If just the thought of speaking in front of a crowd gives you heart palpitations and sweaty palms, it’s probably worth investing time in improving your public speaking abilities.
Sure, business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t required to deliver keynote presentations at large conferences or launch side careers as inspirational speakers. But being able to deliver a polished, concise and heartfelt message to an audience greater than the people at your dinner table can make for better sales pitches and company-wide updates. Plus, a strong public presence can bolster your authority.
Ready to become a better public speaker?
Begin with these four tips as you start preparing your next presentation:
- DO learn from great speakers. Watch videos of powerful presentations. TED Talks are a great place to start. Try watching one TED Talk each day, taking notes on any behaviors or tricks that seem to enhance the speaker’s success. How does the speaker engage or connect with the audience? How does he or she set up the topic or conclude? Do you feel yourself losing focus at any time during the talk—and, if so, why?
- DON’T memorize your speech. Rather, outline your thoughts. You should be fully prepared and know your subject and message inside and out. Once you have the facts down, prepare an outline of key points or keywords and then allow for a natural flow of ideas.
- DO make it personal. Invite your audience to connect with you by injecting stories from your life.
- DO practice. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in front of your family or friends. Record yourself using your phone or laptop. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to watch yourself, but it’s also a good way to spot excessive gestures or verbal habits.
When the time comes and you’re on stage or in front of your audience, follow these tips:
- DO breathe. Use deep breathing techniques to flush your nerves immediately before your talk.
- DON’T rush. While you may vary your pace—pausing for effect or highlighting certain phrases—it’s important to enunciate.
- DO control your tones and gestures. Enthusiasm keeps the attention of your audience, but you don’t want to distract viewers with excessive hand gestures or a harsh tone of voices.
- DO maintain eye contact and interact. Scan the crowd and look at people in the eyes when you talk. Remember, public speaking is a form of conversation.
- DO maximize your space. Get familiar with your space before your talk so that during the presentation, you can use it to your advantage. If it’s large, walk around to involve all your audience in the conversation.