If the thought of speaking in public makes you want to crawl under the covers, you’re not alone. Public speaking is frequently mentioned as something that people fear even more than death.
Whether you’re giving a presentation to thousands of people or simply trying to speak up at your company’s weekly meeting, there are things you can do to set yourself up for a positive experience.
A good public speaking training course can go a long way toward helping you feel more prepared to get up in front of a crowd. Workshops give you insider tips and the space to practice – even the space to fail. You’ll be grouped with others conquering the same fear, and you’ll be able to give and get support from these people. Something like this may be just the boost you need to feel more confident.
Prepare the Presentation
Few people can just “wing” a presentation. You need to go in with a good idea of everything you want to talk about. For many people, the most effective way to do this is to create an outline of major points. It’s normal to want to write a full speech out, but when you do that, you’ll be tempted to either memorise it or read it from the paper. This will make your speech sound robotic. Outlines give your presentation a structure while still allowing you to appear natural.
Practice by Yourself and in Front of Others
Too many people think that once they have the outline, they’re good to go. This might work for experienced speakers, but if you’re just starting out, you should get a bit of practice. Going through your presentation gives you the chance to test out phrases and practice the timing. You don’t want your speech to be either too long or too short. Yes, you might feel silly giving a speech alone in your flat, but you’ll feel more prepared when it’s time to actually get up on the stage.
It’s even better if you have a friend willing to listen. They’ll be able to give you some pointers or ask questions about things that didn’t quite make sense. You can then refine the presentation before giving it in front of strangers.
When you’re nervous about giving a presentation, it’s easy to start focusing on all of the things that can go wrong. You might forget what you were going to say. You might stumble over the words. You might even fall in front of a large audience. Replaying these things in your head puts you into a negative mindset.
Instead, imagine everything going well. Think about feeling confident on the stage as you say your words. Imagine people congratulating you after the speech, and think about the ways that this success can move you forward in life. Many people believe that your thoughts become your reality, so you want to focus on the positive.
Dress for Success
When you look good, you feel good. Employ this idea as you get dressed the day of your presentation. If you’re a man, wear a perfectly tailored suit with your favourite tie. If you’re a woman, wear that dress that always gets you compliments. Comfort is key, too. Trousers that are too loose, a shirt that tends to show a bit too much cleavage, or shoes that pinch your feet are distractions that you don’t need.
Consider pampering yourself before the presentation as well. You might feel more confident if you’ve just had a manicure, a fresh hair style, or a professional shave.
Get Ready on the Big Day
Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before your presentation. You’ll want to eat before you get up on stage, but you shouldn’t have something too heavy just before you go on. The food in your stomach can make you feel more nervous. Use the loo before they announce your name. Make sure that you have water handy in case your mouth gets dry. Take a few deep breaths as you get started.
Distract the Audience
One of the biggest challenges of public speaking is having all the attention on you. This doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of just speaking, design a PowerPoint presentation that will be shown on the screen as you talk. This provides the outline you need and puts the attention on the content of the presentation rather than on you directly. Alternatively, you might pass out papers that relate to the speech to give people something else to look at.
It’s hard to get up in front of people to give a speech or presentation, but this is a fear that you can overcome. With a bit of practice, you’ll start to enjoy public speaking.