Enlist the Aid of the Audience
Remember, the people in the audience genuinely want you to succeed. They've come to hear you speak. They want to know what you have to say to them. They may be experts on the subject of your talk or they may know nothing about it; regardless, they want to hear what you have to say about it.
Make eye contact with an individual in the audience who is a friend or acquaintance. As you begin to talk, speak only to that individual. Or if you don't know anyone in the audience, pretend you are just sharing information with a friend. By turning a speech into a one-on-one conversation, it will seem less intimidating.
If you are still nervous when it's time to deliver the speech, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you don't have to be so serious. Imagining the audience in their underwear usually helps people lighten up and put speeches into perspective.
Make your stage fright work for you
Fear requires a lot of energy. Instead of letting the fear undermine your talk, channel this energy in other directions. For example, using gestures to reinforce the main points of your talk can make it more dynamic. Communications consultant Richard Southern advises that you "get your body involved in what you're saying." This will add power to your presentation and keep your audience involved from beginning to end.
In his book, Inspire Any Audience, Tony Jeary explains that one way to overcome pre-speech jitters is to "know what you're talking about. Thorough preparation equals total confidence," he says. Some speakers try "winging it" and hope for the best. But they often fall flat on their faces and fail to impress the audience. Preparation is the key to successful public speaking.
Prepare to communicate with your audience by researching your topic. Books, magazines, journals, newspapers, and advocacy groups are all helpful. Government sources and legal sources can also provide you with a lot of credible information and statistics.
Create a rough outline of what you want to communicate to the audience. Additions and changes will likely be made to the outline, but it is good to have an organized start so you have some direction and you don't leave important information out.
Melissa had to deliver a brief talk about her parttime job at the print shop. She began by explaining how she uses desktop publishing to design brochures. Then she described the process she followed to get her job in the first place. Melissa spoke about her boss and her coworkers. Next, she discussed some of the interesting projects she completed for customers. Then she included something she forgot to say about desktop publishing. Finally, Melissa thanked her audience and sat down.
Melissa had spent very little time preparing her presentation. It had no central purpose. Consequently, it made little sense to her listeners. Unfortunately, many presentations sound the same way. It is not uncommon for people to sit through a presentation and find themselves wondering what they're supposed to get out of it. For this reason, it's important to make your purpose known. The first step in preparing any good talk is to develop summary sentences that clearly define the purpose of your presentation.
Some speakers confuse the subject with the purpose of their talk. The subject is usually quite broad. For instance, your boss might ask you to speak about the training course on computers that you just completed. With a subject that broad, you could say a great many things about it. A good talk, however, usually has a sharply focused purpose or something specific you want to say about your subject. Listeners get overwhelmed if you try to tell them too much. The summary sentences define that purpose. They remind you and enable your listeners to know why you are speaking.