I love public speaking. Most people are filled with dread at the thought of having to give a speech to a crowd, but I thrive on it. In the past week alone I presented the findings from my Masters thesis to a group of students and my professor, I served as a guest lecturer at another local college in the area, and I gave the D’var Torah (a small speech with commentary on a portion of the Torah) at my Synagogue on Shabbat.
Like I said, I love public speaking.
Without fail, after every presentation at least one audience member approaches me and says, “I am so impressed with your presentation! I hate speaking in front of a group. Do you have any tips to get better?” Well, of course I do! Unfortunately, I do not usually have enough time after a presentation to become a speech coach, so instead I have created this list of five helpful tips to become a more confident public speaker:
1. Plan ahead
As with anything in life, planning is key. Whenever I travel, I make a list of things I need to pack so as to ensure that I have everything I need on my trip. The same is true for public speaking. Making a list of topics that you want to cover will keep you from forgetting to discuss important issues during your presentation.
2. You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile
Begin your presentation by introducing yourself and your topic with a smile on your face. This will make both you and your audience feel at ease. When you smile, people smile back at you.
3. Have a Conversation
Instead of thinking about the presentation as a lecture, think of it as a conversation. Presenters are simply creating a dialogue about a certain issue about which they are passionate. Passion sparks debate, which creates a much more dynamic platform for a presenter than a traditional lecture.
4. Step Away From the Podium
Nervous presenters often find comfort in a podium. Standing behind a podium creates a barrier between themselves and their audience, and creates an illusion of safety. I would argue that putting this barrier blocks communication and makes a presenter inaccessible. By stepping away from the podium, by becoming visible to the audience, the presenter is more open and is therefore better able to reach their audience.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
There really is no better way to prepare for a speech than to actually prepare for it. Practice really does make perfect, and public speaking is no exception. Practice your speech in front of your friends and family and ask for their feedback. Practice your speech in front of the mirror to see what your hand gestures look like. Practice your speech in front of your cat so you will be prepared to have a disinterested audience member (there is always one in a crowd) and not lose faith in yourself. The more you practice, the more familiar you will be with your material. The more familiar you are, the more comfortable you will feel!
Go get ‘em, Tiger! Have confidence in yourself. You have prepared, you can do this, and you will come out on top.