There comes a point in everyone’s career where you might need to make a public speech – whether it’s a small presentation in front of your peers, a pitch in front of potential investors or as a guest speaker at a big conference. For those who hate public speaking it won’t matter what size the audience, the venue or the length of the speech you have to make – it may still feel you with anxiety. If you are one of those people then you’re in the right place.
As a startup, the team at HeadBox know a thing or two about speaking in front of an audience, so we’ve devised a step by step guide for people who don’t like public speaking to conquer their fear, gain some confidence and absolutely smash their next public speaking scenario out of the park.
1. Know your audience?
The first thing to understand is who will be attending the speech? It could be a group of your colleagues or a large audience of people you have never met before. Either way, you want to consider a couple of things. Try to work out the demographic of the group- this will help you work out how formal you can be and which tone of voice to adopt throughout the speech. It’s also handy to know what companies they are from, as well as their job roles. For example, you may speak differently to a room of shareholders at a company update compared to a room of potential employees. Understanding who they are and why they are there will help you perfect the content and delivery of the speech.
2. Practice makes perfect
Public speaking is a skill that takes practice. The more you do it the more comfortable you will feel. Make sure you read through your notes both in your head and aloud so that you know them inside out. Take the time to rehearse and know your main points off by heart. It’s acceptable to have a copy of the speech in front of you when you are speaking, but we’d recommend breaking the text into paragraphs a few lines in length so it’s easier to read. That way if you glance down at your page, you’ll find it much easier to spot where you are in the text.
The better you know the content, the more easily you will find it to deliver on the day. You should also rehearse your speech in front of a small audience of colleagues or friends before the event – they can give you some honest feedback which will help when it comes to the big day. Working your way up from a small audience to a bigger one is a more natural way of conquering your fear so you are not thrown straight in at the deep end.
3. Check out the Venue
If possible, it’s a good idea to check out the venue before the event. Rehearse your speech in the venue if possible as this will give you a good idea of the size of the Space so you can adjust your tone of voice accordingly. You should also establish whether you will have a microphone and where this will be positioned. Some venues offer hand held microphones and some offer fixed ones. Practise your speech with the equipment before the real thing.
It’s also a good chance to get a feel for the venue and the layout ahead of the event. You can work out how big your audience will be, where they will be sitting and exactly how it will feel on the day. Having all of this information before the event means it’s one less thing you have to worry about. If you need any help finding a venue then check out our blog on inspiring venues for a client pitch meeting which will give you some great ideas.
4. Relax and prepare
When you wake up on the day of your big presentation try to have a stress free morning – wake up with plenty of time and make sure you have a good breakfast to keep you fueled and energised. If you have time try to read through any presentation notes one more time just to refresh yourself. When it comes to the actual event, make sure you take a few deep breaths – remember that it’s normal if you feel nervous. This isn’t something to worry about. On the day of the event, we would recommend a few warm-up exercises to get yourself prepared for the big speech – especially if it’s a large scale event like a conference or exhibition where you will need to project your voice across a large venue. Be sure to drink plenty of water and try to avoid shouting or talking excessively beforehand.
5. What to do with your hands
This is a common thing that people over think when going to do a public speech or presentation. Too many hand gestures during a speech can be very distracting for the audience – any continual motion will attract attention to your hands and away from what you’re saying. However, too little hand gestures can make you look static, nervous and un-engaging. You want to find the perfect medium. Try to make small natural gestures that add to your presentation.
If you’re standing in front of a microphone, sometimes it’s useful to hold small note cards which you can have in one hand throughout the presentation. This will stop you from fidgeting or over-gesturing too much as well as ensuring you have a prompt available if needed! We always recommend purchasing some branded note cards to give you that professional edge.
6. Ask for feedback
As with any event, always ask for feedback. This will help you learn and develop your skills for the next time you need to do a public speaking task. There is always room for improvement in everything we do so don’t worry if there are some areas to work on- constructive criticism will just help you in the future. Be patient, and don’t expect to be an expert overnight.
We hope this little six step guide has been helpful in making you feel more confident about public speaking. You can now walk into your next event like a true pro and amaze everyone with the best speech they’ve ever heard.
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