My first time speaking in public was like taking my first baby steps. You raise the baby up and leave it standing on its own. It will try to walk , it will fall, next time it will use the chair to hoist itself up so it can try to walk. Nobody taught me how to do it, I just had to wing it and hope for the best.
Uni has been a whole different experience when it comes to public speaking. I have learned that to be good at public speaking I had to practice, learn from my mistakes and learn from the best. So I watch Ted talks(am obsessed), read articles and books on public speaking.
I still feel nervous when am in front of people, but I have learned to transform that nervous energy into something productive. All in all am learning and there is still a lot of things I have to work on to get better and am committed to doing so.
At one point of your life you shall be required to speak in front of Alot of people and I hope that the tips I’ll be sharing in this article will get you through it unscathed.
The first thing we need to discuss when it comes to public speaking is stage fright. Stage Fright or performance anxiety is a state of anxiety or fear which occurs when a person is faced With the requirement of performing in front of an audience. Symptoms include but are not limited to sweaty palms, tremors, stuttering and accelerated heart beat. I feel like understanding our fear of public speaking will go a long way in getting rid of it. A lot of us would be excellent public speakers if we just learned how to manage our fear of public speaking.
There are several ways of overcoming performance anxiety .
1. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Practice in front of your friends and ask them for honest feedback. You can also record your own voice with your phone whilst you practice on your own. You can even practice in front of the mirror so you become aware of your body language.
Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident
2. Remember to breathe
Before going on the stage take deep breaths. This is a way of reassuring your body that you are okay and that you are not in any danger. Also whilst presenting give yourself time to breathe when you’ve made a point. It’s not a marathon so relax.
3. Remember that nobody wants to see you fail and even if they was somebody, think of all the people who are rooting for you to succeed.
4. Forget the feeling of self consciousness by becoming absolved with the topic. Know your topic so well that you can present it without anything to refer to. Keep yourself engaged by the topic that you forget your fear. This is why presenting on a topic that your passionate about is vital.
5. Face an audience as frequently as you can. The bottom line is, “we learn by doing.” Throw yourself in positions that allow you to speak in public as often as possible. This will help you to get used to being in front of a crowd.
Tips to help you to be a better public speaker include:
1. Rehearse: If you want to be better at something you have to practice.internalize your talk before the day you get to present it. Practice delivering the speech so many times until you are comfortable giving it without looking at any cheat sheet. It’s the preparation that allows you to be spontaneous. I know you’re saying i don’t want to look over prepared and rigid but actually practicing has the opposite effect. It helps you to be able to add on some stuff the time you are presenting. You already know your stuff so you can be flexible and spontaneous on stage.
2. Less is more
Make your presentation as simple as possible. Do not bombard your Audience with so many facts in so little time. Focus on one idea and let it carry you through the rest of your presentation. Be able to explain your topic simply.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein
3. Know your audience
Before deciding to give a speech learn about who the audience is going to be. For school presentations your audience is your classmates and the teacher. You’re job is to convince the teacher that you Know what you are talking about and that you can present in front of people with confidence.
One of the greatest speeches I’ve heard recently is Chakwera’s speech during his inauguration as the president of the republic of Malawi. If there’s one thing that Chakwera knows when giving a speech is his audience.
During the inauguration he talks about how we are a broken nation in rubbles. How his administration’s job is to fix this nation. That is exactly what as a nation ridden by corrupt government officials needed to hear. We needed to hear that change was coming
The same goes for you, Know your audience and tailor your message to that audience.
4. Avoid sounding Monotonous
Think of music made by punching the same key of the piano at the same speed over and over again. How does it sound?
Yes it sounds boring
The same goes when you are presenting . Using the same tone, pitch for the rest of the presentation is not appealing.
You’re goal as a speaker should be to portray variety in your speech.
Stress words that are important. Not every word in a sentence is of a special importance.
Change your pitch
My voice is high pitched when am presenting and I find it hard to tone it down. But the volume of your voice is really important to consider when presenting. Pitch can either be high, moderate and low.
Change your pace
At what speed are you presenting? Slow down when making an important point so that the audience will be able to grab your point.
Pause whenever necessary (before or after making an important point).
A pause is important to help you collect yourself. A pause at the right time will help the audience think about what your saying. It will also help you to breathe and be able to control your pace.
5. Internalize your content rather than memorizing it. Know your speech inside out. Make sure that you understand your topic, internalize it to the point that you can say it without referring to anything. This isn’t memorising,it is getting yourself familiar with your content. We don’t want you to sound as a robot spitting out pre coded words, we want you to sound as natural as possible. Thus the need of striking a balance between preparation and flexibility.
You want 80% of it to be prepared and 20% of it to be spontaneous
20% percent of your speech will allow you to add to the things you already prepared on.
6. The 10 minute rule
Attention is a scarce resource. The amount of time it takes for a person to stop paying attention to anything is slowly decreasing. We jump from one activity to another in a few minutes. Think about how your thoughts wonder in no time. The same happens to your audience. You’re Job is to offer your speech in 6-10 minutes before people get distracted. Better still to keep them engaged long enough when you Know that it is around the time that they may lose concentration.
7. What’s the big take away of the speech?
When you’re done offering your speech what is that one message that you want them to take home. As a rule you should be able to articulate it in less than 15 words. It’s something you get back to over and over again as you deliver your speech. This is the point you were trying to make all along as you were presenting. So think about it what message do you want to put across to your audience? Make it simple, make it clear and make impactful.
8. Body language..
Actually where you put your hands matters, Lou(☺️). When you are nervous you try to cover up you’re chest and stomach area. You fold your hands and close your body out from the audience.Always make sure that your arms are away from your chest, and that you’re opening your arms out to the audience. Also remember to smile (<note to self lol). This portrays you as someone who is welcoming , at ease and it shortens the gap between you and your audience. When you smile your telling your listeners , you can trust me, I don’t bite (lol).
9. Connect with your audience
Engage with your audience, ask them questions and make them feel that they are being included in your talk.
10. Never apologize, correct your mistake and move on
Do not apologize for mispronouncing a word, just correct yourself and move on. Do not dwell on that mistake focus on getting the message across for the remainder of the time that you have.
**Tell a story**
Make it personal that way the audience will feel like you trust them and even if it’s not personal make sure it’s driving you to a point you want to make concerning your topic. Chances are people will remember your speech because of the stories you shared
I know you must be thinking that this is a lot to take in and you’re right because there’s more where that came from. Fear not for in time and with practice all this will come naturally to you. Comment down below about your public speaking journey and the tips you think will help you become a better public speaker. Have a great week!