Tips To Ace Public Speaking
Growing up as a very soft-spoken, introverted kid, presentations were never easy during my polytechnic years. Heck, meeting new people was already hard. I was watching a show a few days ago on National Geographic (I don’t remember the show’s title) and on this episode, they explained that dealing with stage fright is mostly just a mind game.
Those who fear being the centre of attention think that people are observing their every move, and worry about making fools of themselves. They therefore start to panic and that leads to their stage fright. Basically, these people are just thinking too much. Easy to say, but what do you do when all you want is to hide in a corner and mind your own business, without being noticed?
However, they also did a survey and the observers of the presentation actually did not even notice anything the presenter did. They could not even remember what he/she was wearing! With that in mind, I’m going to share some tips for soft-spoken and fearful people on how they can be better prepared for their next presentation:
Practice Your Speech
They say, practice makes perfect. For the non-natural public speakers, continuously practicing your presentation speech will help you smoothen your actual presentation. This is because as you become more familiar and comfortable with your speech and won’t need to read the script, you will become more confident and a lot calmer in the spotlight.
You don’t want to sound like a robot reading from the script, so practice speaking naturally like you’re talking to someone. I practiced repeatedly in front of the mirror 2-3 days before my presentation.
Practice Your Voice Projection
My friends used to say that I speak as though I was the ant whisperer. It was so soft, it was worse than a whisper, at least to them. Throughout my poly days my lecturers would say I was too soft and too fast (nervousness). So, you have to practice projecting your voice naturally and that comes with practice as well.
Alternatively, you could try the method I used to improve the volume of my voice though it was unintended. I used to work part-time at a bubble tea store and during rush hours, the place would be very noisy because it was as a standalone store and when a number of people were talking at once, I had to shout to repeat my order or to call out the orders. It happened so often I became comfortable with projecting my voice louder than before.
So as I moved on to university, I did not have much of a problem with volume. But yeah, I was still a nervous wreck. But my friends were encouraging and noted my huge improvement from my very first presentation (damn solo presentations) to my last presentation in school. It was a pat on the back and it did pay off.
Learn To Laugh Off Your Own Mistakes
Don’t be embarrassed you mispronounced a word or couldn’t speak for a moment. Calm yourself down, laugh it off, say sorry and start again. Laughing off your own mistakes makes you less nervous about people judging or mocking you. I’ve been there, done that. It is okay to make mistakes, even the best speakers make mistakes.
Know Your Audience, Be Your Own Audience
Remember those boring talks we had in school where we needed toothpicks to keep our eyelids up? You do not want to be one of those speakers. To be able to engage and capture your audience’s attention during a presentation, here are a few tips to help you along:
- Visual aid: We don’t like lengthy slide presentations because it looks like a lazy job done. It looks like copy-paste work. And honestly, no one bothers reading through the lump of texts you’ve inserted into your slides. I love customizing my slides to only show the key words with suitable visual images. A presentation deck is a tool used to help you elevate your points, not you aiding your presentation through repeating the same words on the screen. So keep the slides short, and explain the points yourself in the simplest way possible. Learn from Apple, simple, short and sweet.
- Be relatable: One thing I loved about my lecturers was that they knew their audience demographic well and spoke in a manner we could all relate to, to a point where we felt we were being taught by friends. Think through who your audiences are, and insert relatable images to capture their attention, for example, memes. Unless you’re doing a business-to-business presentation, presentations are meant to be free, creative and fun, that’s the only way you’re going to win the hearts of your listeners.
In closing, don’t expect immediate change by doing this, but you will definitely slowly improve to become better and more natural at it. Don’t beat yourself up because others are doing better than you at presentations. Sometimes there are things in life you just have to work harder to achieve and like me, this is one of them. So learn to embrace it rather than feel depressed about it and you’ll reap what you sow!