10 ways to become a public speaking pro

Public speaking

Public speaking can be an absolute nightmare for many people.

The thought of standing on a stage, in front of your peers, presenting your work – or worse, covering for someone else – is a fear that keeps people up at night.

Sweating and blushing in front of people? No thanks.

Some people are born to stand centre stage and speak confidently in front of a crowd. But for those of you who can’t present without letting nerves getting the best of you – here are 10 ways to improve your presentation skills and become a public speaking pro.

Plan, plan, plan!

It may seem obvious but the more you go over your presentation and practice over and over, the more likely you are to get it right. If you can, go and practice in the place you will be giving the presentation. Use the equipment you will be using on the day, so you are comfortable and identify any glitches in advance. This will give you a familiarity and help to calm nerves. Try delivering it in different ways; standing up, sitting down, moving around etc. the more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel. You could even take a recording of your presentation and play it back. This will help you evaluate areas you need to work on. 

Turn your nerves into enthusiasm 

Almost everyone suffers from nerves as some point, it is a natural reaction. Try and use those nerves by harnessing them and transferring them into enthusiasm. Be energetic and passionate. You can even acknowledge your nerves. Your audience will be sympathetic and understanding and appreciate your honesty. 

Break the ice first

If you can, always try to chat with your audience before your presentation. This will help to make you seem approachable and likeable. Take time to ask why they are there and what they are hoping to get out of the presentation. This will help you understand your audience and might even provide you with some inspiration. 

Focus on positive thoughts

Many studies have proven the power of positivity. If we imagine a positive outcome, it is more likely to play out this way. Likewise, if you imagine a negative outcome. So it pays to think positively! Instead of going over all the things you think might go wrong, or telling yourself you can’t do it, imagine yourself doing it perfectly. This alone can be incredibly effective, so give it a try. 

Breathe and smile

Once nerves take over, it can be difficult to regain composure. Take a moment and breathe. A good deep breath will get oxygen to your brain and relax your body. Couple this with smiling. This simple act will release endorphins, making your calmer. Smiling also shows you are confident and enthusiastic. Just be sure to keep it natural. 

Embrace the pause

A common mistake in presentations is to rush through the content and talk too fast. A combination of nerves and anxiety over the subject can cause panic and this in turn can cause you to try and get through it as quickly as possible. This can result in your audience not being able to hear your content and losing interest. Try and control your tone and speed with pauses. Pauses can help you slow down, emphasis certain points and keep things light. If you feel yourself moving too fast, take a pause, enjoy a deep breath and regain your cool. 

Keep it relevant

We’ve all been on the other side of a presentation that just goes on for too long. We lose interest and start to become bored and frustrated. This can be avoided by making sure your content is to the point. Knowing what to include and what to leave out is crucial. 

Involve the audience

Presentations, by their very nature, can be a one sided affair. By asking the audience what they think and inviting engagement you will make them feel engaged and welcomed. It also makes you seem relatable.  

It’s OK not to have all the answers

Nobody can know everything. It’s understandable that you may prefer not to be caught out with a question you cannot answer, but it is better to be honest than trying to dupe your audience. Admitting you don’t know won’t undermine your authority, it may actually improve your credibility. It demonstrates that no matter how knowledgeable you are on a subject, we’re all learning.  

Become a certified pro

From learning how to handle questions and structuring a fool-proof presentation, our suite of presentation courses will help you become a public speaking pro.

Take a look at our 5-star Presentation courses. Our mobile-friendly suite of online courses helps users fight the nerves, plan a powerful presentation, and perfect stage presence. Grab a free eBook with our courses to help learners retain knowledge.