Speaking isn't something that all of us feel confident in doing all the time - especially public speaking. Here are some tips to help you improve in this area.Caitlyn Lowe
When you ask most people how they feel about public speaking, most of them will admit it’s one of their greatest fears. However, this is also one of the most valuable skills in the business world today. Here are some things you should know so you can conquer your fear.
Witt Com says you should expect to be nervous – even when you have experience in this arena. Instead of trying to eliminate your jitters, try to turn them into energy that helps you give your speech.
Fast Company says the key here is to practice giving a speech frequently. Make sure you know what you’re going to say and why you’re going to say it. Stand up and practice moving around and reciting your speech out loud. You don’t need to memorize your speech verbatim – just make sure you remember the points and pretend like you’re explaining it to a friend. You should also practice using a microphone and consider taping yourself giving your speech while doing so. This helps you with pacing, pauses, clarity, and volume. Joining Toastmasters or working with a coach are other great options here.
In the thirty seconds before you begin speaking, make sure you take three slow, deep breaths through your nose, filling your belly. As you breathe out, silently tell yourself to relax. It’s also a good idea to hold your head high and roll back your shoulders – not just so you look confident, but also to improve the sound of your voice. Having good posture will help you breathe better so you can project your voice, allowing it to resonate clearly throughout the room.
You should also use your hands. Experts say that the body language that accompanies your speech is just as important as the words themselves. Audiences believe that you have more positive traits (e.g. warmth, energy) when you use various gestures. Of course, you want to be careful here because fiddling with clothing and touching your hair can distract your audience or convey a lack of confidence on your behalf. The contrary is also true though: Using your hands as you speak communicates excitement and expertise.
Stage fright is rooted in self-preoccupation – wondering how you’re doing and if you’re making any sense. If you stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on your audience instead, you’ll lose your stage fright. You can do this by asking your audience how they are, whether they understand or agree with what you’re saying, and by expressing gratitude. Researchers say there’s definitely a link between gratitude and confidence. By showing gratitude you’re creating a positive atmosphere and helping your audience continue moving forward. When you start your speech by saying something as simple as, “Thanks for coming,” you’ll convey confidence from the start.
Don’t try to pack too much into your speech. Instead, keep it short and simple – aiming to convey just one basic idea. This way you don’t rush, making your audience feel like you’re talking at them instead of with them. Of course, you also don’t want to speak too slowly or you’ll put them to sleep. Ideally, you should aim for about 190 words per minute. You can easily do this if you don’t fill your speech with caveats and filler phrases (e.g. “This is just my opinion,” “Sorry,” “I’m still working on this,” “Well,” “I mean”). While this is a matter of habit or nervousness for most people, these caveats and fillers can damage the confident tone you’re trying to strike. Simply say what you mean and nothing else. It’s also important that you don’t articulate statements as questions. Doing so will make you sound like you’re not confident – something you definitely want to avoid.
In the days leading up to your presentation, you should practice relaxation techniques. Simply lie or sit down comfortably in a quiet place, close your eyes, slow your breathing, and imagine giving your upcoming speech with confidence. It’s also important to take care of yourself and your vocal cords. By being hydrated your voice will sound better. The best way to do this is to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day instead of waiting until you feel thirsty, at which time it’s too late.
Talk to Strangers
Talking to strangers without looking at them helps you to bring out your thoughts easily. They won’t notice how nervous you are. They don’t know if your palms are sweating, your knees are knocking, or your heart is pounding if you don’t tell them. Simply smile, stick your chest out, look confident, and give a speech you can be proud of.
Make your audience your allies by talking to them before you give your speech and getting to know them. As you deliver your speech, make sure you look them in the eye. When your audience sides with you, your job as a speaker becomes easier. This is also why it’s important to insert smiles into your speech – plus they’re contagious. Smiling does several things for you, including:
• Making your voice sound more pleasant to listen to
• Conveying confidence
• Making you appear friendly, approachable, and composed
Smiling is a great thing to do when there’s silence. You need to learn a few other ways in which you can also use silence to your advantage because it’s bound to occur throughout your speech. Unfortunately, this is something that many people don’t conquer. Instead, they let silence become their biggest public speaking fear. They worry that they’ll forget an important idea, lose their train of thought midway through a sentence, or that when they try to engage their audiences by asking them questions nobody will respond. However, you shouldn’t worry about silence. You should use it to project your confidence instead. Remember, your audience needs strategic pauses so they can retain and understand the important points you’ve made. Being able to live with this makes you appear more confident.