Do the words "public speaking" make you feel excited—or do they make you want to hide in a corner? For a select few, speaking in front of an audience can be a comfortable, even enjoyable, experience. But if delivering a speech or a presentation stirs up feelings of anxiety and doubt, just know that you are not alone. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld captured the prevalence of public-speaking anxiety in this famous quote:
"According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."
As with most anxiety-inducing tasks, when it comes to public speaking preparation and practice are the keys to managing your nerves and performing with confidence. The following tips can help you focus your preparation so that you can deliver a successful speech or presentation:
Tip #1: Establish a clear purpose for speaking
In the first few sentences of your speech, you should clearly establish your purpose or goal. Are you introducing yourself or another person? Are you trying to persuade the audience to adopt a certain point of a view on a topic? If the audience is busy trying to decipher the main idea of the speech, they will likely miss other key points that you are making.
Tip #2: Understand your audience
A speech that you deliver to a group of friends and personal contacts would obviously be different in tone and style from a speech that you deliver to a professional audience. It is vital that you know the makeup of your audience before you plan out your speech, so you can tailor your language and delivery to meet the preferences and expectations of that specific group.
Tip #3: Create an outline for your speech
No matter how much you rehearse your speech ahead of time, it is likely that you will forget certain items as you are presenting. Having a printed outline in front of you will help you stay on track. You may also consider providing a basic outline of the presentation to the audience, so they can aware of the topics you will be covering.
Tip #4: Back up your claims with research and evidence
If you are trying to convince your audience that your point of view is valid, you need research and evidence to back it up. This is particularly important when speaking about a hot-button issue that typically leads to debate. By having clear examples and solid research to back up your claims, you can effectively and confidently defend your statements.
Tip #5: Keep the audience engaged
There is nothing worse than watching your audience doze off during your presentation. Try to make eye contact with multiple audience members and smile occasionally. Infuse some humor into your speech, if appropriate. The audience will feed off of your mood; if you are lively and excited about your topic, then your audience will respond with more excitement.
Tip #6: Anticipate rebuttals and questions
Following your speech, be prepared to answer any and all questions that challenge the points that you have just made. Have the latest research handy so that you can easily defend your ideas. But be grateful for any questions and feedback—it shows that your audience was actually listening to what you had to say!
Tip #7: Rehearse your speech
Perhaps the most important tip is to be prepared. It is painfully obvious when a speaker is presenting information without having practiced beforehand. By reading over your notes multiple times, rehearsing in front of a couple of friends, and using strategies to stay calm before delivering a speech, you will feel prepared for success.