If the thought of public-speaking causes you to blush and break a sweat, then guess what?  You’re not alone, my friend.  Most people I know balk at the idea of having to stand before strangers, or even peers, to deliver a presentation.  It’s a pretty vulnerable undertaking, subjecting us to scrutiny and exposing us to potential criticism.

But public-speaking doesn’t need to be an enemy.  For many folks, it might even be a hidden strength, ripe for development.  In any case, public-speaking provides a fantastic platform for one to bolster his or her credibility and build a following.  When called upon to engage an audience, there are numerous ways to command and keep people’s attention, all while planting the seeds for personal connections.

Incorporate these pointers into your next speaking opportunity.  They’re sure to strengthen your presentation, captivate your audience, and set you on your way to becoming a marquee-caliber speaker: 

 

Do the hard work up front.

Nothing boosts confidence more than knowing you have the knowledge.  Get the content of your speech down pat to prevent from drawing a blank the day of the speech.  Do so by running through your talking points several times and by asking for honest feedback from trusted colleagues and loved ones.

Maintain a confident posture.

As you’re speaking, avoid hunching, looking at the ground, and sticking your hands in your pockets.  If you come across as timid or nervous, those in your audience may begin to wonder if you truly have a grasp of your material.  Stand tall and upright, use subtle but assertive motions for emphasis, and sustain eye contact with listeners.

Don’t depend on your notes.

The less you rely on your outline or transcript, the better.  Knowing your presentation backwards and forwards enables you to command the stage freely and naturally.  You come across as more relaxed, more knowledgeable, and more approachable, making your content more compelling.

  • However, don’t feel as though you have to dispense with your notes entirely. As a matter of fact, there are tasteful and creative ways that you can integrate memory triggers into your presentation.  If appropriate for the setting, try to incorporate visual aids to engage your audience further and to serve as road-markers for you.

Look sharp.

Make sure that your attire corresponds to the formality of the occasion.  Strive for comfort and always aim to dress your best, as your audience will definitely take notice.  If you’re disheveled, it signals that you don’t take their opinions or your platform seriously; but if you’re polished, it shows that you hold them in high regard.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.

What questions could they have?  What parts of your presentation would benefit from extra attention and clarification?  Where might your audience push back against what you have to say?  As you prepare, occupy the mind of your listener and begin to formulate your responses proactively.

Keep the Big Two in mind.

They’re the questions that everybody wants answered, and your success in doing so often determines the success of the presentation itself:

  • Number 1: How does this benefit me?  If you want your address to resonate, it must be relevant to your audience in some way.  Be explicit about what your listeners stand to gain from internalizing your insights.
  • Number 2: Why does this matter?  This is perhaps the prerequisite question.  Be explicit about why your subject-matter is important and worthy of interest in the first place.

 

You don’t need to dread public-speaking.  If fear stands in the way, you may be missing out on a golden opportunity to showcase your expertise, cement your role as a leader, and garner support for your mission or organization.  But if you follow these tips, you’ll be able to overcome your apprehension, prepare with confidence, and knock it out of the park when it's time to deliver.