Not everyone is born a great speaker — and the majority of individuals are in need of public speaking tips to overcome stage jitters. I enjoy giving talks and speaking on stages, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous. Aside from practicing, I’ve picked up several habits that keep my nerves at bay. Let me share with you my effective public speaking techniques to give your confidence a boost:
Public Speaking Tips and Tricks to Remember
1. Prepare and practice
These are the two most basic public speaking tips you need to follow when you have a public speaking engagement. One of the best ways to shake off your anxiety is to ensure that you are well-prepared. Once you know what your topic or the event’s theme is, create an outline for your presentation. Research pertinent information. Draw out relevant insights from your own experiences. Adding in your life story increases your authority and makes your message more genuine.
When you have your material ready, practice how you will talk about it. Further, if it’ll help you, record a video of yourself while rehearsing, so you can check your timing and review your mannerisms. Take note of what you need to improve on, especially your use of filler words and gestures.
Read Also: Body Language Tips for Presentations
Lastly, of course, always make sure everything is ready before you step on stage. Check everything you need for your talk before the event begins — your presentation, the sound system, the lights, and other equipment you will be using.
2. Create contingency plans
Part of your preparation should be coming up with contingency plans for the “What ifs” that make you anxious. I learned this the hard way after an embarrassing experience I had at one of my seminars.
Although you cannot prepare for everything, it’s good to have a backup plan for the most common mishaps in public speaking. These usually involve technical difficulties, rude audience members, or unresponsive audience members. Having a strategy so you know how you will deal with unexpected situations during your presentation can increase your self-confidence.
3. Give yourself a pep talk
Assertiveness certainly doesn’t hurt. Focus your energy on visualizing yourself at the end of your talk, with a satisfied audience applauding you. Choose to be excited rather than nervous by claiming your success. Though signs of nervousness may show, think of them as signs of excitement instead.
4. Give value to your audience and inspire action
— Ted McGrath (@ted_mcgrath) June 12, 2017
If you’re struggling to come up with the direction of your message, always remember the two elements that will make it effective — value and action. You should give your audience something to take home and ponder on. More than inspiring them, they should be moved to act on your message. Give them practical ways forward, so they know how they can apply what they learn from you.
If you’re in the sales business like me, it is important that you know how to inspire action from the stage. This is essential for you to be able to sell your products. If you want to learn more about this, read my 11 Advanced Closing Techniques.
Your audience is more likely to respond to you favorably when they sense that you are there to serve. Even if you happen to have selling as part of your purpose, you can still focus on what your audience can gain from it.
In turn, knowing that your audience will get something valuable out of their time with you will give you more confidence on your content.
5. Don’t make excuses or apologize
A common mistake that speakers do is to make excuses or apologize before beginning their talk. Doing this will not only be detrimental to your confidence, but it will also let your audience know that you did not prepare well enough for your talk. Consequently, it becomes easier for them to tune you out, and it might cost you the attention you need from your audience.
Your audience will not cut you some slack, even if you start off with a disclaimer. However, you will be surprised on how they can overlook your nervousness when they see your determination to deliver your message.
6. Captivate your audience’s attention
While it seems counterintuitive as far as public speaking tips go, once you walk out on stage, you don’t have to immediately start talking. Take a few seconds to collect yourself. Find your place, take a deep breath, and then begin your speech. This might come as a challenge when you are anxious, but you need to master yourself before you can command your audience’s attention.
Another way to start strong is by opening with a “hook.” This can be a funny or interesting story, a relevant quote, or a surprising statistic. Regardless, it should grab the attention of your audience and make them more inclined to listen to what you have to say. For this, having a personal connection to your topic can certainly come in handy.
I have also struggled against going into autopilot whenever I conduct my seminars. You run this risk either because you know your material so well, or you’re overthinking. Always keep yourself in check. If you feel that you’re about to slip off from the connection you’ve made with your audience, find a way to bring your energy back.
7. Make eye contact and smile
A great way you can make your talk more natural is by maintaining eye contact with individual audience members. Personally, I like connecting with my audience this way. It makes me feel that I am really conversing with them, and not just speaking to them. It’s an opportunity to build connections with specific audience members without leaving out the rest of my audience.
