5 Tips for Successful Public Speaking
It is entirely natural to feel nervous about public speaking; we tend to place ourselves under pressure to be perfect and hang our self worth on the outcome of the public speaking event. We can all feel dread around potential rejection and fill our heads with ‘what if’s’, sending our anxiety levels into overdrive at the idea of others scrutinising and judging our very words and ideas.
Some nerves can be beneficial, urging us to do our best, but if we allow stress to skyrocket, it is not only detrimental to our health but to the quality of our speech. To avoid this, we’ve put together five important tips for successful public speaking. If you feel you need a little extra guidance and support in this area, hopefully these tips will prove to be invaluable for you:
1. Carry out Vital Groundwork and Pre-Speaking Preparation
- Know your subject matter: It is important to know more than you will include in your speech so that you maintain confidence in your material.
- Keep your speech simple: Break your material into small bite-sized ideas, which will not only keep your audience engaged but will make it easier for you to find and maintain a rhythm, preventing you from getting lost mid-speech or veering off on a tangent.
- Use related personal stories: Natural humour and simple conversational language when preparing your speech so that you feel comfortable with the language as it’s your own, preventing you from forgetting what is coming next.
- Don’t try to memorize the whole speech as this will increase your stress levels if you fear forgetting the sequence or parts of the speech. Instead, while practising, be comfortable with using different ways of saying the same thing and relaxed around the order of speech if this is suitable to your topic.
- Gain experience in public speaking to build confidence, the key to successful public speaking.
- Ensure your speech reflects you personally and as an authority on the subject matter.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
- Confidence comes from practice and familiarity with your chosen words will ease nervousness on the day, as you will be sure of your content.
- It is a good idea to record your public speaking presentation on your phone or hand held recorder to enable you to identify ‘filler’ words that you tend to repeat or if you’re speaking too fast or too slowly.
- Stand in front of a mirror when practising your speech to identify any repetitive hand movements or facial expressions.
- By concentrating on fixing these small personal habits, it will also detract you from worrying about larger potential problems, creating added nervousness.
- Rehearse out loud regularly with all the equipment you will be using for public speaking.
- Use a timer to ensure you are within your time remit and allow time for any unexpected delays or occurrences on the day.
3. Know your Audience /Environment
- If you can, be aware of your target audience and prepare your speech accordingly.
- Arrive ahead of time and greet some of your audience as they arrive as it can ease the pressure to know you’re speaking to normal friendly people rather than a room full of strangers you know nothing about.
- Don’t apologise for being nervous as the public will generally not even notice. • Become familiar with the room in which you will be speaking, locate the power sockets; know the equipment you will be using.
- Do a practice run in the room if possible, using the microphone and visual aids to eliminate technical fears on the day.
4. Practice Relaxing and Calming Strategies
- Take some deep breaths before your speaking time arrives, return to regular breathing, allowing your mind and body to feel calm.
- Consciously relax your body.
- Begin your speech by addressing your audience and welcoming them to the speaking event. Pause and count to three slowly, transforming nervous energy into excited enthusiasm.
- Make eye contact with different members of your audience for over three seconds, resulting in audience connection and openness to what you are saying. This helps you to make a personal connection and feel as if you are talking to a friend rather than delivering a formal presentation.
- Smile as you get on stage and throughout your speech, this informs your audience you are comfortable and smiling is a trigger that naturally releases feel good hormones; it informs your mind that you are happy and relaxed.
- Replace fillers such as ‘umm’ and ‘aah’ with calming breaths instead, resulting in a slower heart rate and a sense of feeling grounded.
- Don’t read your speech word for word, it detracts from personal interaction with your audience and produces an unnatural flow. Use your personality as you would when speaking off stage.
5. Engage in Self-Supporting, Positive Thoughts and Actions
- Visualise yourself giving the speech beforehand, see it flowing with ease and going extremely well. See yourself as calm, clear and confident and the audience as engaged, smiling and clapping. This boosts your confidence and some would say even sets the stage for what will occur on the day.
- Know that people want you to succeed, the audience wants to hear an interesting, informative and entertaining speech; they are rooting for you.
- Concentrate on the message you are delivering, on the results you want to achieve through your public speaking and away from your anxieties and fears around public speaking.
- Use positive self-talk and empowering affirmations instead of expecting problems on the day.
- Don’t expect perfection, or kick yourself over any perceived little mistake. We are human, we all make mistakes, and even the best public speakers can err and just continue on gracefully, concentrating on the message. More often than not, the audience do not even notice, or if they do, they too know, perfection is not required.
Know that nervousness is our adrenaline flowing, make that energy work for you, by utilising it to deliver a powerfully successful public speech.