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Advice on public speaking

March 28th, 2013 by Darja Valujeva

Public speaking is a necessary and essential part of building your business and advancing your career. Fear of speaking publicly, however, is very common; but if you manage to get it under control this skill can be one of the most powerful in your arsenal. There are a lot of ways to overcome your fear and improve your presentation skills, starting with working on physical aspects like your voice and posture, and finishing with psychological ones. Here are some of them to get you started:

  • Get familiar with the environment you will be speaking in. Walk around the room, try out the microphone (if you have one) and check out the space - knowing about this will put you at ease once you have to speak.
  • Know the material you're presenting, do a very thorough research and prepare a mock up of questions that you might get asked. When it comes to giving important speeches it is very difficult to simply 'wing it' so write up the speech and practice it, although you can always leave a bit of space for improvisation if you want to.
  • Practice makes it perfect; practice the speech to yourself, practice with a friend, practice until you feel absolutely comfortable with it. And don't forget to breathe! Correct breathing makes you sound more confident. This is something you can practice as well, independent of the speech itself.
  • Positive thinking only! Negativity will not get you anywhere, but if you believe in yourself, that you will be great out there - that's the way it will be!
  • Know your audience and tailor speech according to it. Depending on who they are you can predict what they're expecting from you and that is exactly what you're going to present them with. Sometimes, when it is appropriate (and only then) you can use a bit of humour to lighten up the mood.
  • Don't stress too much: relax! After all you are the only one who knows how the speech is supposed to go and even if you skip a sentence or a slide nobody is going to notice. The same goes for not giving yourself out - no one else knows if you're nervous or not, let them think you have it under control.
  • Slow down when speaking: fast talking is one of the most obvious indicators of nervousness. By pacing yourself to speak in a normal (or slightly slower) manner, you will seem calm, it will give you time to think about your topic and it also makes it easier for the listener to comprehend the information.
  • Make eye contact and look at the people you're speaking to. It makes you look more confident and allows you to be in control of what is happening as well as puts your audience at ease.
  • Everyone makes mistakes so don't panic if you do. If you mixed up the words or tripped on the steps - not a problem, acknowledge it and move on.
  • Keep it short and to the point. Especially when it comes to business, people want to see that you can articulate yourself clearly and won't go on for ages with unnecessary details.
  • Do what's best for you, whether it's memorising the speech, using the visual aids or creating small note cards - first of all you have to be comfortable, then everyone else will see you know what you're talking about.
Categories: Public speaking