Another one of my basic public tips that is still oft ignored is that when you’re on stage, don’t forget to smile. Smiling at your audience and the people who are with you on stage can ease any tension. It will also give off the impression that you are approachable, and that you genuinely care about your message.
8. Speak to be understood
The person with a thousand words is never as powerful as the person who tells their story. – Ted McGrath pic.twitter.com/VdQaTZej5L
— Ted McGrath (@ted_mcgrath) October 13, 2017
Having jitters when public speaking is actually normal. Unfortunately, this can also cause you to talk fast in the hope of speeding up your time on stage. Remember, that there is no need to rush your talk. Your goal is to be understood by your audience, so they can gain value and take action afterward.
To avoid rushing, train yourself to speak slower than usual. Not only will this improve the clarity of your speech, it will also make your audience hang on to your every word. When I encounter disruptive audience members, I make significant pauses — even pausing for a whole 10 seconds — to bring their attention back to me. It also gives me time to gather my thoughts and compose myself.
Also, I make sure that I drive my message home by drawing the audience’s attention back to my key points. Then, I recap these points during my conclusion as well.
9. Focus on your allies
Audience members who visibly agree with you are great confidence boosters. You can focus on them more instead of trying to convince those who do not agree with you or ignore you. Identify your allies by looking for individuals who interact with you positively when you present your ideas and thoughts.
10. Don’t be afraid of questions
Some public speakers dislike being asked questions in the middle of their presentation because they see questions as interruptions. That should not be the case. You can actually take it as a compliment when your audience asks you questions during your talk (unless they are being disruptive), because it means they are listening!
Don’t put off answering questions. If I am asked a question which will be answered in the upcoming parts of my presentation, I go right ahead and skip to that part. This is why it is important to know your content front and back. Questions are opportunities to actively interact with your audience and deferring them might cause your audience to disengage from you.
Confident speakers are not only unafraid to address questions — they also practice the courtesy of repeating the audience’s question before answering. This is for the benefit of the other audience members who might not have heard the question and also to clarify if the question was understood correctly.
11. Thank the audience
This is done not just out of courtesy or politeness, but also to express genuine appreciation for your audience. They have given you their time, listened to you, interacted with you, and given you their applause— those are things to be thankful for. That means you shouldn’t forget to thank your audience after they ask questions and when you end your presentation.
Fear of Public Speaking Tips: How to Deal with Stage Fright
Even though being nervous before your speaking engagement is normal, there are also more dramatic cases wherein you are already dealing with stage fright. Here are some public speaking tips that directly address that fear:
12. Get honest feedback
Find trustworthy people who will give you their honest opinion. Practice your presentation in front of them and ask them to evaluate you. If they are also skilled public speakers, you can learn from them through coaching.
13. Dress to impress
Now, let’s be clear. When I say dress to impress, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wear a suit. However, making sure that you look presentable will give you a boost of confidence. When you look smart, you feel smart. Your look should always be appropriate for the occasion. This will establish your authority and build up your self-assurance.
14. Know your cues and keywords
Speaking my truth and sharing my story gave me the ultimate freedom. pic.twitter.com/hdrN5otRZ5
— Ted McGrath (@ted_mcgrath) October 9, 2017
If one of your biggest “What ifs” is forgetting what you are going to say next, come up with cues and keywords to remind you of your message. You can even put these keywords on your slides to help you remember your next topic. They can be in the form of an acronym or short phrases that convey the gist of your topic.
15. Be yourself
Lastly, you should never try to be somebody else in front of other people. Your audience can forgive you for being nervous or initially frightened, but they will surely be turned off when they sense your insincerity. The next time you are invited to a public speaking engagement, prepare for it and just be yourself.
We talked about giving value to your audience with these public speaking tips. However, what if your goal in public speaking is to sell or get more clients? Watch this video from Ted to learn how you can make your call to action effective:
The bottom line of all the public speaking tips we discussed is practice! Grab every opportunity possible to gain public speaking experience. You will find yourself getting better when you continuously practice instead of shying away from invitations to share your message with everyone.
Do you have any public speaking tips that I didn’t cover? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!