Whether it’s a presentation in class, a pitch to your boss or a public event, there might come a time in your life when you will need to speak in front of a crowd. Even if you definitely, absolutely, most certainly hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. Here are a few tips on how to make yourself look like a great public speaker. If you look confident, then you’ll feel confident too!
1. Practise. A LOT
Practise on your friends. Practise on your family. Practise on your own. If you’re underprepared, then it’ll show. You don’t want to sound too rehearsed, but knowing for sure what you’ll say will make you feel more relaxed. Get feedback. Figure out where in your presentation or speech would be best for you to pause, where to take a breath, and where your weakest sections seem to be. Work on making them stronger.
2. Identify your purpose
Know your audience, and know what you want to achieve. Are you trying to convince a group of judges you’re the best candidate for a Student of the Year award? Are you trying to convince your schoolmates to vote you in as class leader?
If you know what outcome you want and who you’re talking to and how you’ll talk to them, then you can tailor your speech or your presentation to them specifically.
3. It’s all about how you look
One of the easiest ways to impress your audience is to maintain eye contact with them. Not all the time, obviously, because that comes across as a little creepy! Eye contact shows confidence and makes your listeners feel like you’re really speaking to them, not just at them. Bring notes and refer to them, but don’t stare at them the whole way through.
Stand up straight, smile and make sure to project your voice when speaking – looking comfortable and at ease will make your audience feel the same way and more receptive to what you’re saying.
4. Don’t let your aids do the talking
Try not to use too many audio/visual aids on your audience. PowerPoint presentations are helpful, but you shouldn’t put everything you talk about on them. What’s the point of you standing there and reading out loud what the audience can read for themselves? Having said that, when you DO use audio/visual aids, make sure you actually have them all with you before you start (again, be prepared!), and that they look good.
Use a website like prezi.com to make some really great-looking presentations.
5. Speak slowly
You might feel like speaking as quickly as possible, because the sooner you can finish, the sooner you can sit down. But that’s one of the worst things you can do! If you talk too fast, then the audience might not catch any of what you’re saying. You might end up tripping over your own words, and you’ll lose the interest of your listeners. If that happens, stop and take a big breath. Then start again – slowly.
6. Talk to a friend, not to an audience
It might help to imagine you’re talking to a bunch of your friends. You’re probably a different, more confident, person when you’re with your friends. If you can successfully pretend you’re talking to your friends, then you’ll sound more relaxed, and more engaging, and your audience will have a better impression of you.
7. Be prepared for questions
Allow time for your audience to ask you questions afterwards, but make sure you have a general sort of idea of what they might quiz you on. You don’t want to have to stand there and admit you don’t know how to answer something.
However, if you aren’t able to answer a question, say something like “That’s a really good question!” and bounce it back to the audience to answer. Or tell the person asking that you’ll get back to them with an answer as soon as possible. The key is to make whatever you say sound super positive.