Tips to Solve Your Speech Worries

"If you can’t write your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour."
-Dianna Booher-


Know the needs of your audience and match your contents to their needs. Know your material thoroughly. Put what you have to say in a logical sequence. Ensure your speech will be captivating to your audience as well as worth their time and attention. Practice and rehearse your speech at home or where you can be at ease and comfortable, in front of a mirror, your family, friends or colleagues. Use a tape-recorder and listen to yourself. Videotape your presentation and analyze it. Know what your strong and weak points are. Emphasize your strong points during your presentation.

When you are presenting in front of an audience, you are performing as an actor is on stage. How you are being perceived is very important. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Be solemn if your topic is serious. Present the desired image to your audience. Look pleasant, enthusiastic, confident, proud, but not arrogant. Remain calm. Appear relaxed, even if you feel nervous. Speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and show appropriate emotion and feeling relating to your topic. Establish rapport with your audience. Speak to the person farthest away from you to ensure your voice is loud enough to project to the back of the room. Vary the tone of your voice and dramatize if necessary. If a microphone is available, adjust and adapt your voice accordingly.

Body language is important. Standing, walking or moving about with appropriate hand gesture or facial expression is preferred to sitting down or standing still with head down and reading from a prepared speech. Use audio-visual aids or props for enhancement if appropriate and necessary. Master the use of presentation software such as PowerPoint well before your presentation.

Do not over-dazzle your audience with excessive use of animation, sound clips, or gaudy colors which are inappropriate for your topic.

Do not torture your audience by putting a lengthy document in tiny print on an overhead and reading it out to them.

Speak with conviction as if you really believe in what you are saying. Persuade your audience effectively. The material you present orally should have the same ingredients as that which are required for a written research paper, i.e. a logical progression from INTRODUCTION (Thesis statement) to BODY (strong supporting arguments, accurate and up-to-date information) to CONCLUSION (re-state thesis,summary, and logical conclusion).

How to find your confidence.

So far as fears go, public speaking ranks right up there with the worst of them. Some people go so far as to say they would rather die than give a speech in public. If you are someone that suffers from nerves, focusing on these anxieties is unproductive. For you, the best way forward is to think up strategies to control those nerves, so that they don’t control you. It is important that you find the relaxation technique that works best for you such as positive visualisation or deep breathing.

Feeling some nervousness before giving a speech is natural and even beneficial, but too much nervousness can be detrimental. Here are some proven tips on how to control your butterflies and give better presentations:

BE PREPARED. BECOME YOUR OWN BEST TEACHER.

Know your stuff. Research your topic, find quotes, charts, and research study results to include in your presentation. The more you know your topic, the more comfortable you will feel talking about it. Do not put off making the presentation until the last minute. Write an outline first. Then roughly storyboard the presentation on several blank pieces of paper. Believe me, this is a huge time saver.

Space and room set up are important to speaking. For example, in our weekly team meeting, it’s a casual, roundtable atmosphere, and this environment is ideal sitting when speaking. If you are giving a solo presentation in a classroom, it is better to stand, so that your voice can project better and because you command more presence, which you want to do.

There is no substitute for preparation and practice. The best speakers practice each sentence in their head many, many times before they speak it. They try it over and over until the timing is just right, and it begins to feel natural. Often, it looks like they are sitting there thinking, but really they are practice speaking in their head.

The cure for stage fright is to get emotional or tough. Allow yourself to feel very happy or very angry and your stage fright will go away. Allow yourself to laugh and it will also go away. Stage fright is like fog. A good breath of emotion or laughter will blow it away.

START OFF THE RIGHT WAY.

Use an introduction, body, and conclusion in your presentation. All three of these should tie directly to your main theme. The goal of any speech is to help the audience understand something, and having an introduction, body, and conclusion helps your audience understand your theme, and tie it back into everything you say.

The introduction has two purposes: first to secure attention, and second to orient the audience toward your theme. Most audiences will pay attention to any speaker for the first 20 seconds. In that time, you must grab their attention and orient them.

Develop the main theme or message you want to communicate. Often, when we try to get through too many themes, it gets confusing and the audience doesn’t remember any of them. It doesn’t matter if you are making a point in a class or delivering a full scale speech. Develop your main theme and keep developing it to get that message across.

Have handouts ready and give them out at the appropriate time. Tell audience ahead of time that you will be giving out an outline of your presentation so that they will not waste time taking unnecessary notes during your presentation.

THE ROOM; DO A ROOM CHECK.

If at all possible, visit the room in which you will be giving your talk before you actually have to go on stage. Believe me, it will be less stressful if you have a physical sense of your environment. If being there isn’t possible, ask the person who is setting up the talk to describe the room to you – how many seats? Will it be dark? Light? How big is the expected audience?

