Public speaking still ranks as one of our biggest fears. Yet, most of us have it in ourselves to rise to the occasion. All it takes is the proper preparation (“What do I want to say?”), the right mind-set (“I can do this!”) and the following tips:
- Stand on both feet. No leaning, slouching, slumping or sitting. Audiences are twice as likely to be influenced by speakers who stand compared to those who stay seated.
- Gesture freely, but with natural arm and hand movements. Don’t flap about like a wounded bird.
- Move with purpose. Avoid swaying, rocking or pacing.
- Make eye contact with as many people in the audience as possible. If you spot particularly attentive listeners, turn your attention back to them when you need reassurance.
- Know your content well enough that you can speak extemporaneously. Reading note cards or slides shows a lack of preparation.
- Use pauses to allow what you’ve said to sink in . . . or for dramatic effect.
- Avoid inflammatory words or phrases.
- Energize your delivery by using inflection to vary your speaking patterns. A monotone voice is a sure-fire snooze inducer.
- Don’t shy away from humor. We’ve all seen good-natured jokes used to positive effect.
- Keep talking. Don’t let a stumble over a word or lapse in your train of thought shut you down. But if you trip over a cord or spill your water, mention it. Audiences can forgive the former; the latter requires an explanation.
Before you act . . .
Find out what type of audience you’ll be presenting to and adapt your presentation to their needs. Check out the room you’ll be presenting in to get comfortable with the space. Iron out tech challenges with an audio/visual run-through. Rehearse!