Mark Twain once said, "There are only two types of speakers in the world: 1. The nervous, and 2. Liars." You're not alone in feeling anxious when it comes to speaking in public.
Do you dread having to give a presentation at work? Will you do anything to avoid speaking in front of an audience? Do you worry that you will come across as incompetent or boring? Here's how to make sure every presentation you give is a resounding success.
Know your audience
Put yourself in their shoes before you prepare your talk. What do they hope to gain from the information you have? What kind of tone and atmosphere would be appropriate for your listeners? Would it be a good idea to have a question and answer period at the end? Only when you know exactly what your audience wants, can you prepare an effective speech. Aim to deliver what they're looking for.
Even if you know your topic inside out, your presentation will always suffer unless you have prepared properly. Practise your speech several times until you are sure you can deliver it confidently and without a lot of 'ums' and 'ahs'. It's usually best not to read your speech, but to speak from brief notes or bullet points if you can, enabling you to make eye contact with your audience to maximise engagement.
Think about the logistics of your presentation. How big is the room? Do you need to speak louder than you normally would, or do you need a microphone? If you are using props such as Powerpoint or a whiteboard, ensure you are totally comfortable using them, and that the audience can read them clearly. Keep your Powerpoint slides concise and relevant to your talk. They should be there to emphasise the most important points, not to be the focus of your presentation.The audience should be focused on you and your message.
Structure your speech
A good presentation always has a coherent flow. Your opening line should grab the attention of your audience. It could be a memorable (but relevant) quote, an appropriate joke, or a challenging question. The introduction should inform your listeners of what is to come. The body of the speech should have a logical progression and may be broken up into several parts. Sometimes it can be a good idea to use specific examples or stories for each major point you make. This helps people to relate to what you are saying and to retain information. In conclusion, summarise your speech and leave your audience with a memorable closing line or call to action.
Ask for feedback
After your presentation, get opinions and feedback from people you trust. Ask them what they thought of your speech, and if they have any recommendations for improvement. Take these recommendations on board, and use them to make your next talk even better.
The more presentations you give, the better you will get, and that nervousness will become excitement. The next thing you know, you'll actually be looking forward to giving your next speech!