Public speaking has been a fear of many people ranging from students to business workers. According to The U.S National Institute of Mental Health, public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia affects about 73% of the population.
Psychologists associate this common fear with our ancestral roots. When we stand in front of an audience, at a primal level our fear is dominating us because we are scared of being rejected or ostracized from the group. In the past, this resulted in defending ourselves alone, which was similar to a death sentence.
Today we are afraid of public speaking so much that some fear it more than death. Even though people are afraid of going up to the stage, there are some things they can do to give a better speech which can help them get over their primal fears.
The first thing we should do when doing public speaking is determining goals. What kind of talk will yours be? Are you going to inform people, motivate them, or humour them? Each kind of talk has its structures. For instance, informative talks’ lengths are generally longer than motivational ones. List and prioritize the top three goals, the things you want to convey, and then write down your ideas.
Preparing Your Speech
Before you prepare your speech, make sure to know your audience well. Research if you can. Likewise, think about what they want or need from your speech. Try to engage them in your talk by asking a question or asking them to ask a question.
For the introduction, it is useful to start with a humorous or personal story. In this way, you connect with your audience and get their attention. Moreover, in the opening, talk briefly about what your goals are for the speech, what they will gain from it, and the overall layout.
The main part is where you propose your ideas. However, it is important not to deliver too many ideas since it can be hard for your listeners to keep them in their minds. Limit yourself to 3-5 ideas and use transitions and signposts. The former connects your ideas by expressing their relationships, whereas, the latter indicates the direction of your speech by linking structural segments.
Support your main points with illustrations and graphics. Visually stimulating slides facilitate the understanding of your topic and retain their attention. Moreover, using audio, video, or animation helps to remember.
The ending should be as imperative as your introduction. Finish your talk with a summary that includes your key points and a strong point statement that your audience is going to remember.
Slides are a more interactive way to convey your message. Which means they are for them, not you. Therefore, know your material very well and use notes in case you forget something.
Keep slides to a minimum and make sure your font is big enough for everyone to see. 2 fonts are enough for a slide and you can select fonts that go well together by using Google.
Before Giving Your Talk
A lot of people get anxious before giving a speech. Meditation, exercising, listening to music, and positive affirmations are ways that help you relax. Also, you can ease your stress by simply decreasing the surprise factors.
- Test the equipment and make sure it is working.
- If you have second thoughts about your speech, get an editor and they will make sure your talk is clear, the arc(attention, relevant, compelling) technique makes sense and the takeaways are understood.
- Practice your speech and avoid fillers such as – like, basically, um, and well. This way you will be sure that you are ready for your speech and have mastered the subject.
While Giving Your Talk
Body language and the way you use your voice creates a big difference for listeners. Here are some suggestions that can improve your speech for the better.
- Use your hands effectively, don’t cross your arms.
- Face your audience.
- Don’t stay rigid and move around a little bit.
- Vary your tone from high pitch to low, your volume from loud to soft, and your speed from fast to slow occasionally.
- Make eye contact.
- Create pauses and emphasize what you are saying.
In addition, take a glass of water with you in case your throat gets dry and watch for the feedback of your audience. For instance, by gauging their reactions, if they seemed bored, you can play with the tone of your speech.
Here are some talks that I enjoyed. I hope it inspires you as well.