Public speaking. It’s a topic that puts images of middle school embarrassment in our heads and a fury of adrenaline through our veins. We’ve seen the viral YouTube videos that rack up views and have heard the horror stories.
Public speaking is an incredibly important skill to have though, whether you’re the leader of a business or a freelance writer working out of your home office.
Despite all of the – usually irrational – fears, public speaking is something that can be mastered with the right skills. Or even if “mastered” is a stretch and you may not ever be fully comfortable getting up in front of others, with some guidance you can be more confident behind the podium.
I’ve always been pretty confident up in front of other people as I have a pretty extensive performing background. Throughout my high school and college career, I was involved in choral singing, musicals, church band and other performance opportunities. And though it definitely took time and coaching from other, more experienced professionals, I did learn a lot about confidence in front of an audience.
Practice, practice, practice.
Even for the most experienced speaker, a formal presentation, speech or other speaking gig is not something you should just wing. Take time to plan out what you’d like to say and the flow of the topics. You by no means need to write a script, per say, but at least having an outline to go off of is a good start.
Once you have this laid out, take the time to practice: in front of the mirror, in front of your colleagues, in front of your family, in front of literally anyone who will provide you with feedback. If you can, try to get more than one perspective on your presentation – someone might bring up a quirk, nervous habit or other presentation distraction you might not even know you had.
The more you practice, the more you’ll know your stuff. When you know what you’re talking about, you’ll be more relaxed and confident.
Use notes if needed.
Though many speakers are able to recite their presentations from memory, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using basic notes in a presentation. Whether you use notecards or a printed copy of your PowerPoint to refer back to, notes can provide a good safety net in case of a memory lapse… just please don’t write them on the palm of your hand, the audience will definitely notice.
Remember that your audience understands.
The nerves associated with public speaking are a universal feeling. Your audience will understand if you fumble over a few words or have to clarify a point. You were asked to be a public speaker for one reason: because people cared about what you had to say, you’re an expert that they wanted to hear from.
Public speaking is an important skill to become more comfortable with and with time, practice and a good pump-up song, you’ll be a keynote in no time!