It was Dale Carnegie who said, “You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” A common fear among many people is the fear of public speaking. The idea of standing in front of an audience to persuade or present often causes worry and anxiety, but it doesn’t have to. If you can remember Dale Carnegie’s words about fear and follow the strategies below, you will overcome your public speaking fear in no time.
1. Think Out Your Ideas
In order to speak well in front of multiple people, you need to have your entire presentation planned out. Just as you would create an outline for a research paper, you should do the same for your presentation. You’ll need to support your ideas, so think of examples that you can use as evidence. Try to structure your thoughts in a way that makes sense, and create a sense of completeness with a beginning, middle, and end.
2. Be Prepared
You will need to practice your speech significantly in order to feel confident while speaking. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare or you will not feel ready to present. Instead of trying to memorize every word, only memorize the key points of your outline and the examples you will be using for support. You want to be engaged, not robotic-sounding. Your speech should flow naturally, as if you were having a conversation with another person.
3. Start Confidently
The opening of your presentation will determine how the rest of the speech goes, so speak with assertiveness and at a volume where everyone can easily hear you. Try opening with a strong statement and bold language in order to convey confidence. Remember that the audience has no prior opinions or thoughts on what you are going to say, and you are the authoritative source in this situation.
4. Make Eye Contact
Throughout your presentation, it is important to make eye contact with individuals in the room. While you should not focus on one particular person for two long, it is okay to hold someone’s gaze for a few seconds. If you look at the floor or in a random direction, your audience will sense that you are not as engaged as you could be. Making eye contact lets your listeners know that you believe in what you are saying and that you are there to inform them about something new.
5. Slow Down
A beginner’s mistake when it comes to public speaking is to rush through the presentation. When you walk to the podium or front of the room, take a deep breath, look at your audience, and even count to five before starting to speak. It may feel like an eternity, but it will seem like a normal amount of time to the people in the room. Remember to speak clearly and annunciate your words. You should have a slight pause after commas and between sentences, and an even bigger pause between paragraphs or major points in your argument.
6. Stay Steady
Most people know that it’s important not to fidget during a presentation, but it’s also crucial that you limit your movement as much as possible. Slight swaying or talking with your hands can be just as distracting as ordinary fidgeting. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, keep your head up, and plant your feet firmly to the ground. It may feel awkward to hold this stance for a long time, but it will help you to stand up straight and look more confident while you speak.
7. Be Human
Remember: it’s okay to be nervous. In fact, it’s normal. Don’t worry about seeming nervous in front of others, since everybody in the room has had to give a presentation at one point and understands how you feel. If you make a mistake, that’s okay too. Just take a deep breath and pick up where you left off. Keep in mind that everyone in the room is looking forward to hearing what you have to say.
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