Public speaking can be incredibly nerve wracking, especially when you are trying to be persuasive. Whether it’s a 10-person or 10,000-person audience, there is always the underlying thought that you could mess up. Everything from forgetting what you’re supposed to say to oversleeping and missing the entire presentation altogether could occur. Some have a natural talent for getting up and delivering a persuasive speech without a care in the world, but for others it can be a much different experience.
However, for those who tend to have terror of public speaking, there is hope! Having the right mindset and amount of preparation can turn a once nail-biting, dreadful experience into an enjoyable and rewarding time. Before the big day, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth presentation that leaves you with a standing ovation from the audience.
Practicing is of course key. Developing a well-drafted outline that highlights the major points and examples throughout the presentation will help keep you on track and knowing what will be discussed. But an outline is as far as you should go. Do not memorize the speech you plan to give because it could actually be your downfall. Imagine that you’re halfway through the speech and all of a sudden you blank on what comes next. You can’t remember anything because you were so set on the way you had memorized it to be. Memorizing can be catastrophic, so don’t do it.
Instead, practice and run through the speech multiple times. Practice in front of the mirror, friends or family and even record yourself. Create a notecard with the outline as reference and have a full understanding of the topics that will be addressed – this will help you feel comfortable on the presentation topic but won’t allow you to memorize the speech. Get creative each time you run through and switch up the wording. You’ll get a feel for the audience on the day of and can adjust some of the wording as you go, making your speech more engaging and stronger.
As you are preparing ask yourself, would you want to listen to the presentation you’re going to give? People want to be engaged in a presentation and feel that it relates to them. So aim for that, be relatable to the audience. Knowing who you’re speaking to will greatly affect the tone of the presentation and overall outline that you’ll prepare. Developing a connection with the audience early on and seeing the engagement of people paying attention and actually listening will boost your confidence as the presentation goes on.
Nobody wants to give a presentation to an audience with their heads down or looking around appearing disinterested. It can make you, as the presenter, feel like the speech is boring and become more uncomfortable. So become relatable to the audience; don’t be afraid to crack a joke or two and deliver a speech that you would want to hear. Do you have a personal story or interesting fact that can be tied in somewhere to provide relevancy? Create a personal connection and leave a lasting impression on the audience.
As mentioned above, delivering a persuasive speech that your audience is interested in is critical. And having well-thought out examples to back up the topic you’re addressing can make an okay speech a phenomenal one. Personally, I always incorporate real-life examples of personal situations I have overcome or experienced to create a more visual and honest presentation that shows my knowledge of the topic. You will come off as more of an expert on the topic because you have gone through a trying time or lesson learned that can be translated into the conversation.
An important thing to note however is to not make the example come off as forced. When practicing, test out different ways the presentation will flow and see where an example can easily be integrated into the conversation. If you have an arbitrary example, it can leave the audience confused, wondering why you just went off on a 5-minute tangent about something unrelated. So take pause to really think through what you want to include and have some back up options in case what you thought would work doesn’t.
When talking through an example, take the opportunity to incorporate some humor. If you are offering up a personal story it’s okay to laugh at yourself, the audience will appreciate the honesty and that connection could deepen.
There hits a point where you cannot prepare anymore, so just breathe. This may actually be the most important piece of it all, relaxing and not overthinking. Of course the nerves are expected but remember that you were chosen to give this presentation and hone in on your confidence and knowledge of the topic. If you have done your research, prepared and practiced, then all that’s left to do is take a deep breath and wow your audience.
The day of the presentation, quickly run through the presentation one last time. Ensure that you know where to park and go if you are presenting in an unfamiliar place – I’d even arrive early to give yourself some wiggle room. Test out any accompanying presentation software or video, if you have visuals, so you don’t run into embarrassing tech problems during the actual presentation. Once all of that is done, let your personality show and deliver your fantastic presentation.
The nerves that come along with public speaking will most likely never go away, which is okay because a little bit of nerves is healthy. But becoming a more prepared public speaker by following these tips can certainly assist in building your confidence. Practice but never memorize, be relatable to your audience, come prepared with relevant and interesting examples and relax! Have a good time and deliver that killer speech.