No doubt you have had to speak in front of an audience a few times in your life so far. But public speaking in the professional arena can be a little more intimidating for some people. If you find yourself avoiding all possible opportunities to address a crowd, you may want to change the way you look at this. There are great advantages that come with facing the discomfort that accompanies public speaking, developing your skill and turning it into your very own superpower. Anxiety and nervousness are common. But with appropriate practice and preparation, improving your public speaking skills will boost your self-esteem, increase your personal and professional status and advance your career. The better you get at talking comfortably during a presentation, the more great career opportunities you will be able to enjoy.
Preparation and Planning
Although at times you may find yourself having to talk in front of an audience without expecting to, most often you will be able to prepare your speech, put together an outline and plan it appropriately. Think back to presentations you did in school and make yourself note cards or a cheat sheet to practice with. If you are using a slide presentation tool such as PowerPoint or Keynote, prepare your slides well in advance. When you have the opportunity to fully prepare for a presentation, make sure you do so. Knowing exactly what to do will rid you of stress and instantly make you more comfortable.
The more you do it, the more you get used to it. It may sound terrifying, but it’s true. Instead of avoiding opportunities to speak in front of an audience, seek them. Practice makes perfect, so why not volunteer to present at conferences or networking events? Or just start pushing yourself to contribute more at team meetings. Besides the fact that it will get you even further job-wise, you will notice that with every miniature success, words will start flowing and nervousness will disappear.
Grab Your Audience’s Attention
If you don’t plan on starting with a bang, then better not say anything at all. The number one rule is to open your speech with a grabber: something highly engaging and appealing that will get everyone to stop whispering and focus entirely on what you have to say. A good example might be "I am about to propose to you a tool that has never been seen before, but is everything you've all been waiting for," when presenting an idea for a new smartphone application. So when you sit down to lay out your arguments and write your speech, make sure that your opener intrigues your listeners, and once you have them hooked, let them hang on to your every word.
Use Memory Devices
Reading from a piece of paper is going to bore your audience, so make sure you come up with ways to stimulate your memory. Make an outline of your speech and study the structure of your arguments. You should be able to know what comes when and which thought follows which statement. Knowing the turning points and being able to easily work around questions and interruptions will allow you to appear completely comfortable in front of your listeners.
Humor and Participation
Even at home, whenever you find the chance, practice alone in front of the mirror. Go through your speech, use jokes and try to get your imaginary audience to participate more by asking questions and encouraging involvement. Make a mental note of little anecdotes and relevant funny stories that you could include to lighten up the atmosphere when things get tiring and your listeners need a break. This will also allow you to remember what is coming up next.
When you practice your speech, pay attention to your body language, as it can give away every negative emotion you’re experiencing. If you are nervous or uncomfortable, your body language will let your audience know and you will lose credibility. For this reason, make sure your gestures and facial expressions feel natural and look smooth. Stay enthusiastic and move around as much as you can in order to further engage your audience, and remember not to repeat the same movements too much.
Voice and Speaking
Speak steadily, clearly and loudly when you’re practicing or addressing your audience. This will show everyone that you know your subject well. Plus, it will confirm that there is no reason for your listeners to challenge or doubt you. Stay firm but show you are passionate about what you’re saying and soon everyone will have no other choice but to follow your advice!