According to a survey once conducted by the Wall Street Journal, the best fear among American citizens was not being scared of Titusville Bat Removal clowns, getting run over by a car, loneliness or even death, but public speaking. Can you understand how nerve-wracking the experience must be for someone who has an inkling they might have to speak in front of an audience that they prefer DEATH over it? Stage fright is a reality, whether you have to deliver a speech in public, engage in a group discussion, or give a demonstration. There are not many people who have the gift of the gab and indeed, there are visionaries such as Elon Musk who still stammer throughout their presentations so you can imagine how easy it is for an ordinary person to break into a sweat the moment they must speak in public. Butterflies in the stomach. All these thoughts and feelings surround us like an impenetrable cocoon, pulling down our confidence to a nadir.
However, through continuous practice and learning, an individual can eventually learn to deliver an effective public speech. Whether your talking skills are average or below sub-par, here are 7 powerful tips that will assist you in improving your public speaking skills:
Among the main parts of public speaking is to know your audience. Are you presenting your speech to a novice audience or a group of highly experienced men and women? Will you be speaking to a local group or overseas guests? Prepare your content accordingly so the audience stays engaged and take cognizance of geographical and cultural biases. As an example, it does not behoove well to make clichéd Rajnikanth jokes in front of an audience comprised of people from Tamil Nadu. A rigid reaction will throw you off track and make the situation uncomfortable for both you and the audience you are addressing.
Take deep breathes.
If you suffer from speech anxiety then you tend to take shallow and rapid breathes, which only aggravates the physical and mental stress as soon as you reach the stage. Learning proper breathing techniques is a necessity to enhance your public speaking skills, with the diaphragmatic breathing exercise being the most recommended by specialists. Additionally, just before your speech, you should take deep breathes because they act as a excellent stress alleviator. Giving yourself a brief pep talk is also a wonderful way to calm your jitters. Say stuff like this to yourself:
“I can do this. I’ve done it before” (if it is not your first time on the stage)
“This is all about them, not me”
3. It’s okay to be nervous
It is human nature to become nervous. Even the most seasoned speakers have shown that they feel a tinge of nervousness whenever they move on stage. One way to decrease the jitters is to speak to a close relative or friend just before you go live. Another effective solution is to start your speech in a casual manner and break the ice with a joke. Do not be intimated by all of the eyes staring at you. Bear in mind, the majority of them would give their kidney than be up there in your location.
4. Give mock speeches and ask for honest critiques
This step is to be performed at least a few weeks prior to the D-day. Giving mock speeches in front of your family or friends, and if possible, an unknown test audience (if you can manage that) is a very effective method to improve your public speaking skills. You’ll get familiarized with the experience and can receive honest critiques concerning the gaps in your speech or body language. This will make certain that the final result is as error-free as possible.
5. Make your speech crisp and to the point
Do not beat around the bush so that your audience loses interest and even you lose track of what the speech was about. Make your speech crisp, interesting and on point. Do not use a lot of verbiage. Use audio-visual tools to make the audience more involved. Do not forget to entertain any question on this issue, which you should be well-versed with! You can also do a Q&A session following the speech ends, because that’s how it usually goes, but
It is an axiomatic fact that body language is an important part of communication skills. Having a poor body language e.g. pacing up and down nervously, making a lot of hand movements or awkward gestures, having a slouched posture et al significantly impacts your public speaking experience. To avoid this, you need to practice in front of a mirror, get a friend or family member to record your address during a mock session, and review what all mistakes you are making. Are you making too many hand motions? Are you hiding your nervousness by moving around too much? Go through an entire checklist of body language tips for public speaking so that you don’t wind up as a nervous wreck.
7. Do not worry about negative evaluation. Keep practicing.
There’s rarely anyone who can deliver extempore in their first speech ever. Not every person has the eloquence of say, Barack Obama, or the assurance of Nick Vujicic. Most folks fear being negatively evaluated by the audience or failing to talk the way they intended to. This can lead to abject anxiety and anxiety, and might even set you off from public talking forever, in order to not get embarrassed again. But the only way forward is to take things in stride and learn from whatever mistakes you made. Going on the stage repeatedly will ultimately boost your confidence manifold and you will eventually find yourself becoming a professional speaker with time.