Does getting in front of an audience to deliver a speech seem daunting to you? You’re not alone in that feeling. Even the most experienced public speakers get nervous sometimes. But what separates a novice from a pro is laying the right groundwork.
You see, even the professional speaker doesn’t just jump in front of their audience with no preparation. They’ve sought out advice, learned from mistakes, and continuously refined their craft. So if you’re looking for ways to take your presentation skills to the next level, you’re already on the right path to success.
Here are five tips for delivering an impactful speech with confidence.
It seems like an obvious tip, but so many people overlook thorough preparation. Internalizing the message is key to being able to share it in a convincing way. If you are reading from a script, it will lack passion and believability. Practice your speech and make sure you understand the ins and outs of the topic well enough to deliver the speech on autopilot. There are often unforeseen distractions when you’re on stage — stage lights in your eyes, a noisy audience, or a cell phone ringing. But if you are well-rehearsed, you can recover from any interruption with ease.
Here are few additional quick tips for optimal preparation:
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
- Eat a healthy meal at least an hour or two before you present. Make sure your food has time to digest.
- Have a bottle of water on stage with you in case your throat gets dry. (You don’t want to have to ask someone to get it for you from the stage.)
- Show up early to the space, before the attendees arrive, so that you are centered and can visualize yourself succeeding in the space.
- Make sure to check all technical details well before the start — like your microphone and computer (if you are using slides).
“Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.” – Dale Carnegie
You are a human being, not a machine. And you are presenting to other human beings. They want to relate to you. Avoid reciting facts and depending heavily on charts and graphs. Tell stories that invite connection. Smile, and make eye contact with people in the audience. Use humor, show your enthusiasm, and lead with passion about the topic. You want to show people that you understand them, so make sure you proactively address their concerns and use terms they are familiar with. Ask them questions to stir interest, and use “we” to imply a collective experience.
Focus on the value you are providing to the audience. Are you informing them on something they need to know? Entertaining them? Educating them? Helping them improve? Why should they care about what you have to say? Connect the dots for them on your content and how it applies to their everyday lives. If you focus too much on yourself, your own credentials, or your own personal stories without clarifying how it impacts them, they will be lost (and probably bored).
“Your purpose is to make your audience see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt. Relevant detail, couched in concrete, colorful language, is the best way to recreate the incident as it happened and to picture it for the audience.” – Dale Carnegie
Effective persuasion requires us to simplify the message. Describe the story chronologically as it happened with all important clarifying details. Show that change was needed, and recommend a clear action for listeners to take in this situation.
When presenters try to insert too many messages into one speech, people leave the presentation without absorbing a single thing. Identify one single message that you want your audience to digest. Keep it at three points to support your message. Any more than that and the message starts to get muddy. You want to reinforce the single message throughout the entire presentation. Make it clear at the beginning, at the end, and throughout the entire speech. The audience should be able to identify exactly what your message was, and they should know how to take action on it.
This tip is about the physical way you are communicating the message. Have you ever been in an audience where the presenter is unsure about the content? Where he or she looks like they are glued to the floor, they mumble or stumble over their words, or they read the whole speech from a piece of paper, never looking up? It probably made you feel uncomfortable, and you probably didn’t even hear what they said, even if the core message was worthwhile.
Speaking with confidence starts with rehearsing the content, so definitely focus on tip #1 first. But then practice the actual vocal delivery, and imagine it is in front of an audience. Project your voice. Enunciate and speak clearly. Slow down a little. When we’re nervous, we tend to speed up. Practice pausing instead of using filler words like “um,” “ah,” and “like.” Remember to breathe. It’s admittedly hard to relax when you’re on a stage, with a spotlight and hundreds of eyes on you. But the more you can enjoy yourself, the more the audience will enjoy it too.
Believe in yourself and make your mark.
Public speaking takes effort, determination, and experience. Try incorporating these five tips into your next presentation, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a world-class presenter.
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“Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident” – Dale Carnegie