Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tips for Public Speaking

Don't let the fact that I've gone to a middle school FOUR times to do presentations fool you, I HATE public speaking. If I drink coffee beforehand, my hands shake like they're on speed. My heart pounds so hard, I seriously think I'll pass out. My vision clouds. But I know these things will happen before I even step in front of the crowd. If you expect these things, you can stop them.

Because of all this, and the Communications, and Forensics classes I took in high school, here are some fool proof tips on public speaking:

1) Take your hands out of your pockets.
Yea, it's cool for James Dean to lean against stuff, maybe smoke a cigarette, and keep his hands in his pockets because he just looks so calm and collected. It is not cool for you to do it. So take your hands out of your pockets.

Some very famous authors, who can you spot?
Notice, they're open to the audience
and each other
2) Stop fidgeting.
Don't fiddle with things. Try not to toss your hair. Don't pick at your arm. Try to talk to the crowd like they're your best friend. (It helps if you know someone in the crowd. Glance at them from time to time, it'll keep you on task.)

3) Stand up straight.
See James Dean mention. Slouching suggests that you're nervous. If you want to own a room, own your presentation, you need to look like you walked into the room prepared, confident. Slouching will make people lose interest.

4) Look up.
If you're reading from a piece of paper, remember to look up. I have a tendency to write LOOK UP! on the margins of my papers in neon colors, because my eyes will see that, and I'll take a second. It takes practice. Use a mirror. Not only is it good for the audience to see your face, it's good for you to see the audience's faces. You can tell when they're enthralled, or losing interest. If your head is down, you're not interested in them, they won't be interested in you.

5) Um, Like, Um.....
Be prepared. Filler words like, "Um," or, "Like," make it sound like you're not ready to give this presentation. I say like WAY too much, and I'm still prone to um's, but if you take your time, and cognitively try to eliminate them, your speech will come out much smoother. When in doubt, just try to slow down. Most people talk too quickly because they want it to be over. You say "um" to fill the space that should be taken up by what you should have said. Don't say um. Slow down.

Read the body language here...
Clearly, I am not impressed by what my sister is saying
6) Remember to breathe.
It might sound like this should be obvious, but really, sometimes, it's not. This can go hand in hand with talking too quickly, or even just having an anxiety attack. Remember to take a deep breath in, deep breath out. Your presentation will go much more smoothly if you're still breathing

7) Don't cross your arms.
You don't want to come off aggressive or insecure. Crossing your arms in front of yourself suggests the possibility of either. When possible, leave your arms at your side, or if you're using a podium, you can rest them there. If you're a person who uses their hands when talking, go ahead, but when you're giving time for feedback, remain open. Crossing your arms closes you off.

I know it looks tempting
But like drugs:
Just Say No
8) No coffee first.
I'm not kidding. If you have an early morning presentation, bite the bullet and come in sober. I'm really caffeine intolerant so even a small cup gives me jitters and induces an anxiety attack. But the mission is to be calm, awake, open. Not the coked out version of whatever you have to say. If you're rocking coffee, I'd vote for decafe, at least until the presentation's over. You can always invite the audience across the street to Starbucks when you're finished.

9) Leave time for questions.
Even the president gets bombarded with questions, chances are you will, too. Even if it's random. At the end of my bullying presentation, I had a few girls come up and say, "You're so strong!" At writing conferences I always harass the panelists, even if it's to tell them what a great panel it was, or to shake their hand, or have a follow up question. Leave room to talk, leave room for questions. You may also want to offer hugs, depending on the topic.

Don't go in looking like this...

10) Fake it.
If all of these tips and tricks fail, and you're still jittery, and you're still panicking because this is your first time speaking, FAKE IT. Fake like you're calm. Smile. Remember the people in the audience are there to hear you. If you showered first, put on a nice outfit, and brushed your hair, you're already ahead of the game.

But really, the best piece of advice is once you're finished, do it again, and again, and again, until you really can stand in front of a room full of strangers in your undies and own it.

Harness your inner bad ass and rock your talk. (And wish me luck for tomorrow, please!)


  1. I actually don't mind public speaking (maybe it's the actress side of me) but I think it's a blast. Good luck tomorrow!

    1. Thank you. And I did a play in like, Middle School, was terrified that entire time! I never stop shaking!

  2. Public speaking is one of the most exciting things to experience, if you have the right skill set. If not, it can be terrifying. Good luck! You will do fine and next time even better. Here is a great site to help

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