Along with snakes, spiders, dentists and heights, speaking in public is something that is at the top of a lot of people’s list of fears. Having to address a gathering of people can be tough, even if it’s a short speech in front of a small crowd. More often than not, the dread generated in anticipation of the giving the speech far outweighs the fear felt when it is actually being delivered.
That is probably small consolation to you if you have a public speaking engagement coming up and are anxious about it. However, as with any potential fear, there are solid steps you can take to minimise it. Here are ten tips that can help you, both in preparation for and delivery with your speech:
1. Make the message the focus: Knowing the reason for your speech is important as this will make you believe in it and feel good about giving it. It will inspire your audience and result in them listening to the message, as opposed to focusing on you as the deliverer.
2. Research your audience: Knowing who you are speaking to can help in how you pitch your message. Is your audience made up of formal business people who value sincerity, or is it a more lighthearted bunch who would appreciate a bit of humour? If you don’t already know, try to find out your audience’s background or interests.
3. Be yourself: Your audience is there to listen to what you have to say, so relax and be yourself. Don’t try to adopt a different personality when delivering a speech – you may end up coming across as insincere.
4. Keep it simple: There can be a tendency when writing a speech to use too much information. Remember, you are you are not presenting your thesis! Be simple and straight to the point. Too much information can cause people’s attention to wander.
5. Don’t memorise: Delivering a totally memorised speech will leave you sounding like a robot. Write bullet points on index cards and use these as sign posts and pointers thought your delivery.
6. Practice makes perfect: Practice your speech in front of someone you know and trust – they can give you honest feedback. Rehearsing in front of a mirror can also help with body posture and hand movements.
7. Involve your audience: If appropriate, engage with your audience by taking a suggestion or asking them what they want to see or hear. This can make them feel that they are part of your speech and ensure their attention.
8. Don’t worry if you slip up: If you pronounce a person’s name wrong, put the wrong image onto the projector or trip on your microphone wire, just laugh about it and move on. Your audience will appreciate the fact that you are human. It’s not life or death, it’s just a speech.
9. Talk slowly: A sure sign of nerves is talking quickly. Make a conscious effort to slow your delivery. Pace yourself and pause at the end of every few sentences. Practising slow breathing can also help in making sure your speech is given at the optimum speed.
10. Look your audience in the eye: Looking directly at your audience will make you appear more confident, which will in turn make you feel more confident. You will need to look at your bullet points from time to time, but otherwise keep your head up. This will put your audience at ease and allow you to take command of the room.