The Fear of Public Speaking
Public speaking can give even the bravest of us jitters. For some, however, there’s just no escaping it. In professional as well as personal life, you’ll find yourself facing the lectern and handling a microphone quite a few times.
Whether you need to give a toast at your sibling’s wedding or make a fund-raising speech at your local club, these tips can have ’em hanging on to your every word. (Or at least every other one.)
Know your audience. The first question to ask yourself is: What is my role here as a speaker? Are you there to entertain the audience? Mentor them? Teach them a certain skill? When you know what your role is, it’s easy to figure out what to include and what to skip in the speech. Depending on the audience type, your tone and vocabulary should vary too. You wouldn’t speak to a group of scientists the same way you would to a roomful of recent college grads.
Write it down. If you know in advance that you’ll be speaking at an event, do some homework. Start out by listing the points you want to make in an outline form, then gradually fill in most of your speech. Writing crystalizes your thoughts, and you won’t find yourself groping for words during the performance.
Don’t let them see how nervous you are. Even seasoned speakers find themselves gripped with anxiety around the start of delivery. The time-tested approach to deal with this scenario is to take deep breaths. It also helps to indulge in light conversation with the people around you. Don’t worry too much about doing something silly or mispronouncing a word or two. Most people won’t hold it against you if you make a good overall impression. Try to see the audience as a group of friends who wish you well.
Connect with your audience. It’s important to keep the audience interested throughout the speech. You don’t want them dozing off. Different strategies work on different types of audiences, but it helps in almost all situations to include some humor (unless you are speaking at a funeral). If you use statistics, keep them to a minimum. Visual presentations can also be a great way to keep people focused.
Be yourself. Some speakers try hard to impress the audience. Using hand gestures or body language is fine if it comes naturally, but don’t try too hard to fake it. Capitalize on the qualities you do have. You’ll appear much more genuine, and your audience will pick up on it.