Many of us are now required to make presentations. Whether it is for an interview or simply for a staff meeting, most of us at some point will have to stand in front of a crowd and face that fear of public speaking. While public speaking comes naturally to some, most people dread that moment when they become the focal point in a room. Some of us finally master the craft through years of practice, some are still fighting to find that comfort level.
No matter where you find yourself in the spectrum, the following fifteen ultra practical skills will definitely help you become a brilliant public speaker:
1. Research your audience
Knowing who you will be addressing will help you prepare your mindset accordingly and help you feel more comfortable.
2. Know your environment
Find out about where your presentation will take place. If possible, familiarize yourself with the place ahead of time. Make notes of the little things: “Will there be a podium?” or “Is there a projector?” Also, be mindful of key elements of the atmosphere, such as the noise level and lighting.
While for some, it might seem redundant to point this out, it is important that you prepare for your presentation, regardless of how familiar you may be with the topic of discussion. Create an outline for yourself, to help keep you on track.
Again, it does not matter how familiar you are with the topic, practice your speech at least once. This will give you a chance to plan your pauses, which will keep you from sounding like you’re reading from a prompter.
5. Practice articulation
One important part of your practice should revolve around articulation. Focus on words that are difficult to pronounce and/or have varied pronunciations. There is nothing worst than a public speaker who does not enunciate.
6. Use tools
For those of us who are very nervous, this is especially helpful. Whether it is an index card to keep your thoughts organized, or a clicker to control your slide presentation, tools will help you stay on track.
7. Dress to impress
This may not seem like an important tip to most, but one of the easiest ways to boost your confidence is by ensuring that you dress to impress. As a public speaker, you will be the center of attention in the room for a long period of time, which will undeniably give your audience an opportunity to examine every aspect that you present – including your wardrobe. Be sure to dress appropriate to the event and pay attention to the small details in your wardrobe.
The last thing you want to do is stand in front of your audience like a stiff board. Walk and move around, it will not only relax you but it will also keep your audience more engaged.
Another important part of your speech is to remember to breathe. This will allow for you to sound more natural and also take breaks at appropriate times. Your audience will be able to connect better with you if you sound like you are having a regular conversation, rather than bombarding them with information without taking the time to breathe.
10. Avoid filler words
Filler words such as “um” or “so” can be extremely detrimental to a public speaker. When overused, your audience will start focusing more on how many times you’ve used them versus the message that you are conveying. Furthermore, you will sound less confident using all of these fillers.
11. Partner up
One of the best ways to help you feel comfortable as a public speaker is by finding an opportunity to partner up with a colleague or friend for your presentation. You will have someone to help you move the presentation along, as well as answer questions from the audience.
12. Encourage questions
While you do not have to take tons of them, questions from your audience may present an opportunity for you to further develop on a concept that you mentioned during your presentation.
13. Ask for feedback
It may not be the easiest thing to read feedback, but it is the only way that you will learn what you should do differently. You can choose to provide your audience with an anonymous evaluation form to complete. You can also simply ask a couple of friends to observe your presentation and provide you with their feedback.
14. Take a course
Taking a course with some tips to develop your skills as a public speaker can only help you better prepare for your future presentations. Be sure to put the notions into practice in order to see the results.
15. Get experience
Even if your first public speaking experience was disastrous, still look for an opportunity to do another. With every opportunity comes new experience. Soon enough, you will learn how to repeat the good and avoid the bad.
Most of us are not born with the natural talent to be able to charm an audience as a public speaker; however, these skills will help anyone reach that point where the thought of public speaking no longer send them in a panic.
Featured photo credit: Confident Asian businesswoman standing in front of coworkers/pitbull2013 via flickr.com