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Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is one of the most common phobias. According to Psychology Today, 25% of people report experiencing it. Even if you don’t have a severe case of the public speaking jitters, it might still make you nervous.
Letting your fears get the best of you can prevent you from saying “yes” to some incredible PR opportunities. Public speaking is one of the best ways to spread your message, build thought leadership and connect with your audience on a personal level.
If this is your first or tenth time giving a speech, use these nine tried-and-true tips for a seamless presentation.
1: Hone Your Message and Delivery
Prior to the engagement, learn as much as possible about your audience so you can build your content and delivery around the presentation they really need. Based on the information you gather, what is the most relevant, pressing or useful to share? You can work with a PR team to ensure your speech hits all the right points to leave the biggest impact.
2: Keep Your Presentation Fresh and Original
No one wants to listen to a presentation that sounds bland and canned. This is an opportunity to let your personality shine: incorporate jokes, storytelling or a personal anecdote can help you connect with your audience.
3: Identify the Right Supporting Materials
Visual aids can help your audience understand and remember key points. Decide what supporting materials you might include — whether it’s a slideshow, infographic, video or otherwise — based on the setting and tools available to you.
4: Practice with Someone You Trust
Present to someone who can give you constructive feedback, offer advice on how to improve your delivery or prepare for potential questions you might receive. A few test runs can make the real deal much more seamless.
5: Monitor Your Body Language
Nonverbal communication really says it all. You could have the best presentation prepared, but if you come onstage with hunched shoulders and face away from the crowd, your presentation will fall flat. The thing is, these behaviors are second nature for many of us, especially when we’re up in front of a crowd. A few ways to ensure your nonverbal presentation is effective: record a video of yourself presenting and watch with a critical eye. Or, when you practice with someone you trust, have them look out for bad posture, avoiding eye contact or other nervous habits.
6: Use Talking Points Over Scripts
Reading directly off your slides or a script is boring. Even more importantly, it hurts your credibility. People want to see that you can talk about your industry without having to rely on your notes. Bring a bulleted list of topics you’d like to cover, but keep it conversational.
7: Interact with the Audience
Feel free to open the room to discussion, answer questions or field comments. It might be helpful to poll the audience about their knowledge of a particular topic at the beginning of the presentation – a simple question with a raise of hands. This can help you better tailor the discussion on the fly and keep your listeners engaged.
8: Adapt to Feedback
If you notice your audience dozing off, write down a few jokes or stories that you can refer back to and regain their attention. Or, if they look confused, provide clarification. Your presentation should be dynamic, easily adaptable to the atmosphere of the room.
9: End Strategically
The end of a presentation is often overlooked, but this is one of the most important aspects of public speaking. Include a summary of points covered, statistics you want to emphasize or facts to wrap up your argument. Most importantly, include contact information and a call-to-action — it might lead to more opportunities in the future.
The fact of the matter is: it’s common to feel anxious before a big presentation. This reaction is totally natural. On the bright side, feeling a little nervous ahead of a speaking engagement will make sure you’re alert and the adrenaline will help you think on your feet. Most of all, feeling nervous means you truly care about the outcome — and that’s a good thing. Hopefully, these tips will help you feel confident and prepared. Keep in mind, those who are enviably worry-free and at ease on stage probably have a lot of practice, and a PR agency working diligently behind the scenes.