Public speaking is something that everyone has to deal with at least a few times in their life. Whether it’s giving a toast at a wedding or presenting in front of a class, public speaking is an anxiety that people have to deal with. The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia. It affects about 73% of the population; the biggest part people fear is the idea that people are judging them as they’re speaking or presenting. Having all of those eyes on you is a stressful thing, and it can impact your confidence, posture, and speech fluency. Things like practicing, using humor, and even using a SpeechEasy device (if you have a stutter) can help you give the best presentation you can! Public speaking is inevitable, but you don’t have to go in unprepared! Here are some tips and tricks about how to make a speech like a pro.
Practice, practice, practice
Practicing your speech or presentation will help you to feel more comfortable with the material. Even practicing where to pause, ask questions, and take a breath can help it flow more smoothly. Start by practicing delivering your speech out-loud by yourself; in front of a mirror or recording yourself. Then, ask friends, family, roommates, or anyone that you know that would give constructive criticism about your presentation to sit as your audience. They can help time you, and give you pointers about how you’re presenting. You can also ask them to sit in the audience when you go to give your actual presentation or speech. Then you have a friendly face in the audience!
Use humor and tell stories
When delivering a speech, especially an informal one like a toast or at a family event, using humor and telling stories that you already know can relax you and give the audience a more personal experience. The more the audience feels they know you, the more they will be comfortable and like you. If it’s a formal environment, try to keep the stories to a minimum, but getting the audience to laugh will give your presentation a bit of a comic relief.
Organize your material in a way that helps you
Having your material organized when up in front of others will help you to know what comes next, and relax some of your anxiety. Practicing can help with organizing, and numbering your cards (if you have them) can help to keep track of where you are in your speech. Even putting things such as ((pause)) in your speech to remind you can be helpful. Just make sure you’re doing things to help you present the information in the best way possible, and that your audience understands the information you are presenting.
Know where your hands are
Audience members pay attention to your body language. If they aren’t looking at a screen, they’re most likely going to be looking at you. It’s important to make sure that your body language is appropriate and fluid. You should avoid touching your face and adjusting your clothes and hair, standing with your hands folded in front of you the whole time, and staring at the same spot on the wall or in the audience.
Moving around will help to ease some of the tension you’re feeling, but you shouldn’t pace or rock back and forth. You should stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and if you decide to move from your place on stage, move with a purpose. Don’t pace if it means you’re just pacing to help you relax. You can also stay in the same spot and turn to address another section of your audience, or bring the attention of the audience to something else.
Project your voice
When presenting, sometimes you’ll have a microphone and sometimes you won’t. If you do have a microphone, you will most likely do a sound check before you speak. However, you should do your best to project your voice even if you have a microphone. Projecting doesn’t mean yelling; it means talking with your chest. You can do this by taking a deep breath to open your chest, avoid taking shallow breaths as you speak to control your voice, stand up straight, try to keep your shoulders back, and keep your jaw parallel to the ground. You can go here to learn more ways to help project your voice.
Avoid nervous ticks and filler words
Everyone has a nervous tick they do, especially when presenting. Some people rock back and forth, adjust their hair or glasses, or fidget with their hands. Almost everyone, however, uses filler words such as “um”, “uh”, and “ah.” A lot of times, people use these words when they lose their train of thought or are simply nervous. Practicing can help you avoid these filler words and help with your speech fluency, but if you happen to forget what comes next in your speech, take a drink of water. This will give you time to think about your next topic and give yourself a bit of a refresher.
When you practice your speech, you will most likely hear yourself talking fast. This is perfectly normal for someone who’s nervous, just make sure you slow down your speech. If you have a time limit, adjust the speed of your words to make sure you make that time limit, but you might have to add or take some parts out of your presentation. Talking normally and clearly can help your audience understand the points you’re trying to make and make you seem more confident and knowledgeable.
Make eye contact
As scary as this might sound, making eye contact with your audience will help you appear more confident and credible. Try to find a familiar face or three in the audience. This can help you relax but still maintain eye contact with your audience.
Wear your SpeechEasy device
If you have a stutter and are worried about presenting, you could try a SpeechEasy device! These devices help to reduce stuttering using the “choral effect.” SpeechEasy devices can increase confidence and help you communicate effectively. With the help of our fluency professionals, we want you to be successful and feel supported.
Public speaking can be intimidating, but these tips can help you relax a little more and be prepared for your delivery. The more you practice and work on the skill of public speaking, the better your speech fluency and confidence will become!