Sweaty palms and forehead; rapidly beating heart; a dry lump settling in your throat; we've all been there. Public speaking can be a challenge even for the most eloquent people. But with these 7 tips even the most nervous person can become a public speaking pro.
1. Practice beforehand. A lot. Practice your assignment/speech/presentation out loud as much as possible before you have to present it. The more comfortable you become with it, the less tied to your notes you will be. Also you will feel more comfortable and this will reflect in the tone of your voice.
2. Use an outline. Unless you are required to read directly from an excerpt or quote, don't read word for word from your notes! Instead, use an outline of your main points and ideas. This will help your delivery sound more natural and will keep you from looking down so often, which affects voice projection.
3. Pause/Take a deep breath. Don't be afraid to pause periodically during your delivery. Not only will this give you a chance to take a deep breath to calm any nerves, it also helps your presentation to not sound rushed. For longer speeches, bring a bottle of water with you. Pausing to take a drink can give you a chance to gather your thoughts for your next point.
4. Eye contact. Being nervous often causes us to avoid direct eye contact with our audience. But it can actually have the opposite effect; making brief eye contact with your listeners helps you seem more confident. It also helps you capture and hold their attention, and see by their facial expressions whether you are convincing them or confusing them.
5. Smile. This may sound like a no-brainer but we often forget to smile when we are nervous. A warm, genuine smile can put your audience at ease, preparing them to listen to what you have to say. It also makes your delivery sound more natural.
6. Introduction/Conclusion matter too. Don't forget that your opening and closing words are just as important as the body of your presentation. The first words you speak will make the difference between captivating and completely losing your listeners' attention. The conclusion is a great time to reiterate important points and motivate your audience to action. End too abruptly, and your whole speech is weakened.
7. Think about what to wear. On the day of your presentation, wear clothing that you feel confident in. But also be careful not to wear anything too flashy or odd, as this would distract your audience from what you have to say.
Thanks for reading, hopefully these points can help you feel more confident the next time you have to speak before a group of people. Remember, improvement takes time so keep practicing and don't be too hard on yourself!