Public speaking is difficult for most people. Whether it’s a group of 4 or 5 in a class or several hundred at an event, it can make you pretty nervous. These are five basic tips to help you speak in front of any size group.
- Do not stare above the audience. Many people will suggest the speaker focus on a spot in the back of the room and not look directly at the audience. The logic is that they won’t get as nervous if they don’t really see anyone. That’s not always true and I found something that works even better. I actually scan the crowd and look at several people now and then which makes it feel like I’m talking to just a few friends instead of a few hundred people. If you focus on just one thing, you will still know there are many people starring at you even though you’re not looking directly at them which will definitely make you nervous. The point is to deal with the situation head-on instead of avoiding it. Almost everyone is ok with talking to one or two people. Make it personal and you will feel more confident.
- Make notes. You are never too old to make notes. I use them every time I speak and so do many other famous speakers who are much older than I am. Notes shouldn’t be your whole speech. It’s better to only write bullet points or key phrases, just enough so you can remember what you want to say. Some people think that notes are only for rehearsal. That’s not true. Think about it. Wouldn’t you rather hold some notes and glance at them once in awhile than stand up there all nervous trying to remember what to say? As long as you don’t read from them, you’ll be fine and deliver a better presentation or speech.
- Rehearse. You have to know what your going to say and how you are going to say it. Use all the props that you would for the real deal so you can get a feel for it. This is one of my least favorite steps. I hate to practice or rehearse but it does work and it is a necessary part to public speaking. It’s pretty easy to listen or watch someone who knows what they are talking about, feels comfortable on stage, and makes the topic interesting. If the person isn’t prepared, not only will they be uncomfortable but they will make the audience uncomfortable too and probably put a lot of people to sleep with boredom.
- Write your own presentation. Unless you’re the President of the United States, you’re better off writing your own speech or presentation. And if you watch any public figure give a speech, wouldn’t you rather believe that they wrote at least part of what they’re saying? If they simply read it, you wonder if they even believe in their message.
- Know your audience. Even if you’re talking about business but your audience is elementary kids, make sure you talk so they can understand. That doesn’t mean talk down to them but make it interesting for the appropriate age group.