Most of us are not used to speaking in front of others on a regular basis. This makes the fact that for most people public speaking ranks high on their list of fears, not surprising. For some people, speaking in front of others ranks higher on their list of fears than even their own death. The best way to reduce speech anxiety, or stage fright as some call it, is to increase confidence when it comes to speaking in front of an audience. The best way to do this is through practice.
Unfortunately, most of us do not have the ability to summon a crowd of people on a whim so that we can practice our speech delivery. The good news is that there are several things you can do on your own, or with very little help from others, to practice giving a speech and boost your overall confidence when it comes to giving a presentation in front of a gathering of people.
Practice Giving Your Speech in Front of a Mirror
This is a great place to start if you are nervous about speaking in front of other people. The idea here is to grab your script or note cards and stand in front of a mirror and look at your reflection while you deliver your speech.
While practicing your speech in the mirror, pay attention to what your face is doing while you give your presentation. Make sure you're smiling when you're not speaking and pay attention to whether or not you are making any distracting facial expressions.
The nice thing about using a mirror is that you're isolated and don't have to worry about others judging you as you deliver your speech. Think about the mirror as a set of training wheels. Start here and then when you're ready, take the training wheels off and move on to some of the other suggestions below.
Video Tape Yourself Delivering Your Presentation
After you've run through your speech a couple of times in the mirror, its time to get modern technology involved. What you want to do next is to video tape yourself delivering your presentation. Much like the mirror, the video camera allows you to stay away from any direct criticism or feedback about your delivery prowess until you decide you're ready to be critiqued by others.
The idea here is to set up a video camera to record you as you deliver your speech. For this step, sometimes it is a good idea to begin to imagine or actually practice standing on a stage or riser with a mic in your hand. If you know that you'll be standing behind a podium or lectern with a microphone attached, try creating that atmosphere in your practice environment.
Once you have practiced your speech a couple of times in front of the video recorder, sit down and play back the video. This is a great opportunity to watch yourself and evaluate where you might need more focus in your speech delivery or presentation.
Credit: morguefile.comWhen watching the video, notice things like your posture. Are you standing tall, shoulders back or are you slumping over the podium? Watch to see what you are doing with your hands. Are you making big hand motions or wild gestures? If you are, these can be distracting for the audience and take away from your presentation. If you're unsure of what to do with your hands during your speech, either place them on the podium, if one is available, or grab the microphone with both hands.
Finally, when watching the video, close your eyes and listen to the sound of your own voice. Are you speaking in a monotone which is very uninteresting for the audience? Pay special attention to the tone and inflection in your voice. If you were sitting in the auditorium, would you be excited to be listening to you?
Break Out the Dining Room Chairs
Often, what makes people the most nervous about delivering a speech are the other people who will be listening to the speech or presentation. The key to overcoming the fear of others is to practice actively engaging the crowd while giving the speech. Draw them in.
A great way to work on engaging the audience is to set up chairs while you practice your presentation. Set one chair directly in front of you, one off to your left and one off to your right. Dining room chairs are perfect for this.
While practicing your speech, focus on looking directly at each chair. Look at one chair for a few seconds and then move your gaze to another chair. Pretend each chair is a person. Imagine making eye contact with each person and drawing them into what you are saying.
If you're feeling more daring, this is a good opportunity to get out from behind your imaginary podium or lectern and practice walking among your audience. Delivering your speech from among the crowd will help keep their attention and is a skill worth developing during your speech practice sessions.
Practice Your Speech or Presentation in Front of Friends and Family
Once you begin to feel more confident about your speech delivery abilities you can now incorporate friends and family members as tools to help you while practicing you presentation.
What makes using friends and family so helpful if you have a fear of public speaking, or just aren't comfortable talking out loud in front of others, is the fact that your family and close friends are much more likely to be compassionate and supportive than John Q. Public.
Ask a small gathering of your friends to act as the audience for your presentation. The benefit of using live bodies in your practice sessions is that they will give you the opportunity to see many of the distractions that will present themselves when you're making your actual speech. Examples of the distractions you might encounter include someone texting on their cell phone or someone constantly shifting in their seat or worse, someone beginning to fall asleep.
Practicing in front of a live crowd will also give you some insight into which parts of your speech interest the audience the most and which parts you might need to work on to help draw the group in further.
Whether you are one of the 3 out of 4 people who suffer from speech anxiety or just need some additional tips for practicing before giving your next speech or presentation, using one or many of the above tips to practice the delivery of your speech will have you well on your way to becoming a master orator. It doesn't matter if you're giving a big presentation to the top brass at your company, delivering a maid of honor toast at your sister's wedding or just giving a brief speech in front of your kid's fifth grade class on career day, all these tips can help you become a better speaker.
If you enjoyed this article or have any other great advice for those practicing to give their next important speech or presentation, I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below.
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