Most people are afraid of public speaking, but when you’re shy or introverted giving a speech or presentation can seem even more daunting. Here are some tips on how to conquer public speaking fear and give a great speech, whether you are an introvert or not.
Know your audience
Understanding your audience is one of the single most important factors to successful public speaking. You wouldn’t give the same speech to a group of school teachers as you would to a group of their students. So ask yourself, who is my audience and what do they want, or need, to hear? The answer to this question will help you decide what to include in your speech and how you present it. Introverts are generally very aware of the needs of others – use this natural ability to tune into the needs of your audience and share with them your unique perspective on the topic.
Clearly structure your speech
Like any good story, make sure your speech has a clear beginning, middle and an end. Structure is your friend when it comes to public speaking. It helps you to organize your thoughts and stay on track during your speech. If you start to wander during your presentation, structure will help bring you back. It will also help your audience to follow your presentation more easily. Introverts are usually good at solitary tasks that require intense focus, such as research and writing. Use your strength in these areas to help you craft a well-structured speech.
Start with an introduction designed to grab attention and give your audience a brief idea of what you’re going to talk about. Next, go into the body, or the details of your speech. Break it up into several main ideas that logically flow from one to another. Include transitions between each point to help your audience follow along. For example, you might say something like, “Now that we’ve discussed ways to be more eco-friendly at home, let’s move on to ways to do the same at your workplace.” Finish with a short summary to review what you’ve covered and make your call to action. A call to action is when you tell the audience what you want them to do after hearing your speech.
If you’re finding it difficult to structure your speech, consider using a content writing service such as CopyCrafter. They can help make sure your speech is logical, well-structured and audience-oriented.
Practice, then practice some more
No one knows exactly why are people so scared of public speaking, but seventy-four percent of people suffer from speech anxiety. Theories suggest it’s related to evolution and our deep-seated fear of being rejected by our social group and left to fend for ourselves. Regardless of the reason, one of the best ways of overcoming speech anxiety is preparation. Your adrenaline is bound to be running like crazy on the day of your speech, so the more prepared you are the easier it will be to stay calm and in the flow. Introverts tend to be thorough in their preparation for events, so apply this same care when getting ready for your speech.
To help you remember your presentation, try practicing while you go for a walk. Researchers have found that our memory performance is boosted while walking.
Being a good public speaker is about more than just remembering the words, it’s about conveying a message with both your body and your voice. A good technique is to practice in front of a mirror. Pay attention to your gestures, facial expressions and other body movements to make sure they are in line with your words and are sending the right message. As you gain more confidence in your ability, try giving your speech to a family member or friend. It will help you get used to delivering the presentation for a live audience.
Be the expert you are
Stick to speaking about topics you know well and feel passionate about. If you try to talk about something you don’t really understand or care about you are setting yourself up for failure. Be yourself and allow your natural excitement for your topic to shine through. TED curator Chris Anderson says all great TED Talks have one key common ingredient: ”Your number one task as a speaker is to transfer into your listeners’ minds an extraordinary gift, a strange and beautiful object that we call an idea.” Your audience has come to hear what you have to say, so share your ideas and expertise with them freely and openly.
Remember, it’s a performance
Giving a speech or presentation is a performance. Duh, right? That’s why it makes you so nervous. But looking at it this way can actually help you to get over your fear of public speaking. Susan Cain, author of the New York Times bestselling book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, says it’s like being at a costume party. Behind a mask we feel liberated and our inhibitions fall away. It’s the same way when you step on to the stage. You take on a persona, playing the part of your most confident, most interesting self. You may even want to wear a special outfit, one that makes you feel more confident.
Introverts are often quiet, but when they do speak their ideas can come tumbling out in excitement. Slow down and take your time. This will give your listeners the opportunity to really absorb what you are saying before you move on to your next point. By slowing down your speech you’ll also help keep your heart rate down and lower anxiety.
Don’t forget to smile
A smile goes a long way to connecting with your audience and will also make you feel more relaxed. It might seem like a simple thing, but smiling reduces stress and will make your audience feel more at ease as well.
If you make a mistake, keep going
It’s almost guaranteed that you will make a mistake or two at some point during your speech. For detail-oriented introverts this can be tough to accept, but your audience probably won’t even notice your misstep, because while it may seem major to you, it probably isn’t. And even if it is, keep going. Your audience will remember your speech for the whole of it, not just one moment. Your mistake will seem a lot less important if you don’t draw attention to it.
Spend some time in the room where you’ll be giving your speech beforehand. Try out the microphone and make sure any audio-visual equipment is running properly. Do a trial run, if you have enough time. Make sure you have a glass of water handy and all your notes are in order.
Again, preparation is the key to how to stop fear of public speaking for introverts and other nervous speakers.
Like most things in life, the more often you do presentations the more comfortable you will become doing so. For introverts and anyone else with a fear of public speech, there is a certain degree of “fake it ‘til you make it” that comes into play, especially when you first start. But don’t give up. With preparation and persistence you can become a great public speaker.
Need some inspiration before your speech? Check out these TED Talks for some last minute encouragement.
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