Fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears there is, and it’s no wonder. It’s natural (even biological) to feel at least a little anxious about standing in front of a group of people who all have their eyes and ears on you. Despite the tension speaking in front of peers kicks up, public speaking skills are skills worth developing. It could do wonders for your career. Let’s take a look at some tips for becoming a better public speaker.
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1. Find that healthy level of fear.
You might feel relieved to know that a little anxiety could actually be good for your public speaking skills. Moderate amounts of arousal enhance performance. However, too much anxiety is certain to do just the opposite. Finding that sweet spot between the two is the tricky part. But, it’s helpful to know that a touch of fear (or, at least anxiety) can be harnessed to your advantage.
Connecting to your audience makes all the difference in terms of how your talk will be perceived. There are a lot of different ways to connect. Making eye contact with audience members along the way, smiling, being aware of body language, these are just a few things to keep in mind. Similarly, consider your audience when preparing your talk. Prepping something that is just right for the group who will hear it, a talk that’s custom-tailored to them, will build that connection from the inside out.
3. Be engaged to be engaging.
It’s important to hold the audience’s attention when you deliver a talk. Making the group laugh, giving them a little extra something, maybe something surprising, to think about, or just presenting information in a unique way, will help them stay engaged.
First and foremost, it’s important that you find the topic (and ultimately, your talk) interesting. If the subject doesn’t excite you, it will be almost impossible to present it in a way that excites others. If you’re engaged, they will be too. Keep working through the preparation stage of your presentation until that light bulb of inspiration is revealed – then prepare a creative and engaging talk. It will come more naturally if you’re feeling fully invested.
4. Make it fun.
If you’re having fun, your audience will too. Imagine a stand-up comic who seems anxious, afraid, or even worse, bored. It’d be pretty hard for them to make you laugh, right? You want your presentation to be fun, and people are easily led to water that they’re excited to drink. In other words, if you’re genuinely having fun, your audience won’t resist jumping in and having fun with you. Laugh a little. Smile. Get excited about what you’re talking about. Tell stories to make your talk pop. Try your best to make this a fun experience for everyone – your talk is sure to go over very well if you do.
5. Speak slowly.
Actually, “speak unusually slowly,” says Simon Sinek, the naturally shy and also frequently viewed TED Talk speaker. It might be a good idea to talk so slowly you wonder if it’s a little too much. A lot of folks demonstrate rushed speech when they’re nervous. This can detract from the confidence the audience feels in the speaker’s overall ability – not to mention the way talking too fast can affect the clarity of the speech itself.
If your audience sees you as confident they’ll be more inclined to feel good about your talk. Start this ball rolling right from the beginning.
“A lot of people start talking right away, and it’s out of nerves. That communicates insecurity and fear,” Sinek says. Instead, he recommends walking quietly onto the stage, taking a deep breath, and waiting just a few seconds before beginning. “I know it sounds long and tedious and it feels excruciatingly awkward when you do it. But it shows the audience you’re totally confident and in charge of the situation.”
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