Public speaking is a part of life we all have to face at one point or another, whether you’re pitching your revolutionary new product to investors, giving a passionate speech to a hall full of students, or simply toasting a happily newlywed couple.
A lot of people believe that public speaking isn’t for them as they have marred memories of nervously giving presentations at school. These childhood experiences usually carry right over to adulthood and stop us from ever giving a presentation again.
Public Speaking For Grown-Ups
Some of us flourish in public speaking environments, while others are sent into a spiral of panic, making the task of expressing oneself publicly and convincing others a mountainous mission.
If you find you fall more into this latter category, you’ll be pleased to hear you’re not alone. A study conducted in 2016 by the American National Institute of Mental Health, found that 74 percent of Americans have Glossophobia, or, speech anxiety.
This isn’t all that surprising when you consider how many people you know dread giving speeches, but it becomes a real problem when this fear works its way into the workplace and holds up the production line. Those of us who struggle with this phobia are suddenly unable to carry out standard tasks, such as giving a presentation or sharing thoughts in a meeting.
So for those who sit in that anxious range, here are some handy tips to give you a boost of confidence!
Tip 1: Put the Spotlight on the Audience
When you’re giving a presentation, your main objective isn’t to convince yourself, it’s to convince the audience, so on top of your mountains of research you’ve poured into the topic, make sure you also research your audience.
Instead of thinking a million “what ifs” about how your presentation will go, try to re-shift your focus back onto the spectators and ask yourself different questions, such as “what does my audience want to hear about?” or “how can my presentation help my audience?”
Also remember to tailor your speech to suit the industry with language that the audience will understand. If they’re new to the topic, keep the language simple and easy to digest, and if they use particular industry jargon, do the same.
Tip 2: Reconsider Your End Goals
Most of us tend to set our expectations so high when it comes to presentations that, no matter how well we execute it, we’re disappointed with the result. Even worse, some get so caught up in wanting to deliver the absolute perfect presentation, their anxiety just about crushes them before they even utter their first line.
Something humbling to keep in mind here is that your presentation is not going to be perfect. It’s just not. Even if you’ve watched countless TED talks and practised myriad Shakespeare soliloquies, that illusion of perfection you’re after isn’t all that attainable.
Instead, it’s best to focus on how your presentation is going to connect with your audience, and how compelling your argument is. When writing your speech, consider using humour, personal stories and hard data as persuasive tools, depending on the context of your presentation.
Humour is a great way to break the ice and actively engage with your audience, short and sweet stories of the Feel, Felt, Found kind add personal credibility, and hard data that’s correctly sourced will always add compelling value to your argument.
Tip 3: Keep Calm and Be Prepared
At the end of the day, you’ll naturally have a world of confidence if you’ve well and truly prepared beforehand. It’s always a bonus if you happen to be passionate about the topic you’re presenting, but even if you’re not, make sure you’ve double-checked all facts and figures and have a list of possible audience questions to answer.
Preparation also means having all your technology and visual aids working and ready to go. Audio-visuals will help break up your presentation and give your audience something interesting to focus on, plus they’ll ease the pressure of delivering a hearty speech.
Thorough research, strict organisation and a pre-emption of audience questions will allow you to rehearse your main points, and shake out any fumbling nerves you may have. Then, when you’re confident you know your topic back to front, and you’ve practised to iron out any kinks, you’ll find your anxiety turns into excitement, which is a much more positive emotion.
So if you have haunting memories of delivering speeches to your school buddies and now, in adulthood, you find you don’t have a voice in meetings, take comfort knowing you can overcome this with these handy tips.
Now that you have this insight under your belt, check out Canity’s Presentation Skills module to become a confident public speaker in no time!