Public speaking is something that can strike fear into even confident people. Studies have revealed that public speaking is one of the most common fears—even beating out death!
I recently gave a talk to over 100 interns and young professionals about my career path and how I advanced through networking. It was the first time I had spoken in front of an audience since college and it was by far the largest audience I’ve ever spoken to. I was extremely nervous leading up to the event, but as a result of my preparation, I delivered a clear, concise, and engaging speech.
Five Steps to the Public Speaking:
1. Understand and research the topic
You’ll sound a hundred percent more confident and authoritative if you you’re speaking on a topic that you have some knowledge about. Since I was asked to speak about my career path and networking, I didn’t have to do too much extra research. I did, however, research a few things like networking tips to get some additional ideas. If you’re speaking on something for a school assignment, you’ll probably have to do a lot of research. Finally, make sure to understand the parameters of the speech. Is there a time limit? Will you be using PowerPoint slides?
Do not write out your entire speech sentence by sentence. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if you don’t have time to memorize it, you’ll end up reading straight from the piece of paper; which is not very engaging. If you do memorize it, your audience will be able to tell, and not in a good way. Speeches that are overly rehearsed sound inauthentic and boring. You want to be able to adjust your tone and delivery based off the mood of your audience. When I did my speech, I had a one page outline with a bulleted list of terms that jogged my memory and led me through my speech without being spelled out word for word. Because I didn’t write my speech out, it was a little different every time. That was okay, because I was hitting all of the important parts.
3. Seek input and edit
Don’t write your speech in a bubble. I sought input on my speech from my mom, my boyfriend, and my friends. They all had different, yet helpful pieces of information such as I was giving too much background information on myself and not enough on how to effectively network. This input made me tighten my speech and cut out some superfluous information. Constructive criticism is what made my speech much better.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Besides understanding your topic, practice is probably the most important part! I practiced in about half a dozen ways. I first practiced by just sitting in front of my computer, reading from my outline. I then practiced on the phone with my Mom. I also practiced in front of a mirror, because it exposed any weird physical quirks like if you play with your hair or use your hands too much. Finally, I recorded myself with my iPhone to hear if I was speaking too fast (I was). I remedied this by having a glass of water on hand and forced myself to take an occasional sip. Throughout all of these practice sessions I timed myself. Staying within the time limit of your speech is extremely important.
5. Treat yo’ self
About an hour before my speech, I bought myself some frozen yogurt, which is my ultimate treat. As silly as it sounds, it really did calm me down. If a sugary snack isn’t your style, there are lots of other ways to make yourself feel good. Maybe wear (or buy) a new outfit or get your hair done. Whatever it is, the goal is to assuage some of the nervousness and make yourself feel competent and confident.
Have you ever spoken in public? What did you do to prepare? Share these tips with us in the comments!
Ask Levo Mentor Jehmu Greene, Political Commentator on Fox News, her tips for staying calm and being prepared when public speaking.