Public speaking is very few people’s favorite thing. It can be so terrifying to get up in front of a whole class and present your project, so here are a few tips on nailing your next speech and feeling a little less nervous while you’re at it.
i. preparing your speech
- Start with a topic that you care about, and be sure that:
- It’s not too general that you don’t have enough time to cover it (like ‘the history of the US’ for a five minute speech) or too specific that you will run out of material.
- Some people talk faster when they are nervous, some people slow down. Find out which you are and plan accordingly.
- Make several drafts, and send them to your teacher if you can.
- Create your visual aids (PowerPoint, handouts, etc) before your final draft, so you can make changes as necessary.
- Don’t put too much text on your slides, other wise your audience (and maybe you) will get distracted by trying to read them.
- Stick to using slides for quick facts, statistics, and pictures.
- Don’t use the sound effects options they have for changing slides, it will just be a distraction.
- For a speech you’re just giving once, you probably won’t have the timing down enough to use automatic changes.
- Don’t put too much information on one slide. Just the point you’re on, and maybe the next, will be enough to fill it if your font is as large as it should be.
- Make sure you have your slides saved in at least two places (typically a flash drive and your email) so that if you can’t access one you have a back up.
- Think about what questions people might have about your topic, and be prepared to answer them. Also brush up on any opposing views if the exist so that you can address those, both in the speech and in questions.
ii. making your flashcards
- Write bigger and clearer than you think you need.
- I find it a bit difficult to read when I get nervous, especially when I’m just glancing down quickly. Write in print, and stick to just one or two points per card so that you can write largely.
- Don’t write whole sentences, just key words.
- If you have too much information you’ll be tempted to read it all off. Instead, just write down a word or two that will remind you of your point if you get off track.
- Number your flashcards, and consider putting them on a ring.
- That way, if you drop your cards on the way up you won’t start out flustered.
- Remember to put when to change the slide so you don’t forget and end up behind, or leaving it on the same slide the whole time.
- Color code your cards so that you can see what’s happening at a glance.
- I typically use blue for stats/things I need to quote directly, grey for slide changes, and pink for points to emphasize.
- All speeches should end with you asking for questions, so be sure to add that into your last card.
- Always practice out loud, even if you feel silly.
- It’s important to hear and feel yourself saying the speech to get comfortable performing it.
- Time yourself practicing your rough draft a few times, so you know if you need to make it longer or shorter.
- Practice with your visual aids a few times
- Practice it all the way through if you can; if you mess up, brush it off and keep going.
- Film yourself practicing, so you can see if there’s anything you’re not noticing that you need to adjust.
- Practice everyday, even if it’s just for a few minutes some days.
- The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
iv. getting ready to speak
- On the day of your speech, be sure to eat a good breakfast/lunch so you don’t get light headed.
- Dress in an outfit that makes you feel confident and isn’t distracting: no busy patterns, large logos, or short hemlines that you would be tugging at the whole time.
- Double check that you have everything you need before you leave – cards, slides, and any handouts you may need.
- This TED Talk has some great tips on faking confidence. I highly recommend watching it, but if you don’t have the time one of the take aways is that certain poses can trick your brain into feeling confident. She actually suggests going into a bathroom stall and standing in a “Superman” sorta pose for a minute or so. You’ll feel really silly, but strangely it helps.
- While you’re in there, adjust your hair/check your teeth so you’re not worried about that when you get up there.
- If you get to choose when you speak, think strategically: will going first and getting it out of the way make you feel better? Or would you rather wait and see a few people speak first?
- I really don’t suggest waiting until the very last slot, but I like to go second or third to have the best of both worlds.
- When you get to class, lay out everything you need and glance over your notes one more time. Then take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
v. the speech
- When you get up to speak, take your time laying out everything you need and setting up your slides.
- After you’ve gotten the slides on, test the remote to see how sensitive it is. Just flipping to the first slide and back to the intro will help you feel less flustered if it’s more sensitive than you think and jumps around.
- Take a deep breath and get started. If you mess up, no will know but you. Just keep going and act confident.
- Glance back for just a second when changing slides to make sure you’re on the right one.
- Make eye contact! The biggest mistake I see people make is to look down or above everyone’s head. Make eye contact with everyone more or less equally so it doesn’t look like you’re staring people down (but, if there’s someone that’s extra smiley/encouraging don’t be afraid to come back to them when you get nervous).
- If you feel yourself starting to get nervous or starting to talk too fast/slow, it’s okay to take a second to take a deep breath and center yourself. Don’t be afraid of a couple seconds of silence if you need them.
- If the podium helps you feel less nervous, use it. If moving around helps you loosen up, that works too!
- If you get off track, you are likely only one that even noticed that you messed up, so just take a deep breath, take a look at your notes, and get back on track the best you can (”going back to the second point,” or “but before we get to that,”).
- If you’ve noticed that something’s wrong that needs to be addressed (like you’re on the wrong slide, or you misspoke and gave an incorrect fact) you can say something simple like “Sorry, I misspoke, it’s actually 1 in 3 Americans, not 1 in 4″ or try to make a joke if the subject lends to it and move onto your next point.
- No matter what happens, it’s all good. Try to to panic and say things like “sorry, guys, I’m just so nervous” because that’s basically the only thing that will tip them off that you are.
Above all, just try to relax and remember that you’re doing a good job. No one but you can tell how nervous you are or will know if you mess up.