Do you stumble over your words or have sweaty palms while doing a presentation? Want to improve your public speaking skills? Be it a presentation or an interview, I’m sure we have done public speaking at least once in our lives.  Studies have shown that at least 75% of the world has the fear of public speaking! While it might not be as frightening as snakes or needles, most of us would still feel nervous and avoid public speaking when possible. Yet, it is a highly-valued skill in any industry. We need it when we are leading a meeting or giving a sales pitch. Good public speaking skills can also be your ticket to promotions and leadership positions. It is time to step out of your comfort zone and combat your fears. Learn how you can improve your public speaking and be a confident and compelling speaker.

Begin With An End In Mind

Don’t wing it! Treat presentations like storytelling. You are the only one who knows what happens in the story, so it is your duty to lead them through the narrative. Being unsure of what you are presenting reflects badly on you as your audience will be unconvinced by the message you are trying to put across. Your audience can also tell if you are unprepared for a presentation. Research extensively on the topic you are presenting and organize your thoughts. Know what your main message is before you start working on a presentation. Are you trying to persuade, inform or inspire your audience? Whatever it is, let that message be central to your presentation. Don’t forget to begin with an introduction and conclude with actionables. Having a flow to your presentation makes it easier for your audience to follow and understand your message.

Practice, Practice and Practice

Practice makes perfect! Public speaking is not a talent but skill that can be acquired with lots of practice. Rehearse your script until you are able to recite it without looking at it. You are also less likely to experience verbal stalls like ‘umm’s and ‘ahh’s when you are familiar with the content. Volunteer to present or attend courses on public speaking to work on your public speaking. The more experience you have, the more comfortable you will be when presenting. Your confidence will grow with more practice and soon you will be an effective speaker.

Know Your Audience

Do you remember the times you fell asleep during class because the teacher was so boring and monotonous? Don’t be that person who bores the audience! Humans have short attention span, and we are unlikely to pay attention to presentations that do not capture our attention. Like it or not, presentations are not about you, but communicating YOUR message to the audience. Be relatable to your audience by tweaking your language and behavior accordingly. If you are giving a presentation to youths, be friendly and approachable. If you are presenting to your senior management, be confident and serious. Ask questions, tell stories or use humor (when appropriate) to build rapport with your audience. Give them a reason to listen to you.

Think Positively

What if I’m not good enough? What if I stumble over my words? Self-doubt and anxiety often creeps in as the day of your presentation looms closer. It’s difficult not to think about negative thoughts, but remember the Law of Attraction. Flip this around and say “I am good enough” and “Everything will go smoothly”. Give yourself an additional confidence boost by visualizing a successful presentation. Ignore the expressions and actions of the people in the room and focus on delivering your presentation. Caught off-guard by a question? Don’t panic. Take some time to think about the question and organize your thoughts. If you are unsure, get back to the person after your presentation.

Do Mouth And Breathing Exercises

Have you experienced shortness of breath or dizziness when presenting? Do you stutter or mispronounce your words? You tend to breathe faster when you panic, so remember to take deep breaths and regulate your breathing. Rather than reciting everything that you have rehearsed like a bullet train, remember to give yourself some pauses to breathe. Prior to your presentation, warm up your mouth and tongue. Open and close your mouth 10 to 20 times and rotate your tongue in a clockwise and anticlockwise movement.

Watch Your Body Language

Never underestimate the power of body language. Your body gives off subtle cues on how you are feeling, especially when you are feeling nervous. More often than not, we are unaware that we are giving off these cues. Leaning on one leg? No eye-contact or over-gesturing? These are signs that you are nervous! Rehearse your presentations in front of the mirror or record yourself to watch your actions and expressions. Alternatively, present in front of your family or friends and get some feedback. Your audience feeds off your energy and body language, so straighten your back, smile and look confident! (fake it til you make it)

How has your public speaking experiences been? Were they good or terrifying? Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it is perfectly normal to feel nervous. A large part of our fear stems from the fear of being judged, lack of experience or simply thinking that we are not good enough. So, take small steps to switch that mentality and hone your public speaking skills. 

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