I was terrified once to discover upon arrival that I was to give a talk in front of a thousand people in a darkened room with a huge video display of me behind me on stage when I was expecting a small room with 50 people in a well lit room. Public speaking can be stressful enough, do what you can to be as comfortable and stress free before your talk.

AUDIO VISUAL; HAVE A PLAN B.

Everyone who has done public speaking has an AV horror story to tell. The demo didn’t work, the Internet line went dead, the computer gave out. The list goes on. Murphy’s law is in full form when it comes to presentation technology. Everything that can go wrong will indeed go wrong at some point. Depending on the stakes – the importance of the presentation – you’ll want to have back-ups. Computers do pick the worst times to fail.

If this presentation is important, make sure someone on your team is close by with a back-up laptop, with the presentation loaded, ready to go. Make sure your laptop is charged. Meet with the tech people ahead of time and do a run-through making sure your computer can hook into their AV system.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. WHAT DO THEY CARE ABOUT ?.

The best advice I was ever given regarding speaking to an audience was to think less of what I wanted to say, and more of what the audience wanted to hear. In other words, speak to their listening. Once you have an audience engaged and they trust that listening to you won’t be a waste of time you can give them what they want plus more.

People can at most remember maybe four things from a presentation. What will be your four? What is the most important thing you want your audience to remember? Think about what it is that you want your audience to remember as you create your presentation.

MAKE CONTACT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE.

Maintain sincere eye contact with your audience. Use the 3-second method, e.g. look straight into the eyes of a person in the audience for 3 seconds at a time. Have direct eye contact with a number of people in the audience, and every now and then glance at the whole audience while speaking. Use your eye contact to make everyone in your audience feel involved.

VARY YOUR TONE, VOLUME AND SPEED.

Vary your tone

When delivering a speech, how you say something can be just as important as what you say. No matter how interesting your speech may be, speaking in a monotone is a sure way of putting your audience to sleep. In light of this, it is important that you vary the pitch and character of your voice so that it complements and emphasises what it is you are trying to say.

Vary your volume

Speaking at a good volume is another important factor. Your voice should be loud enough so that it carries to the back wall, but not too loud so you are shouting at the audience! Get a little loud sometimes and then get soft. Vary the tone. Don’t be boring.

Vary your speed.

Mono-speed is as bad as monotone. It does not matter whether you talk more quickly or more slowly. What is critical is that you vary your speed and practice your timing. You don’t actually speak in sentences. Phonetically, we speak in groups of words. Speed up some groups of words. Pause after important points. Practice improves timing.

BODY LANGUAGE AND GESTURES

Much of communication comes through body language. How you hold yourself carries a very strong message, so when making a speech, it is important to be aware of it and use it to your advantage.

Posture—if there is a podium, do not use it to lean forward, this can be intimidating to an audience, however it is equally as important not to lean backwards either. It is best to maintain a relaxed but upright posture. Keep your feet firmly grounded with your legs shoulder width apart, this will help you to keep your balance.

•Make an effort to be aware of what you do with your hands. Hands are prone to fidgeting and have a tendency to take on a life of their own, so it is important that you keep them under control. Exactly where they should be placed is another consideration; for starters do not put your hands in your pockets—you’ll sound like a change machine and look like you have a bad attitude. Don’t place them behind your back either—you will look too formal as well as feeling unnatural. It is best to leave your arms comfortably by your side allowing them the freedom to gesture.

Gesturing with your head and arms is part and parcel of communicating. It is the way in which we add life and emphasis to the spoken word, so it is only natural that they play an important role in public speaking. While gestures can be useful to emphasise a particular point, it is important that they be kept natural/spontaneous. Over-exaggerated or forced gestures can work to your disadvantage, for you are in danger of distracting the audience and therefore detracting from what you are saying.

Dress—your physical appearance can shape first impressions and so should be an important consideration before making your speech. Be sure that you are wearing something that is comfortable for both you and the audience. It is not a good idea to be standing in front of an audience dressed in a pair of jeans that are painfully small or in a hot pink tank top that is painful to look at. When it comes to clothing, simplicity is the key. Opt for neutral tones and simple cuts. After all, your audience should be focused on what you are saying not on what you are wearing.

Eye contact—ask any expert and they’ll guarantee that making and maintaining eye contact with your audience is an essential element of good public speaking. This simple tool works wonders on the audience—by engaging their attention at the start of the speech and securing their interest and respect throughout.

IDENTIFY AND ELIMINATEBODY WEAK LANGUAGE

Weak language is any word or phrase that does not add anything to what you are saying. Any word that does not make your message stronger makes it weaker.

