Your favorite thing is to get in front of a room full of people and speak, right? If not, you are not alone; in fact, you are part of the majority. The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population (National Social Anxiety Center, 2016). Let’s discuss some tips and tricks to get you through public speaking a little easier.
Avoid Crutch Words
When thinking of the next thing they want to say, many people will insert crutch words such as umm, uhh, and so on. When thinking of the next thing you want to say, embrace the pause. It is better to pause for a couple of seconds than to insert those crutch words.
Make sure to maintain eye contact throughout the room or audience. Looking at different audience members and making eye contact with them for 2-3 seconds helps make a connection with them. Engaging with them makes it more likely that they will stay focused and listen to you. If you are uncomfortable looking someone directly in the eye, just look over their shoulder.
No slumping. Stand tall and confident. Take a deep breath before you begin, recognize the tension in your body, and let it go. Find your calm and balance and be aware of it.
Speak with Confidence
Speak loud enough for the audience to hear you. Test this with family or friends at home to find a reasonable volume. If you mess up, keep moving forward as if nothing happened. Don’t stop and backtrack, it can cause you to get frustrated and lose your train of thought. Just keep going, everyone messes up, and it is okay!
Tone of Voice
Changing the tone of your voice helps keep the attention of the audience. Monotone speaking makes for a disengaged audience. You use your voice to get your point across to those listening. When you are excited, assertive, worried, or optimistic about something you are speaking about, let that show in your tone and in your body language. Projection, inflection, speed, and volume are critical.
Practice, Practice, Practice
There is nothing better than practice. Practice whatever you are presenting and know your material. The more you know, the easier it will flow. Practice in front of family, friends, teachers, or your 4-H Agent. They can give you feedback and help you work through anything you may be struggling with.
Public speaking may not be on many people’s list of favorite things, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. It is a skill that will take you places. The ability to stand in front of a group to speak or just in a one-on-one job interview will give you advantages over others who have not worked towards this skill. The sky is the limit with public speaking. Find something you love to do, work with, or enjoy learning and talking about, and build a speech or presentation around it. The more you do it, the better you will be, and one day you will be unstoppable in public speaking.
The author is employed by UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agriculture – An Equal Opportunity Institution.