Public speaking is a top fear for many people. It’s common for professionals to suffer from stage fright or worry they don’t have a gift for making presentations.
If you feel intimidated speaking in a small staff meeting or making a large sales pitch for your customers, there are specific steps you can take to gain confidence and be a more effective communicator. Start with these four:
Focus on the message.
The first step in preparing your speech is determining the goal, purpose and ideas you want to convey in your presentation. Are you trying to motivate, train or instill company values? Are you giving a presentation to discuss a problem?
Frequently, not having a clearly defined message — and underlying purpose — is the reason why presentations fall short. Once you clarify your main message and the desired reaction or outcome for your audience, it will be easier to make sure that everything in your presentation speaks to that theme. The key points should be easy for your listeners to identify. Avoid beating around the bush; speak professionally but clearly and directly.
Focusing on sharing an important message can help take the pressure off of yourself. Think about what you want others to come away with when the presentation is over instead of how others might view you. This will help you feel less nervous and free you to channel energy in a positive way to speak enthusiastically throughout your presentation.
Prepare an outline.
No matter how short or long your presentation will be, it’s important to prepare a written outline. This will ensure your presentation is developed in a logical way. As you create your outline, break down your presentation into a few main points and figure out how they speak to the main theme. Be careful not to choose too many, as it will be hard for your listeners to assimilate excessive information.
Once you have chosen the points, think about how you want to explain each. Make it easy for your listeners to identify how they can apply what they learn in your presentation.
For your notes, turn your outline into a document containing a few key words to help you remember what you want to talk about instead of writing down an entire script. This will allow you to be more spontaneous and sound more natural.
Get the attention of your audience.
Your opening phrases will determine how engaged your listeners will be during your presentation. Whether your listeners are employees, fellow co-workers or clients, they’re probably busy, so if you can grab their attention from the beginning, your whole presentation will be more effective.
Ask a thought-provoking question to get started or use a current industry headline related to the theme of your presentation. For help developing an effective introduction, research speakers who are influential in their fields. You may find it helpful to see how speakers on TED Talks or other similar platforms gain listeners’ attention.
[See: 9 Common First-Job Mistakes.]
Illustrating your main points helps your listeners retain the information you’ve provided. You can use the following methods:
— A graph.
— A real-life experience.
— A video.
— Another visual aid appropriate to your industry.
Consider which methods would work best for the length and topic of your presentation and incorporate them. If you are going to use PowerPoint or a video, consider asking someone to help you control the computer to keep things running smoothly.
Even if you feel that you aren’t the most gifted public speaker, incorporating these steps will calm your nerves, ensure you’re fully prepared and make you a more effective and memorable presenter.
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