Be it a first business meeting with a group of 20 people or being a guess speaker at a conference; speaking in public can be scary for some people. Even the most seasoned lecturer can still feel like throwing up every time he or she steps up on the stage or a podium. Still, there are many things you can do besides breathing into a paper bag. Let’s take a moment to discuss how to handle your public speech.
Prepare for speaking as much as you can. You already know to practice in front of a mirror or a friend, but a good tip is to bring extra material for your intended audience. The extra material will come in handy in case of an emergency such as one where you either forget some information during your speech or you need to relax by covering some details while you gather your courage to present bigger ideas. Having said that…
Make sure your material is useful to the audience and present it in a way that they will understand it. If it’s not useful for them and/or they find it hard to follow you, it will simply be a waste of all of your time.
Think what is the worst that could happen. This is a great tip from Dale Carnegie’s book “How to stop worrying and start living.” The idea behind it is to picture the worst case scenario and prepare for it. The worst case scenario in public speaking is everyone leaving before it ends and the odds of that happening are low unless you offend the audience big time, but if it does happen learn from the experience by asking for reviews and take corrective measures for your next presentation.
Use Index cards. The best thing since sticky notes. Index cards are a way to keep your memory fresh and keep momentum going on your speech. Whatever you do, DON’T read to your audience unless you want to bore them to death.
Break the ice by starting with a big smile and using humor; your secret weapon.You don’t have to be a comedian, you don’t even need to know jokes. People will smile and giggle just by integrating witty remarks to your speech. Even the most serious of meetings can benefit for a laugh or two. You and your audience will feel more relaxed and you will automatically have their attention. Of course none of this applies if this is a emergency meeting, which is of course an emergency.
Observe the audience while speaking to look for cues. Remember you are there for your audience and by simply observing you can adjust your speech to either explain with more detail or cover your points faster. This will also keep your inner critic silent, since you can only speak and observe at the same time. You won’t be able to think negatively by doing this.
Make it dynamic and interactive. Whenever possible allow your audience to ask questions. Let them know at the beginning of your speech that they are allowed to do so. It’s always a good sign if they do. If a crowd starts asking a lot of questions during your speech let them know you will answer after you are done and then congratulate yourself mentally.
Whenever possible make a survey of your presentation and give it to your audience for evaluation. If it’s a small business meeting make sure there is some coffee and something to bite so everyone will stay for a while longer. That way you will know how successful your presentation was.
Evaluate yourself and try to remember that it wasn’t bad as you thought it would be, that way you will feel more confident for your next presentation.