Fear of public speaking is something many of us suffer from. According to some research, people are less afraid of snakes than speaking in front of a group of people. It can be connected to a level of vulnerability and powerlessness we experience as we expose ourselves completely and become the center of attention – even if it is just for a few minutes during a school presentation. However, a lot of this fear also comes from a lack of confidence and feeling of being unprepared – which is something that can easily be avoided with the right tools and approach. After all, public speaking is not lethal, unlike some of the snakes.
Below we shall cover a few of the aspects that may help you improve your public speaking and, most importantly, boost your confidence in this social situation.
While preparing for a speech, people sometimes overlook the basic practicalities of the event. Location is always to be considered – knowing where you stand, where will the audience be positioned, the acoustics of the location, as well as technical details (computer, projector, USB port, internet access), can add some extra confidence. Additionally, knowing your audience is crucial before preparing any speech – are you addressing experts of the area you will be talking about? Are you talking to people relatively unknowledgeable in the subject? This can all determine the terminology you will use in your speech, as well as the level of formality needed.
Content of the speech is crucially important, but body language skills are something that can determine the success of your performance as well. Only a third of the communication is verbal – the rest is body language, facial expressions, voice intonations, and general attitude towards your listeners. To be a confident public speaker, it is important to feel grounded during your speech, and stand firmly on your own two feet, both figuratively and literally. Also, hand gesticulation is a good way to emphasize your points during the speech. Open arms generally radiate confidence, openness and induce trust – so make sure not to hide them behind your back! Likewise, it is helpful to be mindful of your facial expressions. A great way to check this, as well as your overall body language, is by making a video of yourself as you speak. While it can be intimidating at first, getting used to seeing yourself in perspective can feel empowering later on.
Just like written text, a speech should follow a certain structure. While tweaks, changes, and unexpected twists can always be added, it is a rather safe option to follow the IBC structure (introduction, body, and conclusion). Unlike writing, however, the introduction and conclusion should not be too lengthy – around 10% of the speech each. Too long of an introduction might be boring – and an unnecessarily long conclusion might dilute the body to the point of the audience forgetting what it was all about. The introduction should be catchy and engaging, while the conclusion should be clear, reinforcing, and can even call for action.
The body is the main part of the speech, and the main thing you should look for is a clear purpose you want to convey. The purpose should be consistent and can be repeated a couple of times, but building up and progression are also important for the speech to be impactful. Moreover, people only listen to what relates to them and is beneficial, so it could be useful to relate to people‘s personal experiences and vivid examples. If it is a formal presentation, the benefits of listening and educational message can be exaggerated in the introduction and conclusion – to keep the audience interested.
Finally, making a speech on something you do not care about is doomed to fail, because the audience can sense this – we all have witnessed speeches where either the purpose or the audience is disregarded. One should be able to look for a certain spark within themselves that can be passed on to the audience. Enthusiasm, as well as positive and engaging body language, can only come from a passionate speaker who is clear on what he wants to say and why he wants to say it. Ultimately, it can be supported with the right practical preparation, body language, and logical structure – but a speech that makes an impact only comes from a purpose and the right attitude. Good luck!
By: Viktorija Tuzaite, NHL University of Applied Sciences ’21