Public speaking is an essential skill in many facets of life, whether at work presenting in board meetings, to inspiring a group of people to follow your lead, to socialising and ensuring your opinion is heard about last night’s football. It is a core skill that is on par with good mathematics and english skills, especially when it comes to work prospects. If you can compel people to listen to you, even if your ideas are somewhat weak, questionable or flawed, you can convince others to put their faith into you. In a job interview, while you may not have certain experience, exhibiting confidence through speech can help your chances so much more. In everyone’s lifetime we’ll be asked to make a speech, whether at school or a social occasion, like a wedding; and while each has their own requirements, they can be nerve-wracking for someone who is not a confident speaker. This article will provide a few tips to help someone who is not a natural speaker:
1) Know Your Subject/Topic
If you do not put in the proper effort and time to read up on the subject or topic you’re speaking about, you’ll go into your speech a lot more nervous than if you do. Some naturally charismatic speakers can ad-lib and improvise on the spot; in fact, not planning ahead may take away some of the apprehension that for someone else will make them worry weeks before the time comes. If you’re speaking as part of your job, make sure you go through your presentation or topic thoroughly beforehand so you’re prepared for any follow-up question from your audience. It’s always better to know too much and seem an authoratative source, than to not have enough. It can make the time go quickly if you have lots to say rather than repeating the same things over and over.
2) Breaking the Ice
If it is possible in this situation, try and break the ice with a small, inoffensive joke though it is important to gauge what is acceptable. While confidence is important, or at least the perception of that, some self-deprecation is welcome, though only a bit; it shows you’re confident enough to poke fun at yourself in areas that don’t matter, and makes you come across more personable and likeable. If something goes wrong, like the equipment malfunctions halfway through, relax, as it can happen and can’t always be helped. If there is some point where you have a bit of leeway or you need an example, take from your own experience as it humanises you and can be a nice thing to spur you on; for example, if you need a photo of a happy family in your powerpoint, include a tasteful and appropriate one of you and your family, which will make you feel better. Some people may keep a picture or token with their notes to glance at to relax them.
3) Organising Your Script
Depending on your topic and the circumstances, you need to decide the best way to deliver your speech. Should you have a full script to read from, word-for-word? Or can you improvise and be a bit more informal? Some are very good at commenting from a few notes or if you’re commenting on results or data, offhand. If you’re required to educate, go into more detail or speak for longer on a subject where the audience has little understanding of the topic, a script may be better. From there you can decide whether you can deliver it naturally, or if having cue-cards are better (with a full script if you stumble).
4) Understand What Works For You
There are many ways to deliver your speech, from things you can try yourself, like imagining everyone in the room naked, to resources like speaker training. Whichever works for you, keep it in mind and do it every time. Experiment, though this can make for a few so-so experiences as you find out what works for you, which is why you’re required to perform presentations at school and university. If you can make presentations seem natural and “just another task” it will remove a lot of the nerves that come with speaking aloud, which is why those who do it routinely just get on with it and are usually very good at it.
Paul isn’t a confident public speaker, naturally, and has researched various methods to help him through university. While some haven’t worked and he is by no means a natural still, he has found a few tips or tricks which he returns to when he is called upon to speak in public.