Public speaking is one of the more scary undertakings for the average person. In fact, a recent survey showed the fear of public speaking was the number one fear of those polled. Number two was the fear of dying! But if you prepare and practice, you can put yourself in the position of being able to do what many won't. This can lead to a promotion at work or notice by others in a position to offer you other opportunities. And you might even find that you have fun doing it. Here are a few things to help you become good at public speaking.
- Prepare your presentation in advance. One of the reasons people fear public speaking is that they fear being humiliated by forgetting what they were going to say or saying the wrong thing. Preparation is the key to eliminating this problem. Research your topic, make yourself notes, try to ascertain areas that might create questions, and find those answers before you set foot in front of anyone. Know your topic inside and out. Become the expert.
- Practice, practice, practice. Just because you have been speaking since you were two years old doesn't mean you don't need to practice speaking before an audience. Actors rehearse their parts to the point of becoming those characters for a time. Professional athletes practice their sport many hours each week in order to perfect their skills, and to be able to respond to whatever challenge is thrown at them seemingly from instinct. It becomes second nature. So too, must you practice or rehearse if you want to be good. Start slowly, giving your presentation to a friend, a family member, even to your dog. It's the repetition that causes you to improve. They may also coach you on developing an approachable and pleasant appearance. When your presentation is second nature to you, when your topic is as familiar to you as your old bathrobe, you will feel comfortable sharing it with your audience. It's that ease and comfort that allows you to relax and to perform at your best.
- Know your audience. You want your audience to feel as if you are "one of them." You should be an insider. Audiences are always more receptive to someone whom they perceive is like them. Find out what type of people you are speaking to. Are they teetotalers? Hunters? Octogenarians? Predominantly blue collar or white collar? Business people? Some type of club? Understand the organization's culture, goals, mind-set, and jargon. All organizations have some type of jargon or language indicative of their culture. If you use that jargon incorrectly, you will be perceived as an outsider or a fraud, and your message will be ignored. In fact, they could even become antagonistic. Do your homework!
- Arrive early. Depending upon the size of the organization to which you are speaking, there are varying reasons to arrive early. One reason is to see the layout of the room. Is it set up properly for your presentation? Do you need a white board or a screen for a slide presentation? Is there a podium for your notes? Do you need water? Is the entrance to the room at your back, causing latecomers to interrupt your presentation and possibly your train of thought? If you are early enough, you may be able to make the necessary adjustments before you have to speak. If it's a larger group, perhaps at a convention or hotel meeting or seminar, arriving early gives you the opportunity to listen to other speakers and sense the mood of the crowd. Watching other speakers allows you to see what is working and what isn't, as well as to give you an idea of what type of audience you will be addressing. Watch the crowd's responses to the speakers, and you'll have an idea what they are about, and what captures their attention.
- Relax, and have fun. Remember that ultimately, you were asked to speak to this audience. You must have something that they want or need, and possibly something they paid to come hear. If you have followed the above suggestions, you should feel good that you are ready to deliver a great presentation. So relax and enjoy yourself. If you do, they will too!