Studies show that more people are afraid of speaking in public than of dying. This is not only astounding, but it’s also a problem because being able to speak well in public is an essential skill in many careers (especially in teaching).
If you have a fear of public speaking or feel anxious when stepping up in front of a group, you are not alone. Even great speakers like Churchill experienced this fear.
No matter who you are, you may always feel the fear of public speaking and still become nervous before that important presentation – this is normal and like most things, we’re not used to, the fear of doing something is always worse than actually doing it. The fear of public speaking might be with you forever. But your audience does not need to know that.
So at the Team Building Hub, we decided to put together a basic blog post series (3 parts) to help you out. Each post will contain four tips to help you on your way to becoming a successful speaker. In part one we will focus on how you prepare for your presentation and the structure of your presentation.
#1 Key Points
Don’t try to memorize a speech. Instead, use the “key points” approach. The best public speakers do not memorize their presentations. Instead, know your topic and the issues. Then make notes for yourself. But don’t read your speech. Instead, write keywords that remind you of your messages. Write your speech notes on index cards or even your hand.
#2 Presentation Structure, Opening and Closing
When writing your speech, write it with the end in mind. Start with the destination and work back to the opening. You will write your speech faster and clearer if you start with the end in mind. Know your purpose. Write the closing line that hammers home your message. Then write the points to support your close.
Start strong with an interesting opening. It doesn’t have to be brilliant, but it has to get the audience focused on your topic. When closing off your presentation, remember it’s the last opportunity you have to give your audience something that will stick in their minds. You can go back to your opening or end with a clever slogan or a call to action.
As Aristotle said, the plot must be a ‘whole’ with a beginning, middle, and end. Think of your presentation as a story. The beginning needs to spike their interest and hold their attention, the middle is the journey where you get deeper into the story and the end is where you close with a lesson learned or something dramatic that leaves an impression on your audience.
How many times have you watched a movie and switched it off before the ten-minute mark? Get them hooked on your message at the start so you keep them engaged through the presentation. Why should they care what you’re saying? Tell them…
#3 Communication Skills
Pace, tone, and pitch – Try to slow down the pace of your speech. This is a very common problem as nervous speakers try to rush when speaking (I had this problem to begin with). Instead, take your time, and your audience will listen more attentively.
However, do not be afraid to speed things up at times and change your pitch and tone of voice – this helps you create a more engaging and dynamic presentation. Watch Tony Robbins on stage to understand what I mean, he is a master communicator who does just this. Try and be natural with your audience, if it’s not you then just relax and be you.
Use of words – Try to use simplified terminology (or ‘simple words’) to get your message across to the audience. Stay away from jargon, unless it’s required as part of the presentation and industry-specific. Try to use short words instead of long ones as it’s easier for our brains to process the information. Would a 7-year-old kid understand what you are saying? If not, scrap it!
#4 Visual Aids
Be careful when using visual aids, including PowerPoint. They can be both distracting and confusing unless they are used correctly. Remember that you are presenting – use the PowerPoint as a prompt only to recap key points and to help keep you on track. Too much information on a visual aid can distract the audience – when they should be focusing on you.
If you are going to be using a PowerPoint, try to reduce the number of words on each slide to three or four for maximum effect (just enough for our short-term memory) and use pictures instead of words. When we look at the word, we look at it as a picture, so it is much easier for our brains to connect with one picture than it is with two words (hopefully that makes sense).
Keep the audience engaged and remember you are there for a reason! Oh, and ditch the bullet points – the moment your audience sees these, they will take notes instead of being focused on what you are saying.
Remember to check out part 2 of this blog post series tomorrow with our next post ‘Delivering your Presentation‘. If you found this helpful, then please share it on Twitter and Facebook.