From Woes to Wins: Public Speaking

public speak

To some, it’s terrifying. Talking in front of a crowd may trigger anxiety in all shapes and forms. Sweaty and shaky hands, uncontrollable muttering, blank facial expressions, and a mundane tone are all symptoms of the fear of public speaking.  However, there are ways that can help condition you to become more resistant to the “everyone please stop looking at me” and “wait, what am I even saying?” moments in life. It takes practice and it takes time, but it is so worth having your (steady) voice heard. Whether you are presenting in class or at work, keep these tips in mind:

Ground your nerves

A lot of people get extremely nervous while talking out loud. Sometimes this boils down to a fear of judgment. BREAKING NEWS: people in the room are most likely thinking of themselves or what they have to do that day. It’s a human thing. When they do tune in to what you’re saying, make sure that conveying your message is more important than their thoughts about you. Take big, deep breaths before your presentation and prepare yourself to work out your mental muscles. Focus on your nervous energy and picture yourself bottling it up and transferring it out of your system.  A big chunk of the magic behind good presenting is being able to psych yourself up (not psych yourself out). Think about yourself in control. Bring all your nervousness out of your mind, out of your arms and hands, down to your toes and into the ground. Then leave it there. Guiding yourself through this imagery is a powerful tool.

Know your voice well

Practicing a speech or presentation in your head is not enough. For optimal results, practice the exact presentation out loud to familiarize yourself with the sound of your voice. We hear ourselves talk every day, but the tone changes as we cater to the informative or persuasive styles of speech. Understand and recognize how your own voice fluctuates between styles so that you are not afraid of your own voice. You’ll be better able to gauge what volume is appropriate during the real thing and whether or not you begin to drift into a quiet, timid voice versus a loud and clear one. Recording yourself may be a bit awkward and cringe-worthy at first, but it is extremely helpful in identifying your pitch, sound, and pauses.

Be an expert (or at least act like one)

Know your information so well, that if you stumble, you can talk your way through accurately. That is the biggest goal. Sounding confident and credible is crucial to create audience engagement. Understanding the topic can lend way to less “um’s”, “you knows”, and “things like that.” These filler words are not our friends, leave them out. When researching your topic, learn more about it than you need to talk about. Filter out the extra information when writing your speech so that your audience is getting a concentrated and relevant presentation. Having that reservoir of information will be a lifesaver if anyone has follow-up questions or if you lose your place while talking.

Memorize a performance

Understand the mechanisms of your body while you speak. Try not to just memorize the words you will be saying. Rather, memorize the entirety of your presentation, from steady pacing back and forth, to hand movements, eye contact, and even your tone and changes in tone. Now this doesn’t mean that you should analyze every movement, rinse and repeat. You should, instead, have a working script. Similar to any play or musical, actors in these productions are able to make each show seem like it’s the first time for their audience yet they are still saying the same lines and presenting within the creative bounds of the story.

Everyone can work towards a positive relationship with public speaking. Think and stay calm, research thoroughly, and channel your inner performer. Good luck and speak out!

Image: Carla de Souza Campos