Public speaking tips for not-so-confident speakers

Public speaking is high up on my list of things that terrify me. It’s also very high up on my list of things that I want to get better at.

When you work for yourself, chances are that sooner or later you will have to present in front of others. You will be speaking at a pitch in front of people that you will need to convince that you are who they are looking for or presenting projects to your clients. And most likely you will present to your own team as your business grows.

There is no better way to overcome your fear than by facing up to it. The more experience you get in public speaking, the easier it will get. You may not feel more confident, but you will certainly be more prepared for surprises. Shortly after setting up my business, I was asked to come and present to a group of 25 small business owners about digital marketing. I was nervous, but I was determined to do it and to do it well. During my preparation for the presentation I’ve asked a friend who is an experienced business coach and travels the world training large groups of managers for some tips. Interestingly, he said that he never feels confident before a presentation. But he prepares for it and delivers his presentation to best of his abilities in the given circumstances. And that gave me hope that I can do it too.

I’ve delivered the presentation and received positive feedback. Of course, my legs were shaking and there were things I would have done and said differently, but I did it. Since then, I’ve learnt a few more things about public speaking – here they are:

Prepare

I believe that the most important part of your presentation is the prep. Don’t underestimate the details. Think of the structure of your presentation, the potential questions you might face and how to best involve your audience. If there is supporting material that will help to deliver your presentation, take it with you. Take the time to rehearse what you are going to say to give you an idea how long it takes to go through everything you want to say and to see how well the different parts flow.

Start with an ice breaker

Over the years I’ve been involved in many events, and the ones that I’ve seen most interactions from are the ones that start with an ice breaker. Do you have a task or a game that you can introduce right at the beginning? It does wonders to the audience who may not know each other and the level of interaction you will see. Think of what would work best with your audience and set the scene before you get into the actual presentation. And you can keep referring back to the initial exercise as you go through your presentation to highlight the connections.

Connect with the audience

There is nothing wrong with being vulnerable. In fact, it can be your biggest strength as it can bring you closer to people. Allow your audience to get to know you and share a personal story. Being a real person with a story will immediately change the way your audience sees you. Your story doesn’t have to relate to your business, as long as you can build an analogy and link it to the topic of your speech. Everyone loves a good story and they are far more engaging than a bullet pointed presentation.

Don’t do all the talking

Get your audience involved as much as you can. Ask them questions and get them to interact. You will shift the attention from your own speech and by personally getting them involved you will be able to create lasting experiences and memories. Interactive sessions also have the ability to keep your audience’s attention for longer, especially if they are learning something new and meeting new people.

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