5 tips for mastering the art of public speaking
Terrified of public speaking? You’re not alone.
Whether you’re just starting out in your career and pitching ideas for the first time or you’re a seasoned industry professional doing panel work, everyone gets nervous about public speaking occasionally.
And although the art of speaking to groups of people (big or small) comes naturally to some, for those who are more introverted, it’s a skill that has to be developed.
Don’t worry — it’s easier than it sounds. We’ve put together five simple steps to help build your confidence…
1. Know your audience
Leading a Zoom meeting? Guest speaker at an event? No matter what you’re doing, you’re addressing this crowd for a reason. So, what is it? Who needs to hear what you’ve got to say — and why?
It’s essential to know who you’ll be in front of so you can tailor your presentation to them — and public speaking is always more manageable (and more successful) when you connect with your audience sooner rather than later.
You’ll feel comfortable, they’ll feel comfortable and the delivery of your speech will be much more engaging.
2. Practice makes perfect
The more familiar you are with every part of your presentation, the more confident you’ll come across.
So, prepare your content beforehand and practice as much as possible — whilst driving, exercising, cooking… anytime and anywhere you can. It can also be helpful to rehearse in front of the mirror to observe how you express yourself and if your body language is engaging. Are you standing up straight? Are you nervously fiddling with your clothes or hands? Is your head down, or are you facing the audience?
Of course, if you consider yourself an introvert, it can be tough to put yourself out there in social settings. But if you take more opportunities to speak in your everyday interactions, it’ll become easier to talk confidently with distractions around, like other people chatting — excellent preparation for addressing crowds.
3. Take your time
Understandably, if you’re anxious about public speaking, you probably want to get it over and done with. But nothing shows nerves more than racing through your presentation…
When practising, time yourself to see how long your first read takes (and ensure you don’t spill over the time you’ve been allotted). Then, try it again with appropriate pauses, which can be great for emphasising key points and engaging with the audience.
It’s also worth considering including some crowd participation in your presentation. If that sounds scary, don’t worry. Throwing questions to the crowd can help take the focus off you for a minute (and act as a good icebreaker if things feel a little tense).
You want to impact the audience in a meaningful way. And to do that, they need to hear what you’re saying. So, remember to speak clearly, pointedly and most importantly — breathe.
4. Don’t be afraid of feedback
Most of us don’t like to ask for feedback, especially when we know the response may include some constructive criticism. But without it, how do we improve?
Feedback can come before or after you’ve addressed your audience. Get your friends, family or colleagues to watch you rehearse and ask what they liked about your presentation, if there’s anything they didn’t understand and what adjustments you could make to improve.
It may also help to film yourself practising to catch bad habits you may not have noticed, like avoiding eye contact or not looking up from your cue cards. When watching it back, take note of your timing, delivery and body language, too.
Plus, you can get plenty of helpful pointers by observing your audience’s reactions. For example, do they look confused or excited? Are they nodding their heads, or do they seem distracted? Working the crowd can seem daunting for a beginner speaker, but picking up on these indicators is a great way to sharpen your skills.
5. Prepare for everything
We hate to bring it up, but… mistakes can happen.
It’s not the end of the world, though. Remember: talking to your audience is okay if things aren’t going to plan. Remember, everyone slips up from time to time, and owning it rather than trying (and probably failing) to cover it up could draw the audience to you a little more. If you’re really stuck, why not lean on audience participation whilst you gather your thoughts?
Directly addressing the audience can create a more inclusive feeling and can make the transition to crowd participation or audience questions look seamless.
Whilst you can’t predict everything a group might ask, it’s good to anticipate possible questions to ensure you’re not caught off guard. Knowing your material back-to-front can also give you the confidence to let the conversation venture down a different path before returning to the main point; that’s the beauty of rehearsing.
Lastly, nothing sucks more than last-minute technical difficulties. Avoid adding more stress to your day by testing equipment and internet connection in your presentation space ahead of time. It can also help to get a feel for the venue where you’ll be speaking, so get there early to ensure everything’s ready for go time.
With these tips under your belt, we hope you’ll have a little more spring in your step next time you step up to the mic…
At The Brew’s offices in Shoreditch, members can take advantage of lightning-fast 1 GB broadband, free-to-use meeting rooms, first-class facilities and much (much) more. Feel free to get in touch with our team at [email protected] for more information.