For some individuals, nothing can be more terrifying than speaking in front of a group of people. Such fear creates tension and stress in their body, clouding their minds and leading them to stumble or freeze up during a pivotal moment in their lives that has great potential to boost their image and professional credentials.
They’re not doomed to suffer through the fear for the rest of their lives, however. Through knowledge and guidance from seasoned speaking experts, even the most socially awkward individuals can shine and thrive in the spotlight.
If public speaking creates so much fear and opportunity for ridicule, why would anyone want to put themselves out there? One of the key reasons many people seek to improve their presentation skills is the fact it can lead to greater career opportunities, especially for future leaders. It helps individuals demonstrate their knowledge and their confidence in what they know, and they can gain credibility in their field and visibility within their company. It can take much time and effort, but after a lot of practice and opportunities of speaking in front of others, people can overcome the fear and even grow to savor and pursue many more such moments.
To help you feel more at ease and make your presentations more effective, here are six basic tips to keep in mind, as suggested by Meghan Rothschild, President of ChikMedia and Professor at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
- Prepare your notes – the more you study your subject, the better you will sound. You really need to know the topic that you are speaking about – a lot of people get nervous if they are not comfortable with their subject matter, so make sure you really understand what the most important talking points are going to be backed up with the knowledge to speak confidently about them.
- Practice is important but avoid over-practicing. It’s good to do a run-through but don’t overdo it to the point where you’ve memorized every word and appear robotic and scripted. Ad-libbing at times will help it sound more casual and natural.
- Have some visuals such as a slide presentation prepared. If having everyone staring at you while you’re speaking stresses you out, being able to point and direct attention away from yourself and to your visuals is a good way to ease that discomfort.
- Avoid robotically reading off your visuals. If you’re using slides to enhance your presentations, avoid monotonously reading off the bullet points. Otherwise, you risk losing the attention of your audience.
- Be more conscious about using filler words such as “um,” “like,” and “you know.” Avoiding the use of such words tends to be one of the more difficult habits to form during public speaking sessions. Don’t be afraid of the silence created by gaps in your talking points. By removing those fillers, you’ll sound a lot more polished and professional.
- Give a lot of consideration to your outfit. To help you feel more at ease, think about dressing the part and the image you wish to project, and dress in clothing you feel comfortable in. This will help you feel more secure in the eyes of your audience and keep you from feeling distracted about what you are wearing. Choose your outfit the night before (so you don’t add unnecessary stress to the day of your presentation by fretting over the perfect pieces to wear), try the outfit on, and iron if necessary to give yourself a sharper image.
The most effective way to learn public speaking is to just do it, and have an expert guide you during live rehearsals in either a group or one-on-one setting, depending on your chosen learning environment. Organizations typically offer presentation skills training to those groups of individuals who can best serve as expert voices for their organization’s mission, products, or services. Or individual coaching might be best for those who want more time for individualized feedback to help them refine their techniques.
Here are some options The Denver Training Group offers to help your group or you, as an individual, develop effective presentation skills.
Speaking for Impact
In this session, participants learn more about how to overcome fears and anxieties related to public speaking; how to enhance their content so that it is more accessible, interesting, and dynamic; tips to improve audience engagement; and ideas to maximize the use of their visuals. We also discuss how to use the space they have in the most effective way, the impact of body language, intonation, and expressions, and how to develop a speaking style that is as individual as they are.
Presentation Skills Training
This highly interactive session is designed to help participants better organize, prepare, and deliver effective workplace presentations. Because class size is limited, participants get the opportunity to deliver prepared presentations, which are then reviewed so that participants receive targeted, individual feedback from the facilitator and other participants.
Coaching for Presentations
In our coaching sessions, individuals learn how to play to their strengths, uncover stories and connect them with content, and engage with the material and the audience in an authentic way.