Effective, confident public speaking should look effortless. In reality most people need considerable time and practice before they can talk confidently in front of an audience. You can use a number of techniques to overcome stage fright, present yourself confidently and keep your audience engaged.
The audience is on your side. People want you to succeed; they don’t want to waste their time listening to a boring presentation. You are in a position of power: you have the knowledge that everyone wants to acquire.
Avoid signs of nerves during your speech
Think of yourself as someone who is sharing valuable information with willing listeners. Don’t get so worked up about how you will come across in your nervous state: Audiences can rarely detect anxiety in a speaker who claims to be very nervous. It seems much worse to you than your listeners.
As long as you appear calm, it doesn’t really matter that you’re feeling nervous. Avoid these telltale signs of worry:
Fidgeting: Avoid touching your face or playing with jewellery. Keep your hands in front of you. If using a lecturn, place your hands on either side of it.
Pacing: Rather than pace in a random, panicky manner, move strategically. Move a few steps and then stop. This can help keep an audience engaged, and you can use it to emphasise the message you’re communicating.
Hands shaking: Use cards rather than sheets of paper for your notes. This will make your shakiness much less apparent.
Develop good body language
The most important facial expression is the smile. This creates an instant rapport and will make your audience warm to you. Use facial expressions to help convey key points: This will help to make your speech seem more convincing.
Posture is crucial: Stand up straight with your feet slightly apart and your arms loose. Avoid placing your hands on your hips and avoid swaying while you talk. Looking rooted will make you appear more confident and believable. “Closed” gestures to avoid include crossing your arms or legs and standing with your arms behind your back. This creates a mental barrier between you and your audience.
Gesticulate for success
Use your hands and arms to help your audience follow your speech. Effective, confident gestures command attention from listeners. When your body and words work together, they create a powerful message. Make sure that you vary gestures so that you don’t look like a robot.
Adjust your body language to fit the size of the space you’re working with to emphasise points effectively. When delivering a speech, use bold gestures! Tentative, half-hearted actions can make you appear unsure and unconvincing.
Make eye contact to engage people
Engage your audience (and look as if you’re interested in them) by making eye contact with as many people as possible. Don’t just fixate on one friendly face. You should ensure that you engage all parts of the audience, so scan the sides and back as well as the people at the front. Spend more time looking at the audience than your notes. Notes should be a prompt, and not something you read from.