While I didn’t have a list of public speaking tips to help me prepare for such events, I now know just how helpful it would have been if I had. With that in mind, I spoke with a few public speaking experts for their top tricks for conquering a fear of public speaking. Keep reading to add them to your repertoire.
Public Speaking Tips From Experts
1. Know the audience ahead of time.
No matter the topic you’re speaking on, it helps to know the people you’re presenting to. “Before you speak, you should have an idea of the knowledge level, expectations, and demographics of your audience,” says public speaker, best-selling author, broadcaster, and coach, Daniel Mangena. “Not only will this make you more comfortable and at ease, but you'll also be able to resonate and connect on a deeper level.”
2. It’s about the message, not you.
Rather than worrying about what the audience thinks about you, reframe your mindset to contemplate how they’ll feel about your message. “It can be really easy to get into your own head and feel pressure when all eyes are on you,” says posing expert and self-confidence TikTok star, Christine Buzan. “Instead of worrying about how you’re perceived, focus first on the goal you’re trying to achieve through your message. I’ve found that most compelling speeches do one of three things: They entertain, inspire, or educate.” With that in mind, Buzan says to think about your desired end goal—not fears of judgment. “How do you want your audience to feel? What do you want them to do? What value do you want them to take away?” she urges you to ask yourself ahead of your next big speech. By focusing on the bigger picture and purpose of your speech, she says that self-doubt will fall to the wayside.
Hypnotist, holistic health coach, and SIVA Wellness founder, Sarah Donner, agrees with this. “Shift the focus from you to them,” she says.
3. Keep an outline.
An easy way to keep the focus on your audience, as opposed to yourself, is by keeping an outline that details everything you want to share with them so that they get the most out of the presentation as possible. “Start off with your main goal, and come up with three to four stories or facts that articulate your goal,” Buzan says. But, whatever you do, don’t just keep your eyes glued to your outline. “It’s called public speaking not public reading,” Buzan reminds us.
4. Connect with the organizer to identify their intention for the event.
Not sure where to begin with your outline? Chat with the organizer of the event you’re speaking at for guidance. “Depending on the organizer's level of engagement with your speech, you'll want to establish a great rapport with them ahead of time,” Mangena, who is the author of Stepping Beyond Intention. “This will allow you both to be aligned on the greater purpose of your talk and the event as a whole. It can be obvious when a speech isn't genuine or appears disjointed, so it's imperative to put values and call-to-actions in place.”
5. Practice, practice, practice.
As with anything, practice makes perfect (or at least damn near). With that in mind, Donner suggests practicing your speech in front of your loved ones, especially those that are novices in the field you’re speaking on. “They can let you know if you will make sense to everybody in the room, no matter their previous knowledge,” she explains. “For example; If you’re the maid of honor, we already know that you and the bride share a lot of inside jokes but use this moment to share something that is going to touch all guests equally, regardless of how close they are to the couple.”
6. Tape yourself practicing.
Buzan recommends taping yourself as you practice. “I have found it most helpful to do two recorded run throughs,” she says. “I always tell people I work with to practice their poses in front of a mirror to get comfortable. This is no different. Practicing in front of a mirror helps me look objectively at my body language, and listen to my presentation.”
7. Find your pacing.
If you’re nervous about speaking to an audience, there’s a very good chance that you could subconsciously run through your speech at such a high speed that it’s hard to understand. Obviously, you don’t want that to happen. As such, Buzan says to study other successful speakers to determine what you admire about their presentations and to ultimately mimic their pacing and delivery. “Where do they pause? Do they place emphasis on specific words or portions of their message? Do they engage the audience or play on their cues? Try it out when you practice,” she says.
8. Believe in what you are saying.
If your goal is to convince and/or inspire your audience, it’s important that you speak with passion. “When the audience sees that you are passionate and confident in what you are saying, you will find that they will become more inclined to listen and trust you,” Mangena says. “It should go without saying, but never perform a speech about something you do not believe in.”
9. Stay true to your personality.
Another thing you don’t want to do while speaking to an audience? Show up inauthentically. “A public speaking engagement—especially when you’re giving a toast to a group of people who know you—isn’t the time to try out a new personality,” Buzan says. “Of course, public speaking pushes you outside of your comfort zone, but think of amplifying aspects of your personality even further so they set you apart. If you’re great at explaining things, lean into that. If you’re goofy, let your inner class clown shine. Think of maximizing your strengths rather than revamping your personality.”
10. Make use of your space.
If you’re given a stage to present on, use it—don’t just stand there and speak. “Use your space and your surroundings to your advantage so you can better connect with your audience,” Buzan says. “I talk about this quite a bit in my posing guides, but the same tips apply when speaking in public or posing for the camera. Don't be afraid to engage with your surroundings in a reasonable way.”
Be honest. You don’t have to know everything—even on topics that you’re speaking about. “If you don't know all the facts on a topic, be truthful and own up to it,” Mangena says. “The audience will appreciate this honesty and in turn, trust you more.”
11. Consider hypnotherapy.
If all of these tips and tricks do little to dull your fear of public speaking, Donner says that hypnotherapy may be able to help. “The biggest misconception is that we fear public speaking itself, when really most of us fear making a mistake, not being good, smart, or funny enough to be an opinion leader or speak publicly,” she says. “Most of these beliefs stem from our childhood. We accept them as part of our personality and label it shyness or nervousness. Hypnotherapy is an amazing tool to get to the root of these limiting beliefs, break them down and strengthen your self esteem.”
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