Do your knees knock and your palms sweat at the mere thought of making a speech or presentation? You’re not alone. Public speaking is a source of anxiety for many people and is often cited as a number one fear.
No matter how scared you are when you get up in front of people, though, it is possible to hone your speaking skills and gain confidence so that you no longer feel like you’re going to faint the moment you open your mouth. Use these techniques to ace your next presentation.
When speaking in front of a crowd, you need to talk more slowly and pause for longer than you think is necessary. Resist the urge to get the presentation over with by speeding through the material, focusing instead on being clear and understandable. Vary the tone and volume of your voice to match the content and keep the attention of the audience.
Gestures add a great deal to a presentation, especially if visual aids are limited. Get comfortable using body language to emphasize your most important points, and learn to reign in your hands the rest of the time. Each movement should be natural while conveying meaning to help the audience follow your train of thought. Practice in front of a mirror to familiarize yourself with how each gesture looks, and don’t feel silly about asking a friend or family member to watch and provide feedback.
When it comes to conquering your fear of speaking in front of people, nothing beats being prepared. Practice the material until you know it cold, including the timing of any slides or visual aids you intend to use. Visit the room or auditorium where you’ll be speaking in advance, and test all the equipment. Become familiar with the layout so that you can feel comfortable in the space.
Toastmasters is an international organization dedicated to helping its members grow as speakers and leaders. There are clubs in cities all over the world, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one in your area. Clubs offer inexpensive, high-quality training in welcoming environments. Members take on roles, give speeches and provide feedback to help each other grow in all the key areas of public speaking.
Although giving presentations may seem overwhelming, the best thing you can do is take every chance to speak. Seek out speaking opportunities at work and in the community. Look for groups in need of speakers at their conferences and meetings. Taking on these engagements forces you to put techniques into practice and gives you chances to get familiar with different situations and audiences.
Like many things in life, public speaking can be mastered with practice. Continue to make time to work on your speaking skills, gestures and preparation, and you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable each time you give a talk in front of a crowd.
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