The idea of public speaking often receives a mixed reaction. Only 10% of people enjoy it, around 80% of people have a fear of it, and the other 10% are terrified of it. Of the 80%, general feelings toward public speaking include getting butterflies, feeling anxious and not getting much sleep much the night before.
Nerves aren’t always a bad thing though, and if you’re looking for ways to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest inspirational speakers and learn how to speak with confidence, we break down some of the top tips.
- Tip 1: Think about the speed
One of the most common issues people have with public speaking is speed. If you have been asked to do a talk on a specific subject, your thoughts and opinions matter – don’t feel like you need to rush through it. While you may be given a specific time to stick to, delegates listening to your presentation would more likely prefer a structured, well-presented talk which has to be made a little shorter than one which is rushed. In the run-up to the big day, practise your presentation and time it.
- Tip 2: Project your voice
When you master the perfect speed, you may find that your projection will fall into place. It’s a natural progression; when you focus on the speed, you will start to visualise the words and focus on what you’re saying, which means pronunciation and how clearly you project your voice will match up. Remember when you are projecting not to sound like you are shouting, think about these three Cs: clear, confident and concise.
- Tip 3: Do vocal exercises before hitting the stage
You wouldn’t start running a marathon without warming up, so why do a presentation without doing a few vocal exercises to warm up? Public speaking isn’t just about what you say, but also how you say it. A vocal warm-up can help to balance the air pressure being sent to your vocal cords, which makes it easy for you to talk through the different vocal registers. Exercises you could do include: jaw release, lip trills, humming and lip buzzing.
- Tip 4: Throw away the fillers
It’s a habit most people have, saying “um” or “like” in the middle of the sentence as they verbalise the thought process of what they’re going to say. However, this can be a distracting trait to have when public speaking; not only can it make the listener lose focus as the flow is broken, but it can also mean the speaker loses their train of thought. You can train yourself to eliminate this habit, by becoming aware of your fillers and pre-planning your pauses. When practising, for example, if you find yourself stumbling on the same part, you can use that as the time to take a sip of water and then come back to it.
Public speaking can sometimes be daunting, but with the right preparation and taking steps to build confidence, it will become just another skill. Consider these tips, say yes to the next opportunity to speak publicly and enjoy the process.