Would you rather give a speech in front of 100 strangers or would you rather find a big spider in your bedroom right before bed? Many people would choose the spider. In fact, some estimate that nearly 75% of people suffer from some form of glossophobia – the fear of public speaking. Unfortunately for those who fear it, public speaking is an important, in-demand skill with employers ranking oral communication as a number one-skill and presentation skills ranked as number four.
If the idea of speaking in public makes your palms sweat, you’re in good company. Famous public figures like Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Sigmund Freud and Thomas Jefferson were all terrified of public speaking – but managed to overcome it. And you can too.
Here are our tips to be a better public speaker.
Practice and prepare
One of the best ways to feel more confident when you’re speaking in public is to know your content inside and out. Make sure you’ve practiced your speech or remarks several times. Know where you tend to get tripped up and know how to bounce back. By prepare, we mean be ready for any situation. Know where you are going to have to give a presentation in advance, what the room is like, what technology you can use if any, and more. The more details you know the better you can prepare yourself.
Don’t use PowerPoint as a crutch
If you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, make sure that it’s only there to enhance your speech rather than serve as a script. Don’t read from a PowerPoint. Instead, go into detail about what’s listed on the slide.
Engage your audience
Ever been to a boring presentation where you feel like you’re being talked “at”? One way to interact with your audience and make sure they’re engaged is to ask questions or ask for feedback throughout your presentation. Build in stopping points for Q&A sessions to check understanding and make your presentation less of a speech and more of dialogue.
What does drinking water have to do with giving a presentation? Well, for one, dehydration can cause dry mouth, dizziness, fainting, weakness, and confusion – none of which are good to have during a presentation. Also, since you’ll need to be speaking somewhat loudly and clearly for a given period of time, you don’t want to be dealing with a dry or scratchy throat, so it’s important to drink up before a presentation.