It’s natural to feel nervous before giving a speech or presentation. Even confident professionals who are naturally strong speakers can get butterflies before speaking in front of a large group of strangers. Public speaking and presentation skills can be learned, but for those who have upcoming presentations or speeches, here are a few tips on how to do it confidently and effectively:
Know the material. If possible, present a topic you have expert knowledge in, or at least one you are interested in. If you find the topic dry or boring, chances are other people may as well. Find ways to make the material interesting, such as graphics, humour, and personal stories.
Never apologise. If you have made a mistake in the presentation, forgotten what you were going to say, or feel that your nervousness is showing, don’t apologise. Chances are the audience didn’t notice, and you will just point out something that few if any people realised in the first place.
Practice and practice some more. The best way to really see how you will appear to others is by having a friend video your presentation. Rehearse first, then, using all the equipment you will use for the presentation and have someone film you. Review the video, check your timings, and make any adjustments based on what you see in the footage.
Relax. It sounds simple, but if you know the material, and you have practised, then you will be prepared for the day. Relax and enjoy the experience, it will go quickly, and by being relaxed you will make the audience more relaxed too.
Get to know the audience. If you have the opportunity, mingle with some of the audience before hand. You’ll have friendlier faces to speak to, and you can be more natural, speaking to friends instead of strangers. If you can’t greet them personally, get a list of delegates before the day, and try to find out about a few of them. If you can tie their needs and interests into your speech, all the better!
Always speak to the audience, never turn your back. This one is difficult sometimes, especially if you are using a screen to deliver a slide show, or presenting graphics or web based information. If you do need to look at the screen, don’t talk while your back is turned. The audience will complain if they can’t hear you, and they will miss the message.
Realise that people can empathise. Sure they have come with expectations, most of the audience will want to learn something new, or hear something interesting. They are not expecting you to be Superman, to have all the answers, or to be a stand-up comedian. You can relax in the knowledge that most of the audience has had to give a speech at one time in their lives, and that they understand what it’s like.
Use the experience next time. Your first speech or presentation will be a nightmare, you won’t know what to expect. If you have to do it again, though, you will have experience to build on. You should have a clearer idea of what to do and what not to do. If you need extra confidence, you can always take a public speaking course.