Some people are born to perform, while others prefer to stay out of the spotlight. In many careers, public speaking is a requirement. When you are good at what you do, people want to know your secrets.
There is some good news: public speaking does not have to be a terrible experience. Even people who are shy and uncomfortable in front of a large group can learn some skills that make the process easier. Public speaking might not be your favorite thing, but you can do enough preparation to feel comfortable.
Do you know the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to master it? Public speaking is one of those things. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Here are ten steps to help you get started:
1. Open strong
When putting together your presentation, boil your presentation down to its simplest—and strongest—points. Do not try to introduce your topic with a hook. Present surprising data, show a brief video clip or connect with your audience on a personal level.
2. Speak to the audience, not to yourself
When putting together your presentation, remember to speak to the audience. The purpose of presenting is so that they might learn something. If you are presenting, you are already an expert. Do not turn the presentation into something about you and what you are nervous about. Instead, keep your audience in mind and present for them.
3. Be yourself
You are speaking because you have something to share. Keep this in mind as you prepare. The audience is looking to hear from you. Be authentic and true. Use your personality to your advantage and connect with people.
4. Tell stories
Part of being yourself is about telling stories. When we tell stories, our true nature comes out in our descriptions and asides. Storytelling helps you be yourself. It makes you and your topic relatable. People will connect to what you are sharing and think about what they can gain when they hear stories.
Once you have figured out the content of your presentation, get in front of people and practice. Ask trusted friends, family and colleagues to pose as audience members. Get their feedback. Try videotaping yourself and watch the recording to discover where your nervous mannerisms come out. Practice again. Your nerves might never completely go away but by the time you get on the state for the real presentation, you should feel comfortable.
6. Know your tech
One way to help settle your nerves on presentation day is to ensure that you are familiar with the technology setup. Inevitably, something will go wrong. Projectors will break, laptops will overhead and connectors will not fit. Make sure that you are prepared for different scenarios. Have an external backup of your presentation in case you need to switch devices. Bring connectors that work with your machine and know how far you like to stand from the microphone. Preparing ahead of time can help overcome day-of tech disasters.
7. Read the feedback, not the screen
Instead of looking at your presentation, look at your audience. The slides you create should have some information on them, but you should give additional details while speaking. Learn to read your audience when you speak. Know when to ad-lib and go off script when people seem confused or bored. If you get the sense that you are losing the audience, try something new.
8. Use natural body language
One way to engage with the audience is to step away from the podium and move around the stage. Having a hands-free microphone makes this a lot easier because you will be able to use your hands. Body language is a great way to connect with people and make the presentation more enjoyable. The freedom to move around the stage means you can make eye contact and get in close proximity with the audience.
9. End with actionable suggestions
Your audience came to learn from you. They want to feel like your presentation was time well spent. Help them see how they can apply what they learned to their lives. Give them suggestions or ask them to share ideas about how to use the information they have heard in new and immediate ways.
10. Ask for feedback
Make sure the audience has your contact information. Ask them to provide feedback after the presentation and consider what they have to say. If there is a common response from several different participants, think about how you might change the way you present next time.
The world needs great communicators to help those who need guidance. If you love communication and think, you could be of service by teaching people who need help with public speaking, check out the Bachelor of the Arts program and the Master of the Arts in Communication with an Emphasis in Education program at Grand Canyon University.
To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences program prepares students to support communication efforts as public speaking coaches, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page.
About College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Letters and Voices is a blog that explores the impact of communications and language in our daily lives. The choices we make in the communication messages we send and receive structure the nature of our relationships, drive our motivations and values in career and community, as well as create positive solutions to address current problems. We hope that you will find these blog entries engaging and thought-provoking as you reflect on the impact your own communication choices have in your life and the lives of those around you.