Many of us have an innate fear of public speaking. This is usually due to the fear of embarrassment or rejection by an unreceptive audience. However, this need not be the case. With a few basic tips in mind and some practice, you can become a natural public speaker.

1. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience.

As a member of the audience, what would you like your speaker to be like?

  • If he is entertaining you, you hope to be able to spend your next five to ten minutes in an interesting manner. You hope that his jokes or comments will be amusing.
  • If he is conveying information to you, you hope that it will be done in a clear and concise manner. You would prefer that he does not beat around the bush, but get straight to the key points.
  • If he is hosting an interactive discussion, you hope that he will be able to engage everyone in the audience, and that he will provide insightful and thought-provoking comments to generate a fruitful discussion.

2. It's worthwhile to spend time working on your introduction.

A good introduction will set you off on a good footing with your audience. It is like a preview of what is to come. If you connect with your audience through a good introduction, they will "do their part" to be with you in the rest of the session. Similarly, a bad introduction will only make your audience start looking at their watches and hope for a swift and maybe painless ending to what is to come.

3. Remain connected with your audience.

Regardless of what you might have planned in your speech, adjust accordingly to your audience's reactions. A good public speaker will give his audience what they want, while a bad speaker will give them what he thinks they want. Most of the time, the audience will start off rooting for the speaker. They do want the speaker to succeed and are willing to give the speaker the benefit of the doubt. Hence, it is important that you remain interesting and also interested in your audience. It should not be all about you, but rather about them. Continue to engage your audience in your speech and they will reciprocate with goodwill.

4. It's not just what you say, but also how you say it.

Besides the content of the speech, how you deliver the speech also plays a role in keeping your audience interested. If you deliver your speech in a monotonous tone, your audience will probably think that they are in an anti-insomnia session. If you are merely reading from your prepared script, your audience will probably think that they are attending an English lesson. Hence, always remember to speak with life and vigour. Not only does it engage your audience, it is also a sign of respect for them.

5. Non-verbal cues matter too. 

As a speaker, you will be standing in front of an audience. Besides listening to what you have to say, your audience will also be sizing you up visually. Your personal appearance, facial expressions, body language and gestures and eye contact will be part of your presentation. If any of these non-verbal cues are jarring or do not gel with your message, your audience will either be unnecesarily distracted or even be disinclined to listen to you.

As mentioned earlier, public speaking requires practice. Nobody starts off being an excellent public speaker. The first step is to overcome the initial reluctance or fear towards speaking in public, after which regular practice will help you to improve on it. 

Fear of Public Speaking