Whether you have a small meeting, conference or training session, speaking in front of an audience can be a daunting experience. From novice to veteran public speakers, the fear and anxiety it brings can be one that is pretty hard to shake off. No matter how frequently you have spoken in front of others, for many of us it is something that does not come naturally.
Glossophobia (aka the fear of public speaking) is something that we will all have to deal with in our careers. This fear can stem from either social anxiety, fear of being judged or misjudged and worried about what others think of you for example. Young professionals in particular, are increasingly finding it difficult to speak in front of a crowd, conduct meetings, interviews, sales pitches or even training sessions. This can be attributed to the fact that millennials spent large portions of their childhood using technology. This has in turn fed the fear of speaking in front of real life people, as they are used to communicating via text, email or social media.
However, unbeknown to them, these millennials are sharing their opinions daily to vasts amounts of people via social media but veiled behind accounts created on the internet instead of in the presence of others. Public speaking is an essential and mostly unavoidable part of working life and the fear that comes along with this can restrict young professionals from progressing careerwise. Minimising those fears and honing your public speaking skills, may just be the missing ingredient to achieving your long-term goals and excelling at work.
Here are Mentimeter’s top tips to improve your public speaking skills:
Yes you’ve heard that one before, but it is true failure to prepare means prepare to fail. For some, knowing the words off by heart can help, for others memorising your words can cause you to stumble if you forget something. However, practicing in front of the mirror or in front of family and friends, on the other hand will massively help you feel better and remember what you want to say. Writing out a list of key points or a cheat sheet that you can bring with you to help out if you trip up will be beneficial to overcome such hurdles. Unlike the cliché saying, practice does not make perfect and you can rest assured that you are not expected to be. Try and improve your public speaking skills to deliver a better speech instead of adding extra pressure to make it perfect.
The structure of your presentation is important to clearly deliver your message and to not confuse the audience. Making sure you have clear, concise points and that the presentation is clearly set out, with a beginning, middle and end will only positively assist you in conveying your message.
People don’t just like to sit and listen to someone speaking but they like to see and envision your ideas and thoughts. Visuals during a presentation can help to capture and maintain the audience's attention, whilst supporting and enhancing your speech. A word of caution, too many visuals can be distracting and take away from the main points, so finding the right balance is key.
Now this may be easier said than done, but by imagining you are not in front of your boss or more senior colleagues you'll straight away feel more relaxed. Remember that we are all humans and humans make mistakes. Coming to terms with that fact and knowing how to recover after stumbling, for example by using your notes will greatly help avoid clamming up.
The perfect way to get over those pre-presentation nerves is to try and break the ice with the audience with either a quiz or fun interactive question. Not only does this increase engagement, but it quickly gets the audience interested in the subject matter.
Tip: this also makes the audience look at the screen instead of having all eyes on you in the first few minutes giving you a chance to find your feet, relax and deliver a successful presentation.
Simple yet effective, the magic of knowing when and how to use a pause when presenting can give you so much power to control the flow and tempo of the presentation. Not only this, but it can help you to avoid using pointless filler words such as ‘like’, ‘you know’ and ‘um’ which in turn will make you look like a pro-presenter. It can also help the audience to absorb information and give both parties time to reflect and process what has been discussed.
You don’t have to stick to a rigid script, instead be flexible and reactive to how the audience respond. For example, by discussing questions that arise when you on a particular slide.
The most important part of any awesome presentation is that you try to have fun. That can seem impossible when your nerves take over, but letting your personality shine through will make it more interesting. By showing your passion and expertise, you can add your personal touch to the presentation instead of looking like you are reading from a monotonous script. Try and find your niche or your way of presenting and experiment with ways that can minimise your nerves.
Although you may want to completely forget what just happened, reflection and asking for feedback can help you improve your future presentations. This can help you boost how effectively you deliver your point of view, business ideas and ultimately progress your career.
For the majority of you, the ambition isn’t to become a professional public speaker, but instead the main goal is to effectively express yourself so others can understand and connect with the message you are portraying. There isn’t a right or wrong way to present. Being clear and communicating authentically is the ultimate goal, and just think you’ve been doing that your whole life with family and friends. Remember some of the most mesmerizing speakers don’t follow traditional public speaking rules, yet they capture the audience's attention and inspire great things!