Standing in front of a crowd – or even a small group – can be nerve-wracking. Your palms start sweating and you open your mouth, ready to speak, and realize nothing’s coming out. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people feel anxious standing in front of an audience, whether they’ve done hundreds of speeches or it’s their first time.
There are plenty of ways to reduce the stress of public speaking so you can perform to the best of your ability. Whether you are looking to overcome your anxiety or simply brush up on your public speaking skills, we have a handful of public speaking tips to help you overcome your fears.
Know your audience
Before writing your speech, you need to know who you are talking to. Your speech is targeting the audience – so you want to make sure your speech is relevant and something they are interested in. For example, you wouldn’t speak to kids the same as you would to adults. Other things to consider are education level, profession, gender and cultural background. These factors can affect how your speech is received.
If your speech requires knowledge of complex theories on medical exploration, you likely would not be speaking to an audience of art or math students, but rather those in the medical field. Your audience should be able to understand the message you are getting across. Without connecting with your audience, your message will not be effective.
Research your topic
One of the most important public speaking tips is to be prepared and well-researched. When selecting a suitable topic, it’s much easier to talk about something you are passionate about or interested in. The topic must be something relevant to you and the audience, and you should be comfortable talking about in detail. If you are not passionate about your topic, then it can be difficult to persuade your listeners. The audience can tell if you’re not interested in what you are talking about, and if you aren’t interested – why should they be?
Know your message
One of the main goals of public speaking is to deliver a specific message to your audience. You’ll want to ensure that you are precise and don’t go off on a tangent of irrelevant details. It’s easy to confuse or lose the attention of your audience by giving them information that’s unnecessary to your point.
Practice, practice, practice
Practice is essential, not only for public speaking but for anything in life. With practice, you’ll not only know your speech better but you’ll understand where to place your pauses and pacing. Filler words are another big no-no, but thankfully, practice will help you avoid these. If you can, convince one of your friends or family members to sit in for practice so you’ll become familiar speaking in front of an audience.
If you can, avoid having the entire script in front of you because flipping page after page will distract you and your audience, too. Reading from a script can also make you sound robotic and will cause you to look down rather than connecting with your audience. Instead, have some notes with bullet points that will keep you on track with a quick glance.
Make eye contact
Now that you have your script, it’s time to focus on the delivery. Some people forget the power of the performance because no matter how important your message is, if you don’t make a compelling delivery, it’s not going to stick with the audience. Part of this is eye contact, as making that connection with your audience is exceedingly valuable.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Confidence! Even if you’re so nervous that you feel like you’re going to break, your audience doesn’t need to know that. Hopefully, you won’t only be fooling the viewers, but you’ll also fool yourself into being confident.
Each mistake you make is a learning experience. We’re sure you’ve heard this before, but that’s because it’s relevant in all aspects of life, including public speaking. Every time you do a speech, try to record it so you can watch it afterward. You’re probably already cringing at the thought, but it pays off. You’ll be able to see yourself from the audience’s perspective and observe your strengths as well as note areas you can improve on. This is one of the best public speaking tips because instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again, you’ll progress each time.
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at firstname.lastname@example.org