There’s a great old Jerry Seinfeld joke about public speaking. He quotes a statistic from a poll about people’s greatest fears. The number two fear: public speaking. Number one? Death. The punchline is much funnier if you watch it yourself so enjoy!
Besides being a great joke, that statistic really says something about how people feel about public speaking. It can cause anxiety before, during, and after a speech and many people cringe at the prospect of having to get up in front of a group of people and speak. Unfortunately for those that fall into that group, speaking in public is an important part of academics, career advancement, and general communication with your fellow humans. But don’t fear. There is hope.
The best way to improve your public speaking skills is to practice, practice, practice. Like all skills, improvement takes time. You won’t become Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy overnight. That said, if you have a speech or presentation creeping closer on your calendar, there are a few steps you can take to calm your nerves and make your speech the best it can be. Toastmaster has a few good ones to add to your arsenal. Here are some of the highlights:
Make sure you know whom you are speaking to. One of the greatest blunders a public speaker can make is to presume something untrue about their audience. If you’re giving a wedding toast, keep it classy. You might be tempted to tell some of your best stories, but keep in mind, the groom’s grandmother is in the room. Same goes for corporate speaking. It’s fine to be funny, but make sure you know your audience before trying any blue humor.
Another great piece of advice is not to acknowledge your anxiety. If you’re nervous, you will be concentrating on how nervous you are and not your speech. People tend to be hyper aware of themselves when they are in front of an audience. You might feel that making a comment or apology about your nervousness is a good way to ingratiate yourself with the audience, but fight this urge. The people in your audience probably won’t even notice unless you make an issue of it.
Finally, if you visualize success it’s more likely to come true. The old cliche is to visualize your audience naked to calm your nerves but results from this technique are mixed to say the least. You’d be better served visualizing your audience going wild for you once your speech is over. It will give you confidence and keep your mind off of failure and on your message.
These are just a few simple ways to keep on track during a speech or presentation. Feel free to check out the full article for more.