Public speaking isn’t rocket science. It is a skill that you can learn and improve over time. Here are eight tips that can help you give better presentations. Work on these eight techniques until they become second nature and you’ll be well on your way to being an excellent speaker.
1. Outline your speech
Write out what you are going to talk about … in simple bullet points. Your outline should cover all the points you want to make in your speech, in a reasonably logical order. Don’t write your speech out word-for-word. Attempting to give a memorized speech will more than likely set you up for failure rather than success.
As you are giving your presentation, you find it much easier to follow your notes than a script. One of the easiest ways is to use old-fashioned 3×5 or 5×7 index cards. Each one should have a bullet point on it that you can expand on. If you’re using a PowerPoint slide show, then your outline notes can give you the basis for your slides.
2. Practice your presentation
Stand in front of a mirror and practice your speech. Better yet, video record your practice so that you can better analyze what you’re doing right and what you can improve. If you’re likely to be embarrassed, do this while no one else is at home. Speaking out loud is a necessary part of this practice. Yes, it can be uncomfortable the first few times you try it, but you’ll get better as you go along. Note where you stumble — this will help you decide where you need to change your speech slightly.
3. Talk to one person at a time
It doesn’t matter whether you’re speaking in a business meeting with one other person or addressing hundreds, or even thousands, of people. Talk as though you are talking face-to-face with one person. If you’ve got a large audience, focus on one person and talk to him or her, do that for a moment or two and then move on to another person and repeat.
4. Don’t fidget
If you’ve got a podium then there’s a natural place to put your hands. If you haven’t, plan ahead of time what you’ll do with your hands so you don’t fidget or gesture too much. Fidgeting makes you look nervous!
5. If you stumble, carry on
Most of your audience will be relieved that it’s not them giving the speech. If you stumble, recover as fast as you can. Do your best not to get flustered and make sure you keep your place in your speech so you can recover from any glitches quickly. Don’t beat yourself up or apologize too profusely. Depending on the type of stumble, you may not need to mention it at all.