Speak easyMost of us have to speak in front of a crowd of people at some point in our lives. Here are a few guidelines that will help you address your audience with confidence.
We have all sat through somebody mumbling a series of disconnected thoughts and wondered when it was going to end. It is important to remember how you felt for the person doing the talk. Most probably, you sympathised with them and were relieved for them when they had 'got through it'. This is important because your audience will also want the best for you. Visualise yourself delivering a witty, clever and informative presentation with the audience hanging on every word.
'Nobody plans to fail, they simply fail to plan.' Nowhere is this truer than in the arena of public speaking. The classic format for any talk has a beginning, a middle and an end. Think about how long you want the talk to last and plan the content of the talk to fit the right amount of time. Also, think about your audience: make sure your approach to the subject of your talk is neither too complex nor too simple for them. If you are going to use prompts, small cards are quite good as they can be discreet and relatively unnoticeable compared to large sheets of paper.
Wherever possible, make sure you know the venue of your talk and check that people can see you and any slides or diagrams you might be using to support your points. When talking to a large group, try to keep very close to the front row as this creates a feeling of togetherness. Some of the best comedians use this closeness to encourage a feeling of secrecy, telling you things as a stage whisper in order to build this intimacy.
It is important that you stand comfortably with both feet rooted to the floor but slightly apart. Without realising it, there will be a tendency to 'retreat' from the audience or you may sway from side to side. Therefore, think of ways to counteract this when rehearsing (e.g. imagine you are wearing heavy lead shoes on your feet which are keeping your heels down). Try not to lean on tables or get your arms too close to your body as you will restrict your lungs and impair your ability to project your voice. Although it may help you feel more relaxed, try not to walk about when delivering your speech as this will be distracting for your audience.
As with any skill, practice is vital. The more you practise, the more confident you will be. Try not to simply read out what you have prepared, and picture yourself talking confidently and knowledgeably about your subject. After you have been presenting to the mirror for a while, you will begin to see which gestures and facial movements work and which ones look wrong. Remember that nobody wants you to do badly and try to feel positive that you are going to deliver an interesting and informative talk.
Despite the fact that we all feel shy or nervous about talking to a large group, the reality in a lot of cases is that, once we get talking and feeling confident, we all have the ability to 'perform'. But remember to talk in a controlled manner, as we all have a tendency to rush once we are in front of a big crowd. Also, if you are going to be using a microphone, then practise with it first. If not, make sure that your voice can fill the room for the time you are speaking or reduce the time that you are going to talk. Breathing exercises and voice projection techniques will all help.
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