Public speaking is a valuable skill for students and graduates to have, regardless of your chosen path in life. In the future, you may find yourself in a position to pitch your ideas to a board of superiors, present a case in a courtroom full of jurors, or give a speech about your latest scientific discovery. And you probably won’t be able to avoid giving presentations and speeches in some of your high school and college classes. As important as public speaking is, many people find it to be a nerve-wracking task. If you struggle with public speaking, here are some tips to help you keep calm and ace your articulation.
1. Be prepared
Knowing your topic inside and out is one of the most important factors when it comes to public speaking. If you have the opportunity, choose a topic that you’re already knowledgeable and passionate about. During the research process, keep your ideas organized so it’ll be easy to reference back to them later. Once you have a solid outline of the main points you want to touch upon, practice your presentation in front of your family and friends. Rehearsing with a timer can also help ensure your speaking pace is appropriate for your allotted time limit.
2. Use flashcards
Though it may be tempting to bring along a full essay for your presentation, this will likely not be the best choice. Reading from a lengthy paper makes it easier to lose your spot, which could result in long pauses as you attempt to find your footing again. You may also find yourself holding the paper in front of your face, obstructing both the audience’s view of you and your voice’s projection. Instead, make flashcards using keywords for the main points of your presentation. That way, you can glance at the cards to jog your memory and keep speaking smoothly.
3. Know the environment
If you have the opportunity to visit the space you’ll be presenting in beforehand, this could be a great way to familiarize yourself with the environment and make it seem a little less daunting. You could even practice walking around the “stage” (or whatever space is available to you). You should also have an idea of who will be in attendance during your speech or presentation; will the audience be mostly students your age or a group of senior citizens? Will they share the same beliefs of you, or will you be exposing them to a new point of view? Knowing this information will help eliminate any last-minute surprises for the big day.
4. Get a good night’s sleep
The night before your presentation, you may feel tempted to stay up late and rehearse, but don’t give in! Believe me—giving your brain and body a full night to rest and reset will ultimately benefit you more than going over your notes again. At this point, it’s likely you’ve read and rehearsed your presentation enough that continuing to practice would be more overkill than progress. Get to sleep early so you can wake up as refreshed as possible; any last-minute tweaks you need to make will still be there in the morning.
5. Be present
Eye contact is key! During your presentation, be sure to engage with and look at your audience rather than your notes. If it helps, you can even ask someone you know to sit in the audience so you can single out a familiar face and pretend you’re speaking directly to them. Before the big day, you may want to practice speaking with a light, conversational tone, as the audience is more likely to connect with you if you don’t sound robotic. Also consider working a joke into the beginning of your presentation to help ease the tension (as long as it works with the tone of the assignment).
Public speaking can be daunting, but the benefits are exponential. With these tips, you’ll be presenting with ease in no time. Take a deep breath, smile, and go share your knowledge with the world!
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