Public speaking is a skill just like riding a bike. We may have wobbled a bit when first attempting to ride our bike, but once we understand the tricks, it gets easier. There are many techniques to help become an excellent and dynamic speaker. For now, we will begin with a few basics that will help you get started. Here are a few tips I would suggest for people who wish to overcome their nervousness when publicly speaking:
1. Create an Outline
An outline is like a blueprint for a speech. Just as you would not start building a house without any preparation or strategy, you would not want to do the same with your speech. Once you have your speech topic, break down the speech into segments. Start with an opening like asking the group a question, state a famous or renown quote relating to your topic, tell a short story, or make a startling statement to help get the audience’s attention. Then, write three to five sub-topics that support your main speech topic. Lastly, write a brief conclusion that summarizes the points you just discussed. There are many styles and techniques on creating a strong outline.
Whenever we create a strategy, we provide ourselves with a clearer picture of what we expect the outcome to look like. If the outcome is give an informative speech, then we need to create an outline to give us the blueprint for that speech. Without a blueprint, we are just hammering boards together hoping that it might resemble a house when we are finished. When we have our blueprint, we can execute our plan and build that house!
2. Practice Practice Practice.
Practice is always a must. Instead of floundering around trying to find the right words to use, we should always take proper preparation before giving our speech. There is a form of speaking called “impromptu speaking” which is how well we speak without any preparation; however, there are many times we must prepare a speech for a work presentation, a class, or another occasion where practice before-hand is possible. One of my mentors once said, “For every minute of presenting, you should dedicate twenty minutes of preparation.” That may seem excessive, but the extra practice makes a whole world of difference. Do not use practice to an extreme where you become too self-conscious or attempt to be perfect. This can be a consequence of the self-critic in each of us, but we should practice to help us become more comfortable with our speech.
It may seem odd talking to yourself, but it helps a whole lot! Practicing what we are going to say in our minds is fine, but the best way to practice public speaking is to say your speech out loud. How we think we will say something and how we actually say it may be different; thus, we should practice articulating what we want to say audibly. You can use this opportunity to practice enunciating, projecting (how loud you speak), and pace.
3. Use a Mirror
Beginner speakers may have difficulty making eye contact with the audience. Before many of my speeches, I typically practice in front of a mirror. This way, I can see how I come across as well as practice making eye contact with myself. The tiniest amount of eye contact with yourself in the mirror will make looking into the eyes of your audience much easier. Eye contact is so incredibly important when speaking as it allows the speaker and the listener to develop a bond. Insecure or nervous speakers tend to avoid eye contact because it can be intimidating. Thus, the mirror is an excellent tool to help prepare you for your big speech!
4. Find a Mentor for Feedback
It is difficult to do anything without the support, encouragement, and honest feedback from someone we trust. Finding someone who can act as a mentor that has experience in public speaking to help you is a wise step to take. This could be a friend, a teacher, a work colleague, or anyone who is willing to help your personal growth. When someone can evaluate you in a positive and constructive way, you can then realize your strengths and weaknesses as a speaker. Evaluating ourselves alone can be challenging. We often overlook some of the bad habits we have as a speaker while also being unaware of our positive speaking characteristics. A mentor can offer some insight into ways to excel and points to improve upon. Thus, finding a mentor will help you go a long way in your journey to become a strong public speaker.
5. Display Confidence
Before giving your speech, think positively about yourself and don’t doubt your ability. This is where we need to trust ourselves and trust the importance of our message. Sometimes speakers give excuses to their audiences by saying statements like, “I am a bit nervous” or “I am really tired, hopefully I can get through this speech!” The audience won’t care about how tired or nervous you are feeling. Instead, they will care about what you have to say. Most audiences are interested in what you will be talking about and truly wish you well. In order for them to continue to believe in you, you have to first believe in yourself.
Again, these are five basic tips to help new speakers overcome nervousness. Outlining the speech, practicing, using a mirror, finding a mentor, and displaying confidence are a few tools to use when beginning your journey as a public speaker. I wish you all luck and hope these tips help!