Whether it’s 10, 100 or 1000 people, public speaking can be a real challenge for anyone. However, in many professions, there will be an element of public speaking – from small meetings to conference halls of people, you can apply the same steps and skills to improve your confidence and overall performance when presenting.
Take a look through our advice to ace your next presentation…
Think before you speak
A lot of the work can be done before you even step into the room where you will be speaking. If you can go in already feeling confident and prepared, you are halfway there.
1. Do your research
Find out how everything will be set up beforehand and work around this. This will help you to know whether a visual presentation would be suitable (or possible), if you need handouts or if you need to simply stand and speak.
This will also help you tailor your plans to your audience to make the most impact.
2. Structure your speech
Make sure what you have planned flows well and revolves around a central focus point. Think about what you want people to come away thinking about and use this when planning – is it clear enough to understand why you are talking about what you are?
3. Make the focus of your presentation you, not your slides
If you decide to use slides as a part of your presentation, make sure they are a supportive tool rather than the focus, or even a distraction from what you are speaking about. Another benefit to something fairly simplistic is a much lower chance of having any technical difficulties, allowing you to focus on what you are doing.
4. Practice makes perfect
Practicing isn’t necessarily just about knowing what you are going to say, it is also about having done it in front of other people before. Anyone can help you with this, from your colleague to your family member to your dog! The more you do this, the easier it will be for you when doing the real thing.
This also gives you a chance to get feedback from your listeners on what could be improved (maybe not your dog for this one!). Don’t feel down if someone offers you constructive criticism as this will improve your final product when it matters most.
During your speech
1. Get in ‘the zone’
Take the time before you have to speak to get yourself into a positive and calm state of mind.
2. Eye contact
It seems obvious, but it can be easy to bury your head in your notes without realising, which can completely disengage you from your audience. Eye contact draws your audience back in and helps them to feel as though you are speaking to them specifically, rather than speaking to the masses.
You might feel like you want to get through everything as fast as you can, meaning you rush through your words without meaning to. Make a conscious effort to pause, as you naturally would in conversation, or where it fits to emphasise a point or change in direction.
4. Don’t be afraid of not knowing the answer
No one will judge you if you aren’t certain of an answer to a question and it is okay to let some questions go rather than stressing out and tripping over your own words. Phrases as simple as “That’s a great question, let me get back to you on that” can be a saviour and allow you to continue with your topic.
5. Trust yourself
Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself, you are probably doing a lot better than you give yourself credit for.