Regardless of where you are or what you do, chances are at some point or another you’ll have to speak in front of a group. It could be a small group of managers that you have to pitch your idea to, or it might be an auditorium full of classmates that you have to read your prize-winning presentation to. No matter what the situation, being unprepared can be both embarrassing and costly.
Giving a speech doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems, though. Below are a few suggestions on relaxing, preparation, and speaking that will help you to not only get through your speech but hopefully also impress your listeners and get the point that you’re making across loud and clear.
Preparation: No matter what your speech is on, you need to be prepared. You’ll need to research your topics, write out your speech, and then set it aside. Wait a day or two, read over it, and then rewrite it to eliminate any vague or problematic parts. Wait another day or two, and give it another reading. Continue to revise the speech until you’ve got it honed as well as you can to get your point across to your audience in strong, assured language. The last thing that you want to do is make it sound like you’re not sure of what you’re saying.
After you’ve got your speech the way that you want it, read through it aloud several times. Practice in front of a mirror if possible, so that you’ll be able to notice any body language or difficulty that you have. Keep working with the speech until you are comfortable with the wording of it, and you can say the entire thing without any holdups or stumbling points.
When you’re used to reading the speech, make note cards for reference. Don’t write the speech word-for-word on the cards; it can be too tempting to simply read it off of the cards, and you want as much of your attention to be focused on your audience as possible. Simply make notes of the key points of your speech that you can refer to should you need them, and then practice the speech a few times with the note cards to help get you ready. Should you have any difficulties, you’ll have the entire speech written up to refer to, but use it only when absolutely necessary.
Relaxation: It’s natural to get nervous just before giving a speech or doing any other form of public speaking. Before it’s your turn to speak, close your eyes for a moment and try to clear your mind, breathing deeply and slowly while letting the anxiety and fear melt away. Try to avoid any alcohol or other drugs for several hours beforehand; you don’t want to be dulled or impaired in any way.
An old adage says to picture your audience in their underwear to help overcome anxiety, but in some cases that can be distracting or even frightening! Instead, simply try to picture a “happy place”… some calming image or a memory that brings you great joy. Focus on this as much as possible, and remind yourself that you’re prepared for this and that it’ll be over soon.
Should you get nervous during the speech itself, don’t panic. You’ve got notes to help you along, and you’ve done a lot of research to prepare the speech in the first place. Even if you forget a few lines of how you worded the speech, don’t freak out; simply ad-lib with the help of your notes until you can get back on track.
Speaking: When giving your speech, try to speak as calmly and confidently as possible. You might want to raise your voice ever-so-slightly to present a bit more power in your words, which helps to make you seem more confident about what you’re saying. Speak slowly enough that you don’t get tangled up in your words, but not so slowly that it seems like you’re fishing for what to say next. No matter what happens, remember to stay calm, and keep your attention focused on your audience as much as possible.
Hopefully, things will go well for you when you have to speak in front of a group. Should things get a bit hairy, though, just make mental notes of what went wrong? Don’t beat yourself up, just try to make things better for next time.