Not many people feel comfortable when speaking in front of an audience, but for a lot of us it can be an inescapable commitment. Whether it is a presentation at work, part of a course, at an event where we have been asked to speak …
If you are someone who feels overwhelmed by the idea of public speaking, here are some tips that will help you to minimise those dreaded butterflies:
- Organisation: this may seem obvious, but it is important that your presentation is well prepared and that you familiarise yourself thoroughly with the content and the message that you intend to communicate.
- Keep it simple: less is more. This applies to both the presentation and the speech; the more direct, clear and easy it is to understand, the better.
- Introduction: if you begin your speech by sharing a personal anecdote or posing a question to the audience, it will help you to attract their attention and make a connection with them.
- The look: it is important that you maintain eye contact with the audience (never look at the floor!).
- Be yourself: express yourself naturally, while taking into account the context and the audience you are in front of. This will help you to feel at ease and you will be perceived this way by the audience.
And, what if you go blank? You can buy some time by having a drink of water, for example, and then you can try to get back on track. Practising your speech alone or in front of someone you know will help you to feel at ease and minimise your mistakes.
When a PowerPoint presentation is used alongside the speech, I personally recommend keeping it as simple as possible. How many times have you attended a talk that was accompanied by a text-heavy, boring and unappealing presentation?
In my opinion, a presentation should only touch upon the key ideas of a speech and maybe include some images that are relevant to what is being explained. This will make it easier for the audience to focus on what you are saying instead of wasting time trying to read what is on the screen.
Depending on the context, you can prepare a more comprehensive digital document that includes the content of the presentation. This can be emailed to anyone who is interested once the event is over.
Chus García, TBS Barcelona library manager