Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy… wait, is this a song by Eminem? Well, yes, but that also happens to most people’s bodies right before doing some good old fashioned public speaking. Never fear, CM has arrived to make sure that during your next speech, the paper in your hand will not shake, and you’ll feel as confident on stage as Eminem himself.
Check out 15 public speaking tips that will boost your confidence.
1. Practice Makes Perfect
Practice makes perfect sense when it comes to public speaking. “Students who take my class typically want quick tips and techniques to help them with their presentations. I tell them that just like anything in life, whether it’s a sport or an instrument they play, they have to put in the time, effort, energy and of course the practice, practice, practice,” said Michele King, public speaking professor at The College of William & Mary. “They just don’t show up on game day to play. It is the hard work of training, conditioning, studying the playbook, running drills, watching films, etc. that prepares them for that moment. Same with public speaking.”
2. Find a balance
“Don’t try to memorize the whole thing, that’s just as bad as winging it,” said recent Columbia University alumnus and founder of Locasaur Simon Schwartz. “People can tell and will get bored.” Acquire a happy medium between memorizing every word of your speech and just “winging it” by memorizing the main points or objectives you intend to make in your speech.
3. Your New Mantra
Speaking of slowing down, King said, “Ultimately, I tell students and clients that the quickest way to appear more confident is to slow down and speak up. Slowing your rate and increasing your volume creates a level of confidence that the audience will appreciate.” After all, what’s wrong with being confident?
4. Channel Your Energy
“Even seasoned speakers have some level of nervousness,” King said. “In fact, you want that level of energy to fuel a great delivery. The day of a speech the goal is to be organized yet conversational and to bring together good content, organization and delivery to create an effective presentation.” If you have ever felt nervous for a sports game but used that nervous energy to make you run faster or focus harder on the field, you’ll find this task relatively easy. Use your nerves to help you focus on what you say in your speech and how you say it to avoid letting those butterflies in your stomach get the best of you.
5. Claim your space
Ronald J. Ross III, Freshman Dean and English Department Chair at Highland School in Warrenton, Virginia (and a former collegiate Mock Trial competitor) said, “Too many people when they begin to speak just get up there and immediately start blabbing away. Instead, take a minute, or should I say a second or two, and just breathe and look around the room for all the attention to you, and then begin. Similarly, when the speech is over take a second and reclaim the room pause, breathe, say thank you and then exit.” Claiming your space, as Ross suggested, not only focuses the audience’s attention on you, but also gives you an extra second to refocus your energy and calm down. A lot of people start speaking before they even face the crowd or before they approach the microphone properly. Claiming your space helps to avoid losing those crucial first few words of your speech.
6. Practice at Work
Did you know that having a severe public speaking fear has a 10 percent impairment on wages? Depending on how much you make, that could cause a huge shift in your income. To get comfortable speaking in public at work, consider making your weekend job this year something that forces you to practice public speaking skills, such as a waitress/waiter or teaching Hebrew school or Sunday school.
7. Move with purpose
“I would also suggest making purposeful hand movements. I come from a large Italian family and so we love to talk with our hands,” Ross said. “However, if you’re always just reined in then there’s no purpose to it. Gesture in order to make a point, in order to highlight something. The same is true for your movements around the stage. Make them purposeful, try not to pace back and forth.” You can use your body as a tool in the same way you use your voice. When you change topics or points, you can move around the stage to refocus your audience’s attention. Watch your professors or teachers lecture, they usually have this skill down by now.
8. Reach out
Only eight percent of people who struggle with a public speaking fear seek professional help for their issues, according Magnetic Speaking. Luckily, as a college student, you have a lot of resources at your fingertips for getting help with your fear. Try starting at your school’s counseling center to figure out where your fear really stems from. Or consider taking a public speaking course to get credit for getting over your fear as further motivation for success.
9. Fake it ‘til you make it
“If the speaker is not interested in the subject material, then there’s no reason for the audience to be either. Even if the speaker is not particularly interested in what she is saying, she better darn well act like she is. The speaker must exude interest and energy,” Ross said. As I am sure you know from conversations with professors it becomes easy to act like you are interested in something when you might not feel that way IRL. On stage, pay attention to the way your voice fluctuates. Have excitement in your tone and body language. Maybe even find some cool facts about your topic that make you actually interested in it.
10. Find a good audience
Before preforming your speech when the real deal comes along, try practicing in front of people who support you. You could give your speech to your friends over dinner or even call your parents and just say it over the phone. Getting supportive feedback increases your confidence in whatever you do, so you will feel less nervous when the time comes if you have already had positive reinforcement beforehand.
11. Take some tips from the pros
“One of the ways I learn technique is by watching TED talks. Two of my favorites are the Power is in the Palm of your Hands by Allan Pease and TED’s Secret to Great Public Speaking by Chris Anderson,” said Emily Cox, president of Kappa Delta sorority at the College of William & Mary and captain of the women’s club field hockey team. “TED talks help me to learn not only professional and smart public speaking skills but also to gain confidence in myself as I present the content to the audience.” Do you have a famous speech or monologue in mind that really captivated you? Go watch it and try to notice what about the speaker captivates you, be it their diction, tone or physicality.
12. Learn to feel nervous
“Being nervous is natural,” said Schwartz. “No matter how many times you stand up and give a talk the knot in your stomach probably won’t ever go away, so you might as well learn to talk with it sitting there.” After all, the first part of recovering is realizing you have a problem, right? Recovering from a public speaking fear works the same way. If you get used to feeling nervous, then you can conquer those anxieties by simply acknowledging them.
13. Know your voice
Speaking up and filling the room with your voice may seem like a great public speaking tip… unless you happen to speak loudly naturally. For those of us with voices that carry, we need some different advice. “Resist the urge to talk loudly if the situation doesn’t call for it,” Schwartz said. “Talking loudly is a tell-tale sign of BS. Talk slowly and quietly to command more attention.”
14. Curate your voice
On that note, you can use your volume as another tool in your tool box. When you want people to really focus on what you are saying, speak a bit more quietly so they are forced to really listen. When you make a passionate point, or identify your speech’s thesis, speak loudly, and use repetition as a tool.
15. Go Out With a Bang
In some types of public speaking, like slam poetry, speakers use fast paced speech as a tool. But usually, having a quick pace happens by accident due to nervousness. To correct this, make sure that you are saying the ends of your words. As long as you clearly pronounce the end of every word you say, the audience will still be able to understand you no matter how nervous you feel. Remember this tip when you do impromptu public speaking or in other situations where you are short on time to practice doing your speech slowly. You’ve got this. Now go forth and conquer.