What better way to quell your fear of public speaking than by taking a public speaking course? “It will be fun,” they said. A couple weeks later, I found myself in front of a bunch of strangers, regretting not wearing deodorant and clutching onto my notecards for dear life.
My plan was to write out my speech on a stack of notecards while alternating glances strategically enough so that my teacher wouldn’t notice that I was reading straight from my notecards.
Needless to say, the first presentation didn’t go so well, but as they say – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So, here are 7 tried and true tips from someone who struggled (and prevailed!) through a semester of presenting weekly.
- Start in advance. Presentation making is a process of devising, revising, and rehearsing. Take your audience on a journey and with every journey lies a very well planned beginning and end. Plus, the extra practice will make you a whole lot more comfortable on the big (presentation) day!
- Be concise. Don’t tell us everything there is to know about a particular topic. Instead talk about the parts that are particularly salient to you. And of course convince your audience why they should care as well.
- When writing out your speech think about how your favorite actor might approach his or her new movie role. If you’re Sofia Vergara, Johnny Depp, or Denzel Washington odds are you’re going to add your own personal flair to the script. It’s called improvising and this is the mindset you should have when jotting down what you want to say to your audience. Form an outline hitting key themes, ideas, and phrases that your audience needs to know, but avoid pigeonholing yourself into scripted dialogue. It’s best to keep things natural; if you’ve memorized your presentation to a tee, it robs the audience of the natural dialogue and the flow that a great presentation needs.
- Know your audience. Think about it… How might you present to a class of 5th graders compared to a group of parents? To point you in the right direction, try gauging how much your audience knows about your topic. Using technical language may lose your audience; however, watering down your slides may also cause you to lose effectiveness by making your presentation seem repetitive.
- Craft an awesome opener. If you’ve always been the class clown, crack a couple of jokes relevant to your topic. If comedy isn’t your strong suit then go for an interactive opener like a relevant quote or an interesting fact. Ask how many people have heard about the topic and what they know about it. You could even start with telling a story or personal experience. Telling a story is something you always have and doesn’t have to be memorized because it’s a part of you and makes your presentation more conversational.
- Use a visual aid. A PowerPoint or a poster can give your audience something to look at and can enhance what you’re talking about by providing a picture to the message. It can also take some of the edge off of presenting; if your audience has something to look at less of their focus will be on you. But, be careful not to use this as a crutch. Visual Aids are supplements meant to enhance the presentation, while reading directly from the PowerPoint detracts from your presentation’s effectiveness.
- Be confident. I’ve given countless presentations with a miniature earthquake shaking inside of me and my audience was none the wiser. Remember, no matter how nervous you seem on the inside, your audience can’t see that. Focus on keeping your tone consistent, stick to the script, and even if you get stuck, keep pushing forward.
By following all of these steps, you too can unflinchingly give a speech about Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame for your final grade, woo the uninterested masses and shown them that regardless of your topic, you came to shine.