5 Tips to Improve Public Speaking

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Mai Nguyen
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Did you know that, according to Forbes’ magazine, only 10% of the population is highly confident in public speaking? Nearly 80% experience some form of anxiety when they deliver their speech and 10% report being extremely terrified. How can we overcome the fear of public speaking? To learn more, I studied some common causes noted by speech coach Dr. Gary Genard. Here are five causes with a solution to each that I think may help.

Self–consciousness in front of groups

Indeed, many people say “I can speak in front of 4 or 5 people, but a group of 300? Forget it!” The number is too big to handle. One way to improve is to remember that a large audience is made up of individuals. Focus on communicating with your listeners by dividing your audience in groups and talk to the groups. This helps you have better eye contact and improves the quality of your conversation.

Fear of appearing nervous

This can be improved by using the “fake it till you become it” method by Harvard professor Dr. Amy Cuddy. In a TED Talk, Dr. Cuddy noted that body languages affect physiology and have priming effects on behavior. To practice, relax yourself 5-7 minutes, focus on controlling your breathing, and visualize the positive outcome. Tell yourself you can do it! The easiest way to “fake” your emotion when you’re not in a good mood is to practice smiling. A bright and full smile makes it much easier to deal with emotions in almost any situation!

Past failures generate fear

Instead of seeing a past failure as a fear, see it as a trial and learn to improve from it. After delivering any speech, sit down and evaluate yourself. Ask someone who watched your presentation for feedback. Find out what you did well and what needs to be improved. Focus on improvement for future presentations.

Fear that others are judging

Whenever you deliver a presentation, your purpose is to tell others your opinion about an issue. Because it’s an opinion, there will be people who agree or disagree. Listen to those people who give you constructive criticism. You can learn from it and improve.

Poor preparation

Being unprepared practically guarantees a speaker will stumble, forgetting the structure of their speech or the message they want to convey. Good preparation gives you an outline to follow when delivering your speech. It also means practicing thoroughly. You can use note cards for preparation of the speech, but work towards using as few as possible during your actual presentation. Your note cards should have your outline with points and sub–points. They’ll keep you organized during your presentation but won’t be a word-for-word script.

As a member of my school’s forensic speech team, I give speeches for regional and national tournaments. These five tips have been very useful for me and my teammates. I hope that they are useful enough to help you be more confident the next time you deliver a speech. Good luck with public speaking and remember- it’s nothing to fret about!

How do you prepare for public speaking? Please write them in the comments below!



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