08 February 2024
Public speaking can be a nerve-wracking experience. The anxiety before speaking builds up, making your heart rate rise and your palms sweaty. All of this is completely natural, as public speaking is one of the most common fears people hold. However, you can use these fears to your advantage and turn them into speaking strengths. In this blog, we will look into different tips you can apply to become a more impactful and confident speaker, just in time for your next presentation.
Understand the expectations
Before you begin your speech, you should have a solid background on all the essential information. This would include the location, technical setup, presentation time slot, format, dress code, and others. When you have this information, you can tailor your presentation and prepare yourself more productively. For example, knowing the space’s resources will help you prepare any equipment you need; knowing the time slot you have will help you manage your time; and knowing the dress code can help you pick out an appropriate outfit.
Plus, it also reduces anxiety regarding technical or logistical obstacles by giving you a heads-up beforehand and avoiding last-minute surprises. Preparedness in all areas helps you approach your speech more comfortably and confidently, ensuring a smoother experience.
Know who you’re talking to
A presentation is not just about reciting information; it should be a tailored experience for your audience to build understanding. Before you begin preparation, understand who your audience is by understanding their demographics, interests, and needs. By knowing who you’re addressing, you can determine the level of information to share, choose the right words, and structure your speech so that they can follow along and resonate with what you say.
Structure your material
A memorable presentation goes beyond the script you’ve written for yourself to deliver; how you arrange your content impacts how your audience receives it. As you prepare, craft a solid outline for your speech that defines your topic, purpose, central idea, and main points. A structure helps the audience follow along by keeping the speaker on track and avoiding going on tangents. Choose a single central idea and build your presentation around it, with every point you make circling back to it. Through the structure, the audience will still remember the essential main point, even if they only retain a small fraction of your presentation.
Starting on the right foot with an engaging opening, such as an interesting anecdote or a strong fact that establishes your credibility, can give a sense of what’s to come. A great hook piques the audience’s interest and is the strong first impression your speech needs. In public speaking, your opening can make all the difference. Equally important is how you end your speech—to leave a lasting impression, reiterate your main points by closing the loop and circling back to your central message.
Make it your own
No one knows how to connect with a robot. Monotone recitation of your slides’ content does not do much for your audience and may actually harm your credibility. The audience will value your insights more when they see that a real person is behind them, and connecting with your listeners becomes a lot more effortless when you aren’t holding yourself back too much. Embrace authenticity and be yourself; make your presentation your own by letting your personality show.
Adapt to feedback
To excel at public speaking, you must maintain awareness of your audience and adapt to their reactions as you present. You have to be flexible with the way you speak, gauging your listeners’ engagement and making adjustments as you go to ensure that your message resonates. Your presentation should not lack responsiveness to the audience; otherwise, you can very easily lose their attention or confuse them. By being attuned to your audience, you can pick up on the cues your audience is giving and engage with them better by adapting to them accordingly.
Do not underestimate the importance of repetition. You might feel like a broken record in practice, but in fact, it helps your listeners retain your information better. Your audience cannot rewind your speech, so repeating your major points throughout the presentation becomes a way to ensure your message sticks. To maximize its impact even further, make sure to keep the main message concise and powerful for it to be truly memorable.
Embrace the nerves
Feeling nervous in the days leading up to your speaking engagement is natural; the key is not to let these jitters convince you that you will do poorly. Rather, think of how you can use these nerves to your advantage. The adrenaline from your nerves makes you more alert and present, making you sharper and quicker on your feet to adapt to the audience’s reactions. To address pre-presentation nerves, however, preparation is essential. Take the time to thoroughly review your notes until you are comfortable with them, and practice saying them out loud repeatedly. And once again, nerves are not the enemy.
Public speaking is often an essential skill to learn, and it is possible to master with the right approach. Structuring your material, starting with an engaging hook, and understanding your audience are all strategies that can enhance your speaking skills, every aspect of which plays a role in helping you deliver a memorable presentation. Whether preparing for a lecture or a consulting presentation, take the first step and apply these strategies to your next presentation to unlock the confident speaker within!