Stop right there, take a deep
breath, and relax. Every public speaker has had a nerve-wracking
experience at least once in his or her life. But it doesn't
have to be that bad, and there are several ways to make your
next public speaking experience less stressful, maybe even fun.
The good news is that public speaking isn't fatal.
The first thing to ask yourself
is to whom will you be speaking? Speaking to a convention of
bankers or investors is completely different than speaking to
a convention of say, meat packers, or giving a toast at a wedding.
Know your audience. If you are giving a speech at a seminar,
you have information to impart to your audience; they're there
because you can teach them something.
Once you've determined who your
audience will be, it's time to prepare your speech or presentation.
The more you know about your topic and the better prepared you
are, the less nervous you'll be, so really get to know your
material. Practice your speech or presentation in front of a
mirror and pay attention to your body language.
Should you bring notes or depend
on your memory? Because it is a stressful time, most speakers
bring notes with them. How awful would it be to become so nervous,
you forgot everything you were going to say, and you just stood
there, trying desperately to remember your speech?
Always take notes with you. This
will give you a sense of security in overcoming fear
of public speaking. But just use them as a guide; don't
recite from your notes, unless you'd like your audience to nap
while you speak to them.
The first thirty seconds are
the hardest to get through, but are of the greatest importance.
In that first thirty seconds, you must grab your audience's
attention; get them interested in what you have to say. You're
probably asking, "How exactly do I do that?" Well,
you could start with a joke, depending of course on your audience.
Humor might not be appropriate for some gatherings. You could
ask a provocative question, or quote a famous person.
Watch your body language. If
you're using a podium, stand naturally behind it; don't grip
the edges, as if you're afraid of being blown off the dais.
Place your notes on the podium, smile at the audience, and while
maintaining eye contact, begin your speech or presentation.
Hand gestures and facial expression are important. Moving about
a little is okay, but try not to pace back and forth across
the stage or dais. It can make your audience nervous.
Remember to take it easy and
not rush through your presentation or speech, pause now and
then, consult your notes when necessary and try to relax. Remind
yourself to speak slowly and clearly, avoiding slang. Stick
to your speech or presentation; try not to go off on tangents
that are sure to confuse your audience.
Know when you're done. Avoid
rambling on, repeating yourself, or going off topic. Tell them
what you need to tell them, give them the information they came
to hear, then wrap it up. If you planned on a question and answer
period, let them know you're ready for their questions. When
you're done, say thank you and walk off the dais.
Dales Carnegie was quoted as
saying that, "Great speakers are not born, they're trained."
That means that, as with most things in life, preparation is
the key. When you're prepared, when all your ducks are in a
row, and you feel like you know what you're doing, you'll be
much less nervous.
So, walk up to that podium, look
your audience in the eyes, smile, act like you own the place,
and begin. You will survive; in fact, you will be good and interesting.
You might even learn to enjoy the experience as a public speaker
once you've learned the process of overcoming fear of