There is no question about it: I am an introvert. When I am around people that I don’t really know, I tend to be quiet and soft spoken. I absolutely hate conflict, and my life story is me being talked over by my friends. With that said, a lot of people might be surprised to find out that I am on my school’s congressional debate where there is a ton of public speaking, and more conflict than I care to address.
And I’m actually not half bad. While my passions do lie elsewhere, being a part of debate gives me a platform to voice my political opinions (so you don’t have to deal with them here!) and gain some confidence with my public speaking. I’m still not a master public speaker by any means, but I’m capable and have no problem getting in front of people to speak so I thought I could share a few tips.
Prepare & Practice.
This might be needless to say, but going in blind is just a bad idea. Practicing is absolutely key to becoming comfortable with public speaking. At the very least write a list of points you want to cover, and practice speaking on all of those points. The more you practice the better you are going to feel about it all. If you can, get a friend to listen to your speech and give you constructive criticism!
Keep your feet planted.
Nothing is going to make you look more nervous than shuffling back and forth. When you’re practicing giving your speech, stand up and look in a mirror. Make note of how your body is moving and the message that it conveys. If you’re feeling really good, you can purposefully move a bit, but make sure it is deliberate and not fidgety.
Speak slowly and loudly.
When I get nervous I tend to speak super fast and softly, and I’ve noticed a ton of other people do the same. This goes back to practicing again – record yourself giving the speech and evaluate your speed and volume. Don’t talk comically slow, but chances are you’ll be better understood if you speak a bit slower than usual. If you can’t naturally breathe – you are talking too quickly.
Don’t freak out when you mess up.
Instead of saying “Oh shoot, I’m sorry let me start over!” Be calm, chances are half of the audience didn’t even notice, take a quick pause and a deep breath and resume. If you ignore your mistake, so will everybody else. If it’s something that you must address, still take the pause and breath and follow up with a statement like, ‘Excuse me, I misspoke. What I meant to say was…”
Avoid Vocal Fillers.
Saying, “um” “uh” and “like” do nothing to benefit your speech, and will only serve to make you seem nervous and unprepared. If you lose your spot, take another quick pause. You don’t need to speak the whole time, and the pause will sound nicer than a filler would.
Remember, it just takes time and practice to get comfortable with public speaking, but you’ll never get good at it if you turn down every opportunity. You have to start somewhere, and it’s a skill that you will carry with you through your professional life, so it’s best to develop it earlier rather than later!
Do you have a public speaking phobia? What have you done to get over it?