What’s scarier than a clown offering a red balloon from the sewer?
The thought of public speaking.
If giving a speech or presentation makes you want to take a hard pass, research shows you’re not alone. In fact, in a survey of people’s greatest fears, public speaking ranked #2 on the list — even higher than the fear of death.
But speaking in front of others is part of being able to handle yourself professionally, and the good news is that with some practice, anyone can master the skill. Check out these 6 tips on how you can become an experienced public speaker.
Take Some Inspo.
Sometimes the best source of inspiration comes from watching the pros. Next time you attend a lecture or presentation, pay close attention to the speaker’s body language, tone of voice and what he or she says that stands out throughout the speech. You can also check out TED.com for engaging presentations by some of the world’s most inspiring speakers.
Change Your Perspective.
Can’t shake those nerves before a presentation? Try channeling them into nerves of excitement. Research shows that focusing on the parts of an intimidating task that excite you — like getting to share something you’re passionate about — can help your mind create positive associations and diminish feelings of dread.
You don’t have to be born a great public speaker. Just like pretty much any other skill, you can become better by practicing and educating yourself. To truly master the art of giving great presentations, sign up for a course like Toastmasters, where participants take turns offering constructive criticism on each other’s speeches. The fact that you’re with others who are trying to improve the same skill will make the experience less intimidating.
It can be hard to figure out exactly what skills you need to improve when it comes to public speaking, and sometimes the best way to find out is to watch yourself. Record yourself giving presentations on different subjects, then re-watch them and take note of your tone of voice, posture and speech disfluencies (um, like saying those verbal tics that can happen when you get nervous, you know).
You can improve your public speaking skills by doing things other than public speaking. Instead of doing just the obvious, work on your ability to articulate yourself, a key component of public speaking. Consider tutoring a younger student on a subject you know well, or, if you’re up for it, instructing an after school class. Teaching can help you learn how your ideas sound to others and help tailor future presentations to your audience.
Face Your Fears.
If the thought of giving a public speech terrifies you, finding more opportunities to do it might sound counterintuitive. But it’s true that practice makes perfect. The best way to overcome a fear of public speaking is simply to do it as much as possible. So don’t be afraid to volunteer to speak in past classes or at student organization events, which can be great ways to build your confidence.
By Priscilla Aceves