Can I get to love public speaking?
Can I get better at it and stress less?
Below you will find some advice that come from my personal experience, observations and talks with my friends or students.
The list is by no means complete, but I hope it can you some food for thought.
Be well prepared
but also don't be afraid to be spontaneous.
Definitely know what you want to say and have a framework that you can follow. Know your audience and adopt your talk to them. Also, know what resources you will have at your disposal and have a backup plan if it turns out that you cannot use them in the end.
Plan your presentation using your favorite method. I use the colour coding technique with my students. Have your notes in a paper/ computer version not only in your head.
*Don't take the notes to your presentation, though or put them in your bag before you start your show.
Look good=feel good
rehearse your talk wearing the clothes you intend to wear when giving your talk or presentation. How on earth can that affect my skills, you may think. Well, if you don't feel comfortable, you have problems to walk or feel somehow exposed these will definitely shake your confidence. Then, instead of focusing on your talk, you will focus on your appearance or start imagining people are staring and judging you.
If you don't wear high-heels on regular basis, you may find that during your talk you spend more time controlling your walk.
Check the pronunciation of any difficult words / names.
Don't go with the flow here. English can be really nasty when it comes to the pronunciation of different words. If you talk about some people or their organisations also check how to say it beforehand. Save yourself the embarrassment of mispronouncing the names of people especially if they are present during your talk.
I remember when I was giving a presentation on a grammar issue to my colleagues during my TESOL course. The grammar point I was to talk over was the passive voice. I thought that my example with Don Kichote was written by Cervantes would be just great to start with. However, since the name of the book and the author was in Spanish I wrongly assumed that the pronunciation of these two would be the same in any language. Once I read my example the whole room was in laughter. It actually ended up well as it turned to be a very interesting discussion point in my presentation and people had different ideas of how it should be pronounced. Anyhow, I have learnt my lesson and now I go with Hamlet was written by Shakespeare.
Your intonation and pace matters - it's not a race.
You will know your presentation. You have probably practiced it a zillion times (if you didn't you should have) but your audience hears it for the first time. It is new to them. Don't just get it over and done with. Make sure that you highlight important aspects, paraphrase or repeat them if necessary. Make sure your intonation varies. Don't put your audience to sleep with a monotonous voice. Instead, inject some energy into your talk.
Keep the eye contact / or pretend to do this.
You must have heard it a thousand times - Keeping eye contact is essential for the success of your presentation. And well, it is. There is nothing to add here.
But resist the temptation of taking your preparatory notes with. People find it very difficult not to rely on their notes when they make them easily available. Then, they also tend to look at them more than at their audience or even resort to them completely when their confidence is first shaken. Take a short plan, instead. And only if you really need to. I don't know about you but I immediately switch off when people start to read their presentation.
Allow yourself to make mistakes = buy your audience with your honesty.
Do the best you can, be excellently prepared but if you hear yourself making a mistake or forgetting a fancy word you wanted to use here don't kill your performance with that. If you make a mistake you can be honest and correct yourself, joke about it or just simply let it go.
Take a few deep breaths and let the odds be with you.
Written by Agnieszka Kansy