Tips for successful public speaking
Most inexperienced speakers talk faster on stage than they realize – and it’s completely understandable. When you’re giving your talk, you’re nervous, anxious, and you’re trying to hold all the information you need to present in your head. All you want to do is get through your speech so you can get off the stage and go someplace where people can’t judge you.Unfortunately, this can cause you to rush through your speech far too quickly, which make the information you’re presenting hard to understand. Taking the time to make these pauses can also help you eliminate the use of verbal pauses in your speech – words including um, err, like, you know, kind of, etc? When you become used to pausing deliberately for effect, you start becoming able to do so when you simply need to think.
Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Body language is important for a couple of reasons:
- Non-verbal communication – of which your body language is a large part – compliments verbal communication. Your posture, the way you hold yourself, the way you move your hands… all these facets of body language can help to refine and reinforce what you’re talking about.
- Body language that you’re not aware of can hurt you. Most of us have little nervous tics that we do without noticing; mine was putting my hand in and out of my pocket over and over. I’d also pace around the room too much.
Here’s a list of some common nervous tics you can watch out for:
- Pacing back and forth or “wandering the stage”
- Tapping your feet
- Touching your face or playing with your hair
- Fidgeting with your fingers
- Playing with your pockets or other parts of your clothes or jewelry
- Rubbing the back of your neck
- Looking back at your slides too often
- Swinging your arms back and forth
If you can pinpoint and eliminate the nervous tics you do unconsciously and learn to utilize intentional gestures for dramatic effect, you’ll be able to hold the audience’s attention much more effectively.
Make Eye Contact
When you’re speaking on stage, you’re addressing everyone in the room – each person sitting in a seat (and maybe standing if you’re really popular) is part of the audience.Unfortunately, many inexperienced speakers get nervous and fixate on one section of the audience during their entire presentation. Don’t do this.
Instead, regularly move your gaze to different parts of the audience, making sure you move over the entire audience during your talk. Try to make eye contact with people all throughout the room. People are far back enough that they probably can’t tell if you’re making direct eye contact or not, and you can still comfortably move your head and focus on different parts of the audience.
Breathe and exercise before your speech
There are two main reasons for doing a little bit of light exercise before you go up on stage and speak. Firstly, it gets your blood circulating and brings oxygen to your brain, allowing you to think clearer. Light exercise is recommended because it burns the cortisol out of your system. Cortisol, a major stress chemical is made by your body when you’re anxious and stressed. It can also tighten your voice and interfere with your ability to conveying positive body language.
Here’s a way to practice more efficiently: Bring a video camera with you and film your practice runs.Once you are done, see your recording and focus on your body language and voice modulation. You’ll easily notice and find out in which aspects you can improve.
Realize How Your Audience Views You
Two different categories of audiences:
- Supporters – people who care about you, are invested in your topic, and want see you succeed.
- Bored people – those who would rather be elsewhere. Their minds are in the clouds, and whatever you do probably won’t affect them much.
There’s a key realization you should have here. Your supporters are cheering you on through the good and bad; they’ll forgive your mistakes. That means their opinions of you don’t matter.Don’t let the potential reactions of bored people cause you unnecessary anxiety during your speech.After the speech is over, you can take any constructive criticism into account for future performances.
Focus on Your Topic, Not Your Performance
When you’re developing your speech, try to get invested in the topic and focus on the transformation you want it to have on your audience. While you are speaking about a topic it is always advised that you provide your audience with facts and figures. Anybody can come and share their experiences and views and mug up a sheet of paper and speak, but an effective communicator will provide the facts and statistics to make an impact. Never give personal life examples. State the examples that are known to your audience so that they can relate.It’s amazing just how much less scary a talk is once you focus on your audience and figure out exactly what you want to deliver to them.Once you do that, you’re no longer thinking so much about the technical aspects of your performance – your eye contact, body language, whether or not your fly is down, etc. When you’re really invested in your topic, your speech becomes almost as easy as simply explaining something to a friend in a casual setting.
Stick to the 18-minute rule
A TED presentation can be no longer than 18 minutes. Eighteen minutes is the ideal length of time to get your point across. Researchers have discovered that “cognitive backlog,” too much information, prevents the successful transmission of ideas. The 18 minutes speech is “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.”
Deliver jaw-dropping moments
The jaw-dropping moment—scientists call it an ‘emotionally competent stimulus’— is anything in a presentation that elicits a strong emotional response such as joy, fear, shock, or surprise. It grabs the listener’s attention and is remembered long after the presentation is over.
Favour pictures over text
PowerPoint is not the enemy. Bullet points are. Some of the best TED presentations are designed in PowerPoint. Regardless of the software, there are no bullet points on the slides of the best TED presentations. There are pictures, animations, and limited amounts of text—but no slides cluttered with line after line of bullet points. This technique is called “picture superiority.” It simply means we are much more likely to recall an idea when a picture complements it.
Don’t start talking right away
When you walk up to the podium, just remain silent for a few seconds. Don’t start talking as soon as you get the mike in your hands. You will surely trip on your words. Take a few seconds and breath. Your audience will appreciate this since it shows that you are calm, composed and your thoughts are synchronized. Don’t pause for too long, though.
Get to bed at a decent hour the night before
Have a relaxing activity before bed. Stop reviewing your slides or other materials at least an hour before bed so you can give yourbrain a break. And don't drink alcohol the night before a big presentation - your quality ofsleep can be affected. Also put out your entire outfit the night before.