Public speaking is something many of us dread. Although there are some people who are masters of the craft, the vast majority of us either begin to get sweaty palms or develop the sudden compulsion to use the bathroom whenever we have to speak in front of a group of people. Is there hope for those of us with the “speech jitters”? Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and, if we are to accept his statement, we will realize that we can overcome our fears of public speaking by following these five tips.
Tip No. 1: Know Your Audience
If we truly get to understand who our audience is, we will truly be able to craft a speech that will appeal to their interests. When the audience is interested, our fear gradually diminishes. For example, if you are making a presentation to students at a high school about following their dreams, then it may be a good idea for you to develop a highly entertaining speech involving audio and visual references. Young people love excitement and once you are able to grab and maintain their interest, you will be able to have confidence in your presentation.
Tip No. 2: Practice
One of the key concepts the Toastmasters program teaches its participants is the importance of practicing your speech. Stand up in front of a mirror and time yourself as you make your speech. As you look at your reflection, take note of your gestures and facial expressions and ensure that you are not overdoing either of them. Additionally, you can practice in front of your friends or relatives and allow them to give you feedback so that you can make improvements if necessary. Being fully prepared to make your speech will give you some of the confidence you need to overcome your fear of public speaking.
Tip No.3: Research
In order to write the best possible speech, it is important for you to research your topic. Instead of just presenting your own thoughts and opinions, find articles or books that support your claims. People have more respect for someone who takes the time to properly craft his or her speech.
Tip No. 4: Focus on Something or Someone in the Room
If you are still extremely nervous, it may be helpful for you to pick someone from the audience to focus on while you are presenting your speech. This may help you to feel as though you are having a conversation with someone instead of an entire auditorium full of people. As you build more confidence, you can maintain eye contact with more than one person in the room and therefore better engage the audience.
Tip No. 5: Walk Around
When I am extremely nervous I tend to pace around a room because it has somewhat of a calming effect. I am not saying that you should pace when making your speech, but you can change your position at instances where you feel the nerves kicking in. Many people stay behind a lectern or podium and speak to the audience but changing that routine a bit can help to alleviate some of the fears you have.
Public speaking seems like a daunting task for many but it is something that we all can do once we overcome our fears. I believe that if you follow these tips you will be able to become the confident public speaker you want to be.