Everyone I meet finds speaking in public or presenting to a group of people stressful or nerve racking. Most people would like to avoid the unnecessary stress or nerves completely; however this is not always possible. You may have to present in your workplace, you may have been asked to give a speech at a wedding, birthday party, funeral or you may have been asked to prepare a training session. Whatever the occasion or whether you work alone or with a team of people, eventually you will need to speak in public. Speaking in public does not have to be stressful and a task we dread. If you follow the steps I recommend, public speaking will soon become an invigorating and empowering experience for you.
1. Be well prepared
The most sensible approach to ensure you do not make mistakes when speaking, is to be well prepared. You owe it to your audience to know the purpose of your talk, who you will be speaking to and where you will be speaking. The more prepared you are the greater your success!
2. Practise, practise, practise and keep practising
Practise in front of a mirror, practise in the shower, practise to your dog, cat, or children! Practise, practise and practise again, until you are comfortable with the material and content.
It is important to firstly practise your speech or presentation by reading it out loud so that you get used to how you sound and so that you can listen to the content. It is your first chance to hear what your audience will hear. When you say something it will sound different to how it is written.
You will find after you have read your speech or presentation out loud, you will both need and want to make changes to your content so that it is easier to deliver and understand.
Once you are comfortable reading the content aloud, practise your speech or presentation by standing and addressing a mirror. This will allow you to get used to the posture and stance most effective for you to deliver your subject matter clearly.
If you have the chance, practise your speech or presentation to a group of friends or colleagues. This will provide the opportunity for some great feedback on how well you are communicating your message as well as much needed practise with eye contact and getting used to speaking to a group of people.
3. Prepare a good outline of your notes
A good outline is your back up plan! An outline is an abbreviated version of your detailed speech or presentation. Whilst you are speaking if you forget your content, these notes will be helpful in prompting you back on course. You can simply glance at your outline when you are speaking and it will refresh your memory. This enables you to concentrate on your delivery rather than worrying about memorising your speech or presentation. Ensure your outline is clear and easy to read. You may not need to refer to these notes however they will be a great back up tool to ease your mind.
4. Your thoughts about your audience
Think positively about your audience as they are on your side! They want to hear what you have to say and see you do well. This positive image should relax you and put you in a good frame of mind. The audience will also read your body language and respond accordingly.
I use a visualisation process to visualise myself speaking in front of a group. The power of visualisation is rehearsing in your mind what you would like to achieve. While visualising a speech I am about to deliver I see myself standing up in front of the audience I am presenting to. I am comfortable, calm and enjoying the presentation and at the end visualise my presentation as a success with the audience clapping and giving positive feedback.
This process allows me to practise a successful presentation or speech delivery in my mind before the big day. We all have two choices; to think and visualise positive thoughts about the presentation or think and visualise negative thoughts. My reasoning, you may as well make it positive, especially if you have done all the other things mentioned in this article – why would you not be successful? The mind is extremely powerful; if you think you will be a poor speaker then guess what, you probably will be! Conversely if you think you will be a successful speaker, you will be!
6. Arrive early
This allows you to get to know your venue and room space. You can test any equipment you are going to use, check lighting, DVD, data projector, microphone, laptop and any other devices you may be using.
If you are speaking at an event where there are other speakers before and after you, this may have to be done prior to the event i.e. that morning or the previous afternoon. Never leave the testing of your equipment until the start of your presentation.
Always be prepared for your equipment not to work and have a backup plan. For example, if you are using a data projector have handouts just in case.
Arriving early allows you to check the layout of the room, and makes changes if necessary.
If you have any spare time, find a quiet area and review your speech or presentation. This will help you put your mind into a relaxed state.
7. If possible, welcome the audience as they arrive before you speak
If you are in a position to do this, try and introduce yourself to as many people in the audience as possible before you speak. Usually I will stand at the door of the room where the audience enters and introduce myself on their arrival. This enables me to meet people and feel an emotional connection with the audience. If my speech or presentation allows, I will include some of the people’s names, this indicates to the audience I know whom I am talking to and makes the presentation or speech inclusive.
I try on every occasion to get to know as many people in the audience as possible.
8. Relax before you start.
Take a few deep breathes before you go on stage and when you are introduced wait five seconds before you start to show that you are in control and it allows the audience to settle down. Wait until the audience is quiet so that your complete content can be heard.
9. Enjoy and Speak with Presence!
Enjoy the process remember nerves are normal and even the best speakers are nervous before a speaking event. I believe nerves show you care and ensure you are well-prepared and wanting success.
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