Journalist Colette Sexton gives her top tips for public speaking.
I can’t imagine that the old-fashioned advice to imagine the audience naked when speaking in front of a crowd ever worked for anyone. In fact, surely this exercise merely distracts the speaker from actually delivering what they wanted to say and if anything, embarrasses them more. Never fear, however — there are some tips and tricks that help you to conquer your fear of public speaking.
Embrace the nerves
So many people allow their nerves to eat them alive when they are about to make a speech. The way to deal with this is to accept that you are going to be nervous. Allow the butterflies in your stomach to do their thing. It is natural to be nervous, and trying to fight that will destroy your confidence completely.
It is intimidating to get up in front of a crowd at any stage but the best way to deal with this is to practice. Whether you are giving a formal presentation to the chief executive of your company or you are thanking your friends for arranging a birthday party, plan what you are going to say. In some cases, you will have a formal speech with a powerpoint. Other occasions will be a lot more casual but it is still a good idea to jot down a couple of notes on what you would like to say.
Stop focusing on yourself
Mid-talk, you might freeze as you wonder how you are doing. Stop thinking about yourself and instead focus on the crowd. If you are feeling very nervous as you begin, crack a joke. It’ll put you and the audience at ease. Other than that, look at your audience instead of staring down at your notes all the time. Act confident, even if you don’t feel it. Step out from behind the podium if you feel comfortable to do so.
Go easy on yourself
If you miss a slide or your voice catches in your throat or you forget something, do not spend the rest of the day/week/month/lifetime beating yourself up about it. Just keeping going. Even professional broadcasters mess up sometimes. The key is to just move on from the mistake without allowing yourself to freak out about it.
Put yourself out of your comfort zone
The best way to get better at public speaking is to do it a lot. With experience, you’ll be able to read audiences much better, and you’ll become more comfortable veering away from your notes. If you fancy getting better at public speaking, sign up to your local Toastmasters. Toastmasters teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. There are loads of options of times and locations for Toastmasters — you can find the most suitable one for you on their website.