When it comes to speaking in front of live audiences, some people get super nervous. For others, they enjoy it. Many people are somewhere in the middle. Here are six tips for public speaking.
- BASIC PLAN: At a minimum, have a general outline in your mind about your several main speaking points. Then just do what you can to speak to them. You might write them point form on a card or as a note in your mobile phone if you can’t remember. I like to design my presentation slides to act as cue cards for my speaking points. That way, I don’t have to remember them exactly.
- TALK: If you have presentation slides, use a lot of imagery and graphics. Have very little text. No one wants to read presentation slides. You are there to fill in the information orally. You don’t have to write it all on the slides. It makes for a very boring presentation. It is much more interesting if you talk about the important points and if they are supported by slide imagery. Also, try to remember to look at different areas of the audience as you speak. It helps more people to feel included. Avoid persistently looking at the same person. The person will think, “Why does he/she keep looking at only me?”
- BE FRIENDLY: Be courteous. Greet your audience. Smile. I tend to keep a slight (genuine) grin on my face when I present, and if I have a chance to laugh about something, I will do it. Greetings, smiles and laughs are natural ways for people to bond and help people feel at ease. It depends somewhat on the seriousness of your topic, though.
- TIMING: Stay on time. The event organizers need this. I keep a mobile phone timer in view. (Don’t forget your phone on the podium!) If I am presenting with a team, we will rehearse our presentation to double check the flow of our content and the amount of time the presentation takes. We then cut or add content as needed. It is very helpful to do this. Rehearsal is also a good time to double check that your technology is working properly.
- APPEARANCE: Look nice. Dress better than you normally would. For example, I don’t normally where neck ties, but I do for public speaking. Several of my colleagues get their hair done/cut before a major public speaking event. An audience appreciates it when you look good. You don’t need to go overboard. Just look clean and presentable. We also tend to stand with our hands clasped together in front of ourselves when we are not speaking. It looks better. Don’t fidget. Be composed.
- FINISH: Indicate clearly when your presentation has come to an end, and have a clear plan for how you will leave the presentation area. Sometimes people finish their presentations, but it isn’t clear to the audience that the presentation has completed. There is just kind of awkward silence with nothing happening. Additionally, sometimes presenters look around wondering how they will leave the stage. Try something like… “That is the end of my presentation. Thank you,” then leave like you know what you are doing.
Those are just a few, general public speaking tips. They don’t really address the psychology of stage fright, but they should help you to move from beginning to end fairly well–even if you do get nervous.