Most people dread public speaking. Yet, most of us engage in public speaking daily. Although the words “public speaking” often translates to a presentation in front of a large audience, we engage in public speaking more than we think. For example, whenever you’re making your point in a work meeting, that’s public speaking. Job interviews? Public speaking. Wedding toast? Public speaking.
Well, you get the point. Mastering the art of public speaking is one of the best investments we can make in our self-development journey.
1. Channel Your Nervous Self
The idea isn’t to get rid of the jitters altogether. Even the most seasoned public speakers get nervous before their presentations. Instead, recognize that nerves are normal, and they shouldn’t stop you from speaking confidently. Dismiss the concept that your nerves will make you perform poorly, use them to power you through and channel them into helping you stay more awake.
2. Forget about the Script, Remember the Concepts
Memorizing your speech word for word will only make your nerves worse. When you let go of the script and focus more on the overall concept, you’ll portray yourself as more competent and confident. Mostly because you don’t have to look down at your script continuously. When you speak from your heart based on your concept, your language will be more natural, and you’ll make more eye contact.
3. Find Your Through-Line
Every speech, whether in front of a large audience or an interview room, needs to have a through-line. Think of this line as the one element that you’re using to build your case. Some may say it’s like a thesis statement. When someone comes out of that presentation, they should remember this line.
To help you find your through-line, pose this question to yourself: what’s the single, most important takeaway from your talk?
4. Study Your Audience Not Your Subject
Remember, your speech is not about you. It is about your audience. The idea is to communicate your message to your audience. Keeping this in mind also helps you fight your nerves; any time you spend being self-conscious takes you further and further away from your audience.
To master public speaking, you need to picture yourself as if you’re having a conversation with your audience. Pose questions, interact with them, make eye contact.
5. Adapt According to Feedback
Here’s why it’s so important to maintain eye contact with your audience – feedback. When you keep the focus on the audience, you can gauge their reactions better and adjust your message accordingly. Again, focusing on concepts rather than scripts benefits you in the long run.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice – Practice More
If you want to know how great public speakers make it happen, here’s their secret: they practice. If you genuinely want to deliver a fantastic speech, you must practice. Keep in mind that practice doesn’t equal perfection, and no one is expecting you to be perfect.
Set up your camera and record yourself. Analyze your body language, voice tone, problem-areas, and notice whenever you start to drift from your focus point. Self-assessment is one of the best ways to improve your public speaking.
7. Watch Your Physical Presence
Even if everything coming out of your mouth is engaging and fascinating, if your body language is poor, your audience will feel uncomfortable. Watch your facial expressions, gestures, and overall body language.
Make sure your shoulders are back and relaxed; you have an open upright chest and a big smile. There’s even research supporting that speakers who smile more often are looked at as more intelligent. Make sure your hands are moving, but don’t force them. If you’re comfortable, your audience will be as well.
Mastering public speaking doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a lifelong process that takes much practice and trial and error. With dedication, practice, and self-evaluation, you’ll be hosting your first TED Talk in no time.