When you analyze a sentence, cut it down to as little as you need without cutting out the message. The most common example of weak language is the word "um." Other examples of weak language are "basically", "well","that is to say", "I mean", or "in other words." We use weak language like a crutch. We say words like "basically", not because they mean anything, but because they help us stall until we can think of something to say. It is far better to be silent that to use weak language. Be comfortable with silence.

OBSERVE OTHER SPEAKERS

Other speakers can be excellent teachers. Pay attention to what you admire and respect about other public speakers. At the same time, notice what distracts or bores you about other speakers.

USE STORIES

Use stories rather than statistics. Statistics appeal to the head, but stories touch the heart. Most people can’t relate to statistics. The human brain processes images and emotions, not words. Words and symbols are used to create images and convey feelings. People can understand statistics, but are not moved by them. Everyone, however, can relate to stories. Start with a story if you can.

Stories make you a real person not just a deliverer of information. Use personal experiences to bring your material to life. No matter how dry your material is, you can always find a way to humanise it. Keep audience interested throughout your entire presentation. Remember that an interesting speech makes time fly, but a boring speech is always too long to endure even if the presentation time is the same.

Frame your stories into questions and you’ve created a conversation.

Do not read from notes for any extended length of time although it is quite acceptable to glance at your notes infrequently. Speak loudly and clearly. Sound confident. Do not mumble. If you made an error, correct it, and continue. No need to make excuses or apologize profusely.
Pause.
Allow yourself and your audience a little time to reflect and think. Don’t race through your presentation and leave your audience, as well as yourself, feeling out of breath.

PLAN YOUR FINISH

Know when to STOP talking. Use a timer or the microwave oven clock to time your presentation when preparing it at home. Just as you don’t use unnecessary words in your written paper, you don’t bore your audience with repetitious or unnecessary words in your oral presentation. Terminate your presentation with an interesting remark or an appropriate punch line. Leave your listeners with a positive impression and a sense of completion. Do not belabor your closing remarks. Thank your audience and sit down.

If you have been slotted an hour, keep it to an hour. It is rude and inconsiderate to your audience and to other speakers to go beyond your time allocation. Take a couple time checks through the presentation. Notice if people are shifting a lot in their seats, or if many are quietly getting up to leave. That would be a red flag that people need a break. If you do come to the end of your time period and you still have more to cover in your presentation, stop what you are doing and ask the audience if they would like you to go on, or end now.
Give people the opportunity to leave the room if they have other time commitments.

HAVE FUN UP THERE !

If you are having a good time, so will your audience. If you are uncomfortable, your audience will feel uncomfortable for you. So relax. Be yourself. Remind yourself that you know your topic and that these folks want to learn what you have to say. Enjoy yourself, even if the AV falls apart and your computer crashes. 99% of the time everything will turn out just fine, and people will remember your grace much longer than the details of your Power Point slides. Sometimes we forget to have fun when giving a talk. Give yourself reminders on your speaker notes. Your enthusiasm will be infectious!

Know how you want to feel when you’re done your presentation. Ultimately, you can’t really control what the audience does and if try to, you’re likely to fumble. I’ve had what I thought were hilarious stories that didn’t get so much as a giggle. And I’ve had low-engagement audiences that swarmed me after I got off stage. You just don’t know.

Some quick tips

•Don’t drink too much caffeine before giving your speech—it tends to give people the shakes and nerves will make this worse.
•Preparation prevents panic—knowing your material well will really boost your confidence.
•If you make a mistake don’t worry. The chances are the audience didn’t notice. If it is obvious, don’t apologise, simply make the correction and continue with the rest of your speech.
•Go easy on the apologies. An ice skater doesn’t apologize for slipping. She keeps skating, distracting you with the next great move.

•Remember—no matter how large an audience seems—it is made up of individuals.

PS…
All-important style tips:

Ladies:

: Wear a good bra. You know, 80% of women are wearing the wrong fit of bra, right? Well, when that happens on stage, it’s tragic.
While we’re on the topic…
: Tits up. You heard me. Lift your girls up and your entire posture changes.
: False eyelashes. Don’t be afraid of them. When you’re being photographed, the small touch of glam can give you just the right amount of voom voom.
: Always have a back up outfit.
: High heels are a must. Because, it’s not how you feel, it’s how you tower.

Gentlemen:

: Shave. A 5 o’clock shadow looks great when you roll over in the morning, but in the spotlight or on camera, you do not look suave, you look like a bum. Or like George Michael in 1991.
: The pants. It’s all about excellent fitting pants. Get a tailor.