The thought of public speaking can strike fear into even the most confident of people, in fact it has even been suggested that a fear of public speaking is an instinct originating back hundreds or even thousands of years. Social acceptance was the difference between life and death and still is amongst many species within the animal kingdom till this day. Public speaking is a key scenario in which there is a risk of mass rejection and this can explain why it can be so terrifying.
Some people are very happy to avoid any situation in which there may be a possibility of public speaking, and that is absolutely fine. However for some, they may see their fear of speaking in front of groups as an opportunity to improve and tackle their fear head on.
For these adrenaline junkies, continue reading for a number of tips to improve your public speaking skills.
1. Accept your nerves
The first step in overcoming your nerves when public speaking is to accept that they are completely normal and just your fight or flight responses kicking in, these can include a racing heart, sweating and shaking amongst a range of other possible responses. By embracing these natural responses, you are less likely to be focused on masking them, this will allow you to concentrate on what you are actually saying. By not fixating on your nerves you might find them to reduce in severity.
2. Prepare and rehearse
One of the most important tips to help you improve your public speaking is to prepare.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
Not only will having your talking points mapped out, help you to deliver a better quality talk to the audience, but you will also be less stressed as you will have a plan to help guide you. Try not to have your entire speech written down to read from, the audience will be more engaged if you keep eye contact with them. Similarly if you have visual aids, ensure they do not distract from what you are saying and do not read off of the slides. If you need them, small cards to help jog your memory are fine. Remember to leave plenty of time to rehearse your speech, both individually and with other people, these can be close friends or family. Encourage feedback and suggestions to help you improve, recording yourself can also be a good way to self analyse.
3. Understand your audience
Before writing your speech or presentation, it is important to think about who you are going to be speaking to. You should make time to research your audience to figure out what information and presentation style they will be most receptive to. Think about their age, profession, interests, pain points and carefully sculpt your content in a relevant way. That way, you can be sure that your audience will be engaged and interested in what you are saying and this will be evident from facial expressions, body language and reactions in the room, all which can help to build your confidence during your speech.
Even if these tips do not help to completely eradicate your public speaking nerves, they should help to minimise them and allow you to feel more prepared.