If you guessed public speaking, you are correct! Nearly 74% of Americans report that they suffer from speech anxiety. If you are a working professional or an active member in your community, chances are you will need to give a presentation in the future. Mastering the art of public speaking is a common goal, and in some instances, a necessary evil. Learning how to command attention and win over your audience can advance your reputation and personal brand in the eyes of your employees, your colleagues and fellow members of your communities. Here are some tips on overcoming your fear (and for the brave ones, improving and spicing up your techniques:)
- Know your topic and get organized: The easiest way to speak on a particular topic is to be an expert on that topic! I realize that sometimes life can catch up to you, and you may find yourself doing last-minute preparation for a meeting you’re in charge of or a presentation you’re giving, but I promise you that the extra preparation time shows. The more you know the material and your presentation, the more comfortable you will appear and feel while speaking
- Choose the correct platform for your material: We previously lived in the Microsoft world of PowerPoint. Today, interactive presentation websites and software are presenting themselves as a front-runner for attention-getting presentations. PowerPoint was launched 25 years ago and is a trusty friend; however, experiment with a free presentation tool and see what you think; you may fall in love! A few alternate options are SlideShare, Prezi and Zoho Show.
- Capture your audience’s attention from the start: Whether you are giving a year-end overview to your employees or speaking as a subject-matter expert as a conference, command the audience’s attention with your first sentence. Has revenue increased 30% in the past five years? Start with that statistic! Are you known as the funny guy or gal at the office (or maybe you never crack a joke)? Start with a joke to make your audience laugh! Other attention-getting starters are stories, questions or relevant quotes. It is easy to grasp attention from the start and keep it, rather than trying to grasp it throughout the presentation.
- Make it easy on your audience: If you are speaking to a group, it means that someone thought you had an important story to tell. Build your presentation around the points you want them to leave with and keep in mind why it should matter to them. Ensure that when speaking you are clear, concise and to the point. Your audience will appreciate you for this. If you can supplement your topic with a handout, that can help, too.
- Realize that giving a presentation or speech is an art that needs to be mastered: Speaking to an audience is like any other skill you learn while growing up. Your first couple of tries are never perfect. The more you practice, the better you will get. Have a smartphone handy? Ask a friend to take a video of you, while practicing. Watching yourself present can help you with your talking speed, hand gestures, eye contact and overall presentation style. If you are already a presentation master, try something new! Switch up your beginning, end, how you present your content, etc…
Public speaking can be a daunting task. Remember, YOU are the expert – that’s why you are speaking! Keep your content organized and animated and always keep the audience in mind. You will be a pro in no time.
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