Come one, come all! Did you know that nearly 75% of people are nervous when it comes to public speaking? Speaking in front of groups can be incredibly intimidating, whether it be for a school project or a speech competition. However, being able to both articulate your ideas skillfully and conduct yourself maturely are skills that will take you far in your education and in the professional world.
This guide will take you through the process of preparing to give your speech, as well as what to do during the moment itself to gear you towards success. It’s important to remember that these tips may not work for everyone, and it’s absolutely possible to become a successful speaker by following tips that are different from the ones provided in this article.
Preparing for Your Speech
1) Know Your Material
When you’re drafting your speech or creating your presentation, make sure you do not skimp on the research. If you put in the effort in these beginning stages, then you will naturally absorb the information as you’ve been handling it for quite a while. This foundation of knowledge will be beneficial to you when it comes to the moment of truth. If you are well-versed in your topic, then you will be able to speak on it confidently, which will show your audience that you are well prepared. If there is time for a Q&A after, then you will have the information necessary to answer any questions that come at you knowledgeably.
2) Make Every Note Count
If you’re allowed to use notes during your presentation, do not write out everything you need to say. This will prompt you to be excessively reliant on your notes, minimizing the amount of time you spend connecting with your audience. One way to avoid this is to write out your notes in the form of bullet points, with each point being a different main idea that you intend to communicate during your time so that you don’t miss discussing any information that is crucial to your presentation. If you are well versed in your topic, then you usually won’t need much more to go off of.
3) Be Familiar With Your Presentation Space
In order to deliver a successful presentation, you should be familiar with the room you will be in and the space you will have to work with. You can use this information to tailor the way you will physically interact with your audience. For example, if your classroom has a lot of room near the whiteboard/projection board, you will be able to move around during your presentation. However, if you do not have a lot of room, that tells you that you might need to rely more on facial expressions and hand motions to engage the crowd. If you have no way to familiarize yourself with the space before the day of your presentation, try asking your mentor to verbalize it for you.
4) Practice, Practice, Practice
One of the best ways to prepare for your speech is to practice. The amount of times that you need to practice beforehand is dependent on the content and length of your speech. When you practice, you should try to deliver your presentation just as you would for the actual moment. This means that you should include hand motions, facial expressions, and other physical movements every time you run your speech to ensure that you are geared towards success. If you are unsure how to incorporate these movements, play around with them in front of a mirror to see what feels natural for you. As a part of your practice, you should also time yourself to get a gauge of how long your presentation will take. This will be especially important if you have a strict time limit.
During Your Speech
5) Have confidence
Despite how much you’ve practiced, you might still experience nervousness before giving your speech. This is completely normal. However, you want to be extra cautious to hide this nervousness from your audience to avoid giving the impression that you are underprepared. You can do this by maintaining frequent eye contact, not playing with your hair/clothing, and standing up straight. You should also speak clearly and at an even pace to avoid muttering under your breath.
6) Stay True To Yourself
If you witness presentations before you that are completely different from what you’ve practiced, do not think that there is anything wrong with yours because of that. You should also not attempt to alter your presentation drastically to fit the mold of ones that went before you. This is because what works for someone else may not work for you. The audience will usually be able to tell if your delivery is unnatural for you, which can prompt them to question your sincerity and could detract from the content and flow of your speech.
7) Embrace The Mistakes
We are all human, and humans are fallible. Even seasoned speakers make mistakes during their presentations. The key to avoiding any awkwardness is to not show that you made a mistake. Remember, the audience doesn’t know what your presentation was supposed to be like. Therefore, as long as you don’t pause dramatically, apologize, or show disappointment on your face, then no one will be any the wiser. If you make an error that is much more noticeable, such as mispronouncing a word, simply correct yourself and move on. Do not dwell on the mistake or drag it out.
By implementing any or all of these tips, you should hopefully see some improvement in your public speaking skills. If you are interested in learning more or taking your speech career even further, you may be able to contact your school’s speech coach so that they can cater directly to your needs. Lastly, do not get discouraged if your speech skills seem to not be improving. Just because it may take longer for your hard work to pay off does not mean that you are destined to be a bad speaker. Everyone has the potential to succeed with all speech endeavors.