Public Speaking 101

Speaking in front of a large audience — you either love it or you hate it. Some people think that because they are introverts, speaking to crowds really isn’t for them. But just because you aren’t a fan of public speaking right now doesn’t mean you can’t be great at it, or even learn to enjoy it!

One of the absolute best parts of my job is getting in front of a room and connecting with an audience that’s hanging on my every word. Connecting to people in such a powerful way is an addiction in the most positive sense of the word. I love sharing my stories and experiences with those who can benefit from hearing them. And the best part? All of us have stories to share that can truly inspire, help, and motivate others. You simply have to look inside yourself and find out what it is.

That’s why the first step to being a great public speaker has nothing to do with overcoming fear or anxiety. It’s all about defining what personal message you have to share with the world. Your talk could be business-related, personal, or anywhere in between, but it won’t be a great experience for you or your audience if you don’t make it relatable and human. How can you incorporate an element of yourself into your work-related talk, or hone in on your most important life lessons for a more personal speech? Make it matter to you, and it will also matter to your audience.

Once you’ve identified the inner message, work on simplifying everything you want to say. Whether it’s facts, figures, or life lessons, get rid of any complexity. A good way to think about it is by using three main talking points — no more, no less. It’s easier for you to remember, and much easier for your audience to digest.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room: fear of public speaking. Have you ever considered that it’s okay to let some of those emotions show through? Admitting you’re a little nervous humanizes you because everyone can identify with that experience. If admitting your anxiety is inappropriate for the situation, see if you can’t say it in private to a trusted friend or colleague. Sometimes getting it out there is all it takes to make the nervousness disappear!

Making eye contact, smiling, and speaking clearly and slowly will make your life easier and help your audience understand your talk better. Pick a friendly face or two in the front row to glance and smile at as you speak so it feels more like a conversation and less like a speech. Don’t rush with wild abandon towards the end — remember that it’s not a race, and the more moderate your pace, the less stressful it will feel and clearer your message to the audience will be.

The most important tip for public speaking novices? If you make a mistake, just ignore it. Mispronounced words, skipped sentences, or points that momentarily disappear from your mind — nobody will notice if you don’t give it undue attention. Chances are you’ll have the opportunity to course-correct later on if you really need to. Don’t interrupt your flow for anything and end strong, and you’ll be certain to get rave reviews as a public speaker.

 

Pa Joof