Speaking in public, specifically in front of large crowds, is something most people dread – with good reason. It can be daunting to have anywhere from tens to hundreds of pairs of eyes tracking your every move and hanging on your every word. To deal with this pressure, some people draw inwards, casting their eyes downward and speaking in an inaudible tone. Others have an opposite reaction and began to ramble loudly about nothing in particular. (You know which one you are.) But where does this breakdown begin? And how can it be avoided? The key to becoming a skilled public speaker is one giant game of “mind over matter.”

Know what you’re talking about 

All engaging and informative presentations begin with having a knowledgeable speaker, and speaking publicly becomes significantly more comfortable when you understand the topic inside and out. It’s a lot easier not to anticipate failure when you are secure in your understanding of the problem and feel prepared to tackle any questions or comments directed towards you. Before the big day, ask a friend or colleague to test your information on the topic to help boost your confidence. 

If you need help, ask for it! 

This advice can be applied to most parts of life, including public speaking! What’s a better way to improve at something than to seek the help of those who are more talented than you in certain areas? Seeking public speaking-related advice can mean anything from reading self-help books to taking notes on how politicians deliver messages. If you leave an important question unanswered, the chances are that uncertainty will translate to nervousness during the presentation. 

Prepare in advance

Benjamin Franklin (and every sports coach in America) once said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This advice could not be more pertinent to public speaking! Putting together a last-minute presentation or not preparing talking points at all can leave you feeling you won’t–or didn’t–put your best foot forward. The stress and guilt of wondering if your worst work was acceptable are a lot worse than knowing you did the absolute best you could. 

Practice, practice, practice

Now that you feel confident in your knowledge of the information at hand and have a clear outline of talking points, it’s time to rehearse! One of the most effective techniques is delivering a mock-presentation in front of friends or colleagues who will give you honest feedback. Practicing in your bedroom mirror is one thing, but the process becomes more real when there are real people you’re trying to connect with. Also, it may be helpful to have them ask difficult questions or make semi-impolite comments that way you’ll be ready for anything. (Hope for the best and prepare for the worst, right?) 

Start small

Still not feeling 100% confident about your new-found public speaking abilities? Try to start implementing these techniques in more modest and less formal settings, like team meetings or social club events. Some people perform their best by taking baby steps and working their way up to giving large formal presentations instead of jumping straight into the deep end. Find what works best for you, and stick with it!

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