When asked to speak in front of a large group (or even a small one), many of us become anxious about our performance, convinced that we’re going to bomb. Instead of getting excited about an incredible opportunity to captivate and inspire the audience with our thoughts or work, we become self-conscious and shut down.
While becoming an amazing public speaker takes years of practice, there are fortunately plenty of practical steps that you can begin taking today to help you feel more confident about speaking in public. Whether you’re addressing your team at the office, speaking in front of hundreds at a convention, or even just sharing a story at a party, here are 5 ways to be a better speaker.
- Be prepared – This one may seem obvious, but there’s more to being prepared than having a killer PowerPoint presentation or all of your notecards in order. Being prepared means knowing your topic backwards and forwards, so that should there be a technical glitch (and there often is!), you will feel confident carrying on your talk with relying on computers or notes. You also want to be sure you’re well rested, well groomed and relaxed.
- Know your audience – Whatever you say should be custom tailored to what the audience is expecting to hear. Find out as much as you can about your audience before your talk. You not only want your subject matter to be relevant, but also how you present the information should be appropriate to the audience (formal, casual, etc.).
- Be interactive – Relying too heavily on a script or PowerPoint will only lead to a boring drone that audiences tune out. Involve the audience by asking questions, and don’t be afraid to ask questions that you don’t know the answer to; it will humanize you and show that you’re in the experience together. Share relevant personal stories or anecdotes that make the talk more engaging.
- Don’t focus on “the sell” – Many people in business feel like they always have to pitching or focusing on sales when they speak in public. This, however, only adds more pressure to an already anxious situation, and usually turns off your listeners. Focus on ensuring that the audience will benefit, both personally and professionally, from what you say, and you’ll have done all the selling you need to.
- Keep it abstract – Studies have shown that people we perceive as powerful speakers use abstract language, rather than getting bogged down in the details. Use broader terms to convey the bigger picture and larger narrative, instead of worrying about cramming in one more slide or fact.
What qualities do you admire about great speakers?