The good thing about having a fear of death is that you will only need to face it once, and you’ll never have to practice for it. On the other hand, public speaking is something you’ll definitely need to do more than once. That means you’ll want plenty of practice with it. I have been delivering public speeches since the age of 12. I’ve also coached young people who have gone on to compete at the World Public Speaking Championship. So, I promise you these tips will help!
Don’t think of public speaking as something to fear, think of it simply as a conversation with more than one person. You are talking to the audience like you are talking to your friend. Your audience wants you to succeed! They are rooting for you. Don’t think of your audience as judgmental and critical, because 9 out of 10 times they are a friendly audience, who is there to hear you, and an audience that wants to see you do your best. Some say, “Imagine the audience in their underwear.” Well, I say, “Imagine the audience as a group of your closest friends, a group that will support you no matter what.” This positive mindset is going to allow you to write the best speech, but most importantly, it’s going to give you the peace of mind needed to deliver the best presentation possible.
Start with a bang! With my younger students, I refer to this a “Snappy Intro.” You want your audience to be on board the moment you start speaking. Whether you’re doing a wedding speech or a presentation at the office, no one wants to hear a generic “good morning” or “good afternoon,” or a simple “Hi, my name is Sarah.” The first impression in public speaking is so important because it sets the tone. You’re going to feel great if you nail that opening! In addition, your audience will be primed for an excellent presentation. Starting with a bang basically means beginning with some sort attention-grabbing. Perhaps you could employ a quote, a question, or a joke. Whatever you do, choose an intro that matches your personality, and make sure it also matches the tone of the presentation you’re about to give.
Evoke an Emotion! Reflect back on the best speech you have ever heard. I guarantee it made you feel something. It made you laugh or cry, it made you angry or upset, it made you question the meaning of life or your own life purpose. No matter what, I need to feel something when you speak. Some of us are really good with comedy, while others are more suited to drama. Emotion can form the content of your speech. Perhaps your viewpoint is a unique or controversial one? Controversy alone will likely evoke an emotion from your audience. If your content is more humorous, make sure you maintain the audiences’ interest by injecting some jokes, or using vivid imagery. Paint pictures with your words!
Be prepared. Being prepared means something different for every type of speaker. For some, preparation means having a fully written out and memorized speech you’ve been rehearsing for weeks. However, for others it could mean bullet points on cue cards. We all have different ways we like to remember things and different presentation styles require different styles of delivery. For example, preparation for wedding speech is going to be different than preparation for a business presentation. When I personally am preparing for a presentation, I like to have my main points recorded on cue cards. Those notes provide me with a sense of structure, but they also give me the freedom to move between my points and to improvise a little. With that said, I have seen brilliant speakers, who speak entirely off the cuff. I’ve also seen excellent presenters who memorize a word- for-word speech. So, my advice is to experiment with different approaches to presentation preparation, and see what works best for you.