Most people fear speaking in front of a large group of people thinking they look foolish. Public speaking is not an easy task! It takes time and practice to get comfortable in front of an audience.
When you are speaking before an audience, you should be talking with your audience (having a conversation), not talking at them. The structure of your talk is like the research papers you did in school. You have your thesis statement followed by the introduction, body and conclusion. The only difference is you are delivering the information verbally.
Let’s focus on some tips to help you become comfortable in front of your audience.
Know Your Audience: WIIFM: What’s in it for me! Who is your audience? Why should they listen to you? What tips can you provide them to help them get the results they seek?
Your Material: 1. Tell them what you are going to tell them. 2. Tell them. 3. Tell them what you told them. There is no “best” way to organize your speech. There are several different ways to organize, and the method you choose often depends on the topic you select and the objective. Have an outline with a few main points.
Tell them what you’re going to tell them. (Introduction) This is the time where you get to make a “connection” with your audience. WIIFM: What’s in it for me! Research your audience. Where are they now? Where should they be after your presentation?
Tell them. (Body) Develop strong supporting stories. The middle of your talk is where you expand on your key points and develop personal stories that support where you were and where you are now. The amount of information you include in the body will be limited by the amount of time available to you and how much the audience can remember. Give them enough information but don’t bore them with too much detail. Avoid complicated jargon.
Tell them what you told them. (Conclusion) To end your presentation, tell them what you told them. Close on a high note. Summarize your main points in the same way you normally do in the CONCLUSION of a written paper. Leave your audience with a positive impression, a call to action and a sense of completion.
Overcoming Anxiety: Practice! Practice! Practice! Recognize that nervousness can be a positive motivator. Don’t point out that you are nervous. Use notes to help. Have an outline just incase you loose your place. If you stumble, move ahead.
Logistics: Arrive at your destination 30-minutes prior (or earlier) to survey the set-up, so that you can get comfortable. An athlete always arrives at the game early for a warm-up. With speaking, the same concept applies. Go through your warm-up. Make sure your equipment works, do your sound check and work out all the bugs before your presentation and not during.
Visual Aids: These add value to your presentation such as handouts, articles, pictures, diagrams, etc. Make sure you have enough, so that your audience can follow along with you. If you plan to use a hand-out as a take away, hand it out after the presentation so that the focus is on you and not the handout.
Record Yourself: See how you sound prior to delivering your speech. This is the time you can make any necessary adjustments to your speech and help build your confidence.
The best way to get over the fear of speaking is to face your fear head on. Through practice and preparation with the tips above, you will gain greater confidence in public speaking. If you are looking to get ongoing practice, join a local club through Toastmasters International or volunteer to speak at various community groups. You can conquer the fear of speaking in public through patience, practice, and preparation.