Presentations and public speaking can sometimes be daunting and nerve-wracking. Your nerves may cause you to jumble your words, forget parts of your speech or even sweat. Mistakes happen so there is always room to learn and improve.
I’ve stuffed up a speech, despite having done hundreds of talks, presentations, seminars, even a TEDx in front of thousands of people. The talk was for the opening of my solo exhibition and I’m not sure what happened but I do know that I was exhausted and didn’t follow my golden rules.
As you may know, stepping into the spotlight takes a lot of courage. To make sure you shine, I have developed five key steps to improving your public speaking skills and reduce that nervousness.
Study your audience
Before any speaking opportunity find out information about the audience. This will help you to tailor your speech to their needs and level of knowledge.
Practice really does make perfect
The more prepared I am, the less nervous I am. Research your topic thoroughly and prepare your speech and then practice, practice, practice.
Speak more often
Trust me, the more you practice public speaking, the more successful you will be. Start by speaking at small events and then build up to bigger ones. Say yes as much as possible to every speaking opportunity.
Relax and be yourself
Try to overcome your nerves. This was the hardest thing for me to do, but it’s important to relax and be yourself. You can use relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing to calm your nerves and make sure you are prepared.
Find and rely on your lighthouses
My friend and speaking coach, Mariette Rups-Donnelly taught me this, and I use it every single time. Find the lighthouses in the room. They are the people that are engaged and listening to you. Speak to them and they will feed you energy. It works every time.
The fear of public speaking is something many of us experience, but with enough preparation and practice it can be overcome. If you do mess it up, don’t beat yourself up about it. You must learn to let go of failures – treat them as learning opportunities.
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