If you’re like many, public speaking may be your biggest fear. Standing in front of a group can be nerve-wracking, whether it's in a company meeting room, a university classroom or at a professional conference. You may have a podium or desk to stand behind but that doesn't change the fact that all eyes in the room are focused on you.
However, presentations don't have to be frightening or even difficult with the proper tools. Many speakers have trusted methods to control their anxiety. With the right preparation and presentation, it's possible to leave the room feeling excited about your performance.
1. Establish a Goal
This one might seem obvious, but once you have a topic for your speech, make sure you understand what you want to achieve. Is your speech meant to inform your audience of something new? To persuade them to believe what you do? To challenge their way of thinking? To influence others to take action? Your goal should determine the content and layout of your speech.
2. Understand Your Audience
To get your ideas across properly, always cater your language and delivery for your audience. Understanding the audience and what they want in a presentation is the most important step toward achieving your goals.
3. Research Thoroughly
Knowing your topic is key to having confidence in your presentation. The research is also important to keep the conversation going after the presentation; the ability to answer questions on the topic can improve your audience's opinion of you and your speech. Anyone delivering information on a topic should strive to become an authority in that field.
4. Use Documentation
Whether in a paper or a presentation, documenting sources is always essential. The documentation can be mentioned in the presentation simply by prefacing statements with, "According to." Additionally, having a list of documented resources to hand out afterwards is sometimes required.
5. Have a Plan
Never entirely wing it or go off the cuff. If you can memorize the speech or your main points, that's fine -- but back up what you say with facts. Some presenters will use full sheets of paper while others prefer index cards. The medium for the speech will depend upon the presenter's confidence and the type of presentation to be delivered.
Whether you practice alone or among friends, it needs to be done. Go over the speech out loud to find any flaws. Look for places where you might trip or slow down and fix those areas. One of the most common mistakes in presentations is an overload of information. It’s natural to attempt to cram in a lot of information so that you don’t miss anything. Often, however, information gets lost and hurried past during a presentation, so watch for places where that might happen. For the most impact and least audience confusion, do your best to limit the scope of a speech.
7. Dress Up
You may not need to dig your full suit out your closet, but do make sure your appearance is clean and groomed. Being comfortable with your appearance will help boost confidence when you get in front of the room.