Sure, there’s the old idea that public speaking is everyone’s number-one fear. But who’s in control of your own mind? You are, of course. Once you know that, you’ll find that there are many ways to put yourself in a position to nail that presentation.
Here are some valuable tips to help prepare yourself:
1. Preparation. It tops our list for good reason. Preparation is the key. Ask yourself:
What are the main points that I want to get across? Create an outline. Write and rewrite your speech. Don’t expect to memorize every word. But when you know the material inside and out – and know your audience – then your thoughts will easily flow.
2. Learn from the experts. Watch some of the best speakers perform their magic. Notice the different styles, their expressions, an occasional smile when appropriate, the serious look (also when appropriate). Notice how they seem to be enjoying their presentation. It really should be enjoyable. Remember, don’t fight it, embrace it.
3. Practice. And practice. And practice again. The more you practice your presentation, the more confident you will be, and the more comfortable you’ll feel.
4. Videotape your practice sessions. It’s one of the most valuable tools you can use to learn from your presentations. You’ll quickly pick up pointers from watching yourself on tape. It’s really an amazing tool to improve your public speaking.
5. Try to relax. If you miss a line, no one will know. Nobody will have your notes, and quite frankly, nobody will really care that you missed a line or a thought. So be kind to yourself. Mistakes happen. Just move on with your presentation as if nothing went wrong.
6. Slow down. It’s rather typical of presenters to speak at the speed of lightning. That’s because they’re often thinking: The faster I speak, the faster I will sit down. But slowing down has lots of advantages. It gives your audience every chance to understand your every word. Pacing is important.
7. The eye factor. It’s important to keep your eyes steadily moving across the room. Take them from the left side of the room to the middle of the room, then to the right side, then back the other way. Also, move them from the front of the audience to the back. Be aware of your notes, but don’t fix your eyes on them. If you do that, the audience will feel that you’re not prepared. Again, preparation is the key.
8. Go ahead, tickle my funny bone. Yes, it’s great to work a funny line into your presentation. Just remember you’re not a comedian on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Be lighthearted and your audience will love it. Remember: They’re really on your side. They want to enjoy what you have to say.
9. Be yourself. It’s who you are. We’re all human. We’ve all had a little hesitation about getting up in front of a crowd and speaking at a podium with a microphone. Being yourself will go a long way toward building your enthusiasm to deliver your presentation.
10. Uh, say what? Yes, it’s perfectly fine to utter an occasional “uh.” It’s conversational. Television reporters, news anchors, weathercasters and all performers say “uh” from time to time. It’s perfectly normal. Anything else might seem stilted.
Public speaking really comes down to preparation. The more you prepare, the more comfortable you will feel. It’s a great feeling when you know your material well. Remember what it felt like when you aced a test in school? You can feel just as good when it’s time to speak in public – if you know your material backward and forward.
It’s often said that the best writing is writing that’s edited again and again. Well, that goes for public speaking, too. The best presentation is one that is practiced again, and again and again … and again.