“Oh no! I was hoping this wouldn’t happen! We have to present something in front of the class!” This is the thought process that occurs in everyone’s mind when they get assigned presentations! We are flustered and nervous, even though the presentation was just assigned and you still have time to prepare. The problem is that we are never ready. No matter how much we try, there is always some last minute jitters which force their way into our mind. And just like that, we are back to square one. Here are some public speaking tips to help you:
Don’t memorize your information. Know your information.
When someone is giving a speech, they tend to memorize a speech and do no more. But what happens when they forget a part of their speech? They freeze for a moment, and either eventually remember it or end up skipping a part of their speech. This does not look good to your teacher who will definitely be taking that into account. What you want to do is become an expert on the topic. It is good to memorize a speech, but make sure you understand what you are saying. Don’t just be a robot repeating facts to an audience. Knowing your content will make you less likely to freeze up and allows you to engage with your audience better.
Take your presentation slow.
The moment you stand up in front of an audience, you start spewing out everything you rehearsed. No matter how much we try to avoid this situation, it just happens. We have no control over it. Every time I see or experience this, I wonder “Why?” After a lot of plausible explanations, I stand by one answer. It’s the silence that kills us. You know what I’m talking about. That feeling you get when you are standing up in front of an audience and you want to speak but your mouth opens and nothing comes out of it. We are all afraid of that happening to us. So, to save us from that feeling, we start hurling tons of information at light speed just to get it over with. However, we have to learn to embrace that silence. Strategic pauses can be very helpful for the audience to process the information and you to relax your vocal cords. The best presenters take their presentation slow and steady. It makes sound fluid and well-rehearsed. Don’t speak right away. Take a few deep breaths. Find your happy place. Then start.
Before one of my first presentations, my dad told me to always remember one thing. “The people that you are presenting to are donkeys.” No one will know your content like you do. You have been researching it. You are the expert. And don’t worry about how you sound or how nervous you might seem. Everyone else is likely experiencing the same inner thought process and are admiring everyone for getting up and trying. I know that a lot of people are introverts (like me). I would always tell myself that I need to be more confident. However, you need to trick yourself into thinking that you are. Telling yourself to be something you are not will make you more nervous. The odds are that you are well-prepared but still nervous. Remember to acknowledge that. Just remember that if you can trick yourself into confidence, you will trick everyone else into thinking that you’re confident.
Make “eye contact” with your audience
I know how excruciating this can be. Looking someone directly in the eye makes you feel challenged. And when you are in such a vulnerable position, it can make you feel uncomfortable and awkward. This is the last thing you want to feel in the middle of a big presentation. The way I avoid this is to look at their nose. I know it sounds strange, but doing it is a lot less stressful. As long as you don’t stare at their nose too long, this can be a great tactic. They don’t notice it. Just trust me, it works 90% of the time.
Before going up to present, you will most likely have sweaty hands and feel tense. We see these things and immediately jump to the conclusion that you are nervous. This thinking causes you to actually become more nervous and will most likely not end well. Instead, look at these and tell yourself that you can’t wait. You are excited and ready to conquer the stage. It will have a tremendous impact on your attitude.
Practice in front of a mirror.
You have probably heard this one before. But actually use it! If you have never practiced in front of a mirror, you are missing a key step in your preparation for success. Practicing in front of a mirror allows you to track your facial expressions and your presenting style. It is also a good time to practice your posture and engagement.
Use your hands.
I don’t really know why this works. It just seems to release our nerves. Anyways, using your hands is a great way to present. Not only is it relaxing, but it makes you look active and engaging.
Don’t be a robot.
Your teachers definitely won’t appreciate a person who is just telling them facts. This ties in with engagement. If you have a tired and “I don’t want to be here” look, then you won’t make the cut. Imagine that you are having a conversation with the audience. No one talks to a person with such a look on their face. Using emotions can make you more interesting. I know people typically don’t like to sit in presentations. Your personality can add liveliness to a presentation.
Amy Cuddy did a TED Talk about the magic of power poses. She goes into how people who did these power poses delivered better performances in interviews. It involves how body language is affected by these exercises. This goes to show that exercise can prepare you for nerve-wracking moments like presentations.
No scripts! (kinda)
Everybody writes scripts before a big presentation. And scripts are good. You want to know what to say before you go up. So write a script! However, be careful. There are two sides to this coin. It can be a great way to plan out your speech, but I encourage you to memorize the script and not take it up with you during the presentation. From my experience, even if you memorize your script, bringing it up with you makes you more reliant on it. You want to seem like you are the expert, not the paper. If you have a hard time remembering things, instead of using an entire script, bring an outline of your speech (bullet list format of key topics).
Project your voice. Not only does it have an impact on the audience, but it also has an impact on you during the presentation. You are getting a lot of credibility for projecting your voice. You are also boosting your own confidence. You feel in command of the room, and it will loosen those nerves. However, don’t scream. You are projecting your voice not trying to be obnoxious and loud.
In finality, just don’t worry about it. You are probably more prepared than you think. Note: This goes for me as well.
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