Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Does public speaking fill you with terror? Maybe you’ve done it often enough it’s not so scary. For the rest of us, we’d rather have our nails torn out with a pair of pliers than present in front of a crowd.
However, if it’s part of your job description, you need to get better at it.
To help you, I’ve summarised tips from two experts. The next time you have to give an executive sales briefing, tell your solution story to prospective customers, give a speech at work or deliver face-to-face training, you’ll be a more poised and engaging presenter.
1. Get organised. Organised thoughts and materials help you become much more relaxed and calm.
2 Practice and prepare extensively. We don’t have to labour this point but proper preparation and lots of practice makes you a confident presenter.
3.Eliminate fear of rejection. Try to eliminate all fears of rejection. The audience is there to listen to you for a reason.
4. Focus on patterns. When you speak try to get into a rhythm or flow. Keep your sentences short and to the point and repeat key points. A short pause between points adds anticipation to what you’re going to say next.
5. Watch yourself in the mirror if you really want to improve your public speaking skills. Pay attention to your facial expressions, gestures and body movements, and how welcoming you appear. What you want to strive for is a calm demeanour and friendly expression.
6. Record yourself and learn your voice. Record your speech on your phone or video camera. Listen or watch and make notes on how you can make it better.
7. Give your speech to another person. Practice in front of others and ask them to give you honest feedback to further improve. Practising in front of others also mimics the real event and helps relax you into the speech.
8. Focus on the material and not the audience. While you should make good eye contact in the room, focus on delivering your material in the best possible way. Don’t worry about audience’s reactions.
9. Don’t over think audience reactions. There is always going to be someone in the audience on their phone or yawning. Don’t take these reactions personally.
10. Avoid talking too fast. If you talk too fast you will breathe less. Panic and fear follow. Practice slowing down and you will be more calm and relaxed.
11. Have pride in your work and recognise your success. Your biggest critic is you. When you finish a speech or delivering a presentation, give yourself a pat on the back. You overcame your fears and you did it.
12. Develop a plan to improve your next speech. Practice makes perfect. If your presentation was filmed, watch it and take notes on how you can improve on it next time. Ask feedback from peers that were with you. Did you seem stiff or make weird facial expressions? Did you use ‘um’ or other verbal fillers and ticks? How was your rhythm?
1. Start drinking water 15 minutes before you start talking. This will alleviate dry mouth.
2. Psych yourself up, not out. Notice and avoid negative self-talk. Instead repeat phrases like, “It will be great”. “I can’t wait to share my content”. Repeating the word, ‘YES’ over and over also boosts confidence.
3. Use your body’s nervous energy for good. To release nervous energy and calm yourself, do something physical before you get on stage like shaking your hands out or listening to a favourite song.
4. Focus on something outside of yourself. Another trick to help you relax is to focus on something else like looking for the colour green in the room or deciding to pay attention to the type of shoes your audience is wearing. It shifts your focus to what’s going on in your body and mind.
5. Focus on your breath when you feel the adrenaline. If you feel panicked, practice breathing in and out slowly and evenly 3 or 4 times.
6. Beware of repetitive motion. You might have a habit of unconsciously swaying or shifting your weight from foot to foot. However, repetitive movements are distracting. To stop doing this, practice with someone who can point it out to you, or rehearse in front of a mirror.
7. Think about how to use movement wisely. “You can walk,” says Barnett, “but not pace. You can step forward and or back, but not rock.” These are just as bad as swaying. Here’s her tip to move in a way that adds to your talk rather than detracts from it. Practice moving to make a new point. Come closer to your audience when the content calls for it.
8. Use your tone to strengthen your words. Your tone should support your topic. Don’t deliver great news in a monotone voice or serious news too excitedly. To settle on the right tone across your speech, go through the text and tag what each section means. The right tone can strengthen your message.
While you can find a multitude of tips on the Web, the above advice covers most things you need to do to improve your public speaking and presenting skills today. If you’re a sales executive or solution specialist that relies on PowerPoint when presenting, see my article on 20 PowerPoint Tips To Help You Create Potent Presentations.