So you’ve written your speech, designed your presentation slides and practised saying it in front of the mirror a dozen times and you still don’t feel ready? You have it in you to be the next great motivational or inspirational speaker and now you’re frantically googling ‘Tips for public speaking’, hoping for some miracle advice to help you ace your talk. Below are some tips to guide you through your public speaking journey and help overcome your fear of speaking before an audience. I can’t guarantee miracles, but with practice, perseverance and positivity, you might make one happen for yourself.
1) Envision your success
This is an important step that people tend to overlook. Think about what you would like your audience to see, think and feel throughout your presentation. Create a picture of how you would like the room to look after your speech and keep that in your mind throughout your preparation period for the big moment.
This is a tricky but vital step. Tricky because you don’t want to over prepare and have your speech sound too rehearsed but you also don’t want to seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about. It will do you good to practise speaking in front of other people and hear their opinions on what works and what doesn’t. Remember practising ≠ cramming. That might work for tests and exams but will never work for speeches and presentations.
3) Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Maybe you were too anxious and couldn’t sleep (it happens) and you decide to stop and grab an energy drink or a cup of coffee on your way to the presentation for a boost. Bad move. It all seems like a good idea until your heart starts racing and you become jittery because guess what? That’s what caffeine does, and it’s worsened by feeling stressed. It increases your level of anxiety and before you know it, you're a doubtful, sweating, shaking mess. Alcohol might calm you down but you risk forgetting or stumbling on your words, or saying something best kept out of public spaces. So...rather not. Stay hydrated and keep a bottle of water with you at all times, feed the body, feed the mind!
4) Get there early
Getting there helps you settle into the environment. It also gives you time to set up anything if you need to or fix any problems that might hinder the success of your presentation. I would advise arriving at least 90 minutes before you start. Rushing to the venue will only make you more anxious and seem unprepared.
A very generic thing to say but it’s very important. Calming your breathing helps you pace yourself and controls how fast or slow you deliver your speech. A useful trick is to use deep breaths to fill awkward silences or those “uhm” moments.
6) Smile, dammit
Smiling reduces tension in the room, especially when you feel stuck. And of course, everyone loves a friendly face. If you’re interested in this hidden super power we can all harness, find out more on my book here or order it online at Amazon and Takealot.