There came a time in all our lives that we were forced in a situation to speak in front of an audience. It sounds simple enough right now, but the crippling fear that has gripped your chest then was unforgettable, wasn’t it? Your cold, sweaty hands, the relentless pounding of your heart, and your weakened knees that refuse to bring you further. Whether you survived that terrifying ordeal or not, if you can only help it, you don’t want to return that feeling again, right?
“Stage Fright” is not a phobia about stages, as the name implies, but it is close to that. Being the center of attention and the spotlight, it disables most people’s thinking process and oftentimes destroys one’s ability to form coherent sentences altogether. This barrier may be the greatest hurdle in either starting a good speech or stopping dead in your words before you can even speak.
It’s a good thing to know a couple of tips from experts on how to enhance your speaking skills, and you’ll see that it doesn’t take a lot to be a good public speaker. As with everything, it just takes some getting used to, and drawing from your past experiences to further enhance this skills.
Here are some good tips to get you started;
1. Prepare Yourself!
Create your presentation with lots of time to spare and make notes on all of the points you want to make for each slide. This time will help you ensure that all the materials you need exist and allow for plenty of practice. If you are going to use a handout, then make sure you have these ready in advance (this is also a useful backup in case of technical difficulties).Give your presentation to the mirror, your partner/mum/housemate, video camera. Get feedback and watch the recording. Establish where your difficulties lie and any bad habits you might have. Fix them with more practice or by altering the talk. If there are any difficult to pronounce words or technical jargon, then make sure you can say them. The correct pronunciation and knowledge of industry language will give you credibility.
2. Refine Your Body Language
Be aware of your body language. Face your audience and stand with your feet hip distance apart. Always remember to make eye contact, but not for too long! Don’t remain rigid, hiding behind a lectern. Also, move around freely, but don’t pace. Own the available space on the stage.
Avoid crossing your arms, clasping your hands behind or in front of your body or hands in pockets. And don’t fiddle with anything. Keep your hands free for expressive gesticulation.
3. Know Your Audience
Understand who your audience is. This can range from regular students to colleagues and superiors at work. Remember that what you say will only matter to people that are on the same wavelength as you. Reception is a lot easier when proper research is done, and you know your audience well enough, especially what things can hold their attention for a considerable amount of time.
4. Control Your Feelings
Easier said than done, but understanding how your nerves affect your ability to speak publicly is a good start. Knowing what might happen will help to calm your nerves and carry on if they start. Firstly, the more prepared you are, the better and less nervous you will be and the better you will be able to deal with any mishaps. Do not drink caffeine beforehand it will heighten your anxiety. But do take water in case you get a dry mouth. Also, eat something beforehand, a low sugar level won’t help to dispel any nervous thoughts and will also affect your concentration levels. Don’t tell the audience you are nervous. Nearly everyone suffers from some anxiety about public speaking; it is rarely as obvious from the outside as it feels.
If necessary, use breathing and relaxation techniques before you begin to help settle any last minute jitters.
5. Minimize Your Notes
Although you should have written notes on all of the points you want to make for each slide, don’t take them into the presentation with you.
They become something to hide behind to help contain your nerves. If you are looking down at your notes, then you aren’t engaging with your audience. If you aren’t engaging with your audience, then they aren’t listening properly. Additionally, if you are reading directly from notes then your tone of voice will likely be flat, and you will have minimal stage presence. If this is the case, you might be talking about the most exciting topic on the planet, and your audience may well still be nodding off.
6. Learn from your mistakes
Every time you give a presentation, take some time afterwards to think about what worked and what failed. If it went well, consider what made it go well. If it went badly, analyse where and how it went wrong so that next time you can change your strategy and ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again.