortable with changing your presentation each time you practice it will make you feel less nervous when you are speaking in public. In addition, your presentation will not sound rehearsed, and if you do happen to forget a phrase you wanted to use, you will have used several others in practice and those will be available to you.
Once you become comfortable with your main presentation, jot down a list of questions that you anticipate will be asked. Next, practice answering those questions, until the answers are accurate and sound natural. If you find that you don’t know the answer, find it before your public speaking debut. Knowing the answers to possible questions in advance will decrease your anxiety, and impress the audience with your knowledge.
The final step, of course, is your presentation. When performing public speaking, look at your notes as infrequently as possible. It is permissible to bring your notes up to the podium with you, or lay them on a table next to you, but do not hold them and read from them. The notes should be used only if you forget your place (which you won’t if you have practiced enough), and to be nearby as a small source of comfort. Instead of looking on your notes, concentrate on your audience. Make eye contact with members of your audience, inviting them to show interest in your presentation.
Another important point to remember during public speaking is to use hand gestures. You should practice with hand gestures to get comfortable with them. If you do not use hand gestures during your presentation, and simply clasp your hands behind or back or place them in your pockets, you will look nervous and afraid. No matter how nervous you feel, you want to present a feeling of competence and confidence to your audience.
During any public speaking exercise, watch your speaking pace. Most people, when nervous, tend to speak faster than normal. Because of this tendency, practice speaking slowly when practicing your presentation. Nervousness will speed up your speech slightly during the actual presentation, but this will be tempered by the slower paced practice. Also, be sure to use pauses to use your advantages. Short pauses can allow you to gather your thoughts or to move on to another point in the speech. Pausing during your speech will draw the attention of your audience, and help you to emphasize certain points. Rattling off your speech without pausing or taking a breath shows fear. Instead, use short pauses to make your presentation seem well-prepared and relaxed.
Using the tips listed above will help you on your way to a successful public speaking experience. Remember also that public speaking will get easier each time you do it. In no time, you’ll be addressing audiences with no qualms at all.