Public Speaking: Fast Tips For Your First Time

Speaking in public for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience, but these fast tips should address many of the reasons for anxiety.

Short of appearing nude in public, few things reach the level of anxiety as delivering a speech for the first time.The sources of this fear are numerous, ranging from fear of rejection to anxieties over body image or exposure as a 'fraud' or woefully unqualified speaker.Standing before a group of strangers in order to deliver a message they may or may want to hear can induce overwhelming anxiety in even the most confident people you know.Public speaking is a tough job, but it's one you can learn to perform better as you gain experience and develop confidence in your material and delivery.

Here are some fast and furious tips on making your first speech in public:

1. Know your material.Even if you have precious little time to rehearse the actual speech, you should have time to brush up on the important elements behind the speech. Assume for a moment that you work as a mechanic.If someone called you at work and asked you how to change a spark plug, you could probably rattle off a coherent set of instructions from memory.You may also include some lesser-known facts such as the proper torque settings or the best set of plugs to use.From your own experience and knowledge, you'd feel confident enough that your 'audience' (the man on the phone) received enough information to perform the task.You may have stuttered a little or gotten ahead of yourself during a procedure or two, but your words had the proper results.

In a speech, you're accomplishing the exact same thing, only your audience isn't on the phone and you may have to speak up a little.It's the same process as the phone call, however.Know enough about the topic of your speech that you could still be informative or inspirational or demonstrative even if you forget a step or get a little lost.Knowing your subject thoroughly should help you feel less anxious during delivery.

2. Realize your role as a speaker.Instead of trying traditional visualization games such as picturing the audience in their underwear, try imagining your proper role as the speaker.The audience is full of people who NEED to know this information.Right now, YOU are the expert with the answers they seek.You have every right to be on that stage, presenting important facts to an eager and appreciative audience.They could have approached anyone else in the world, but they selected YOU because of your unique qualifications.Instead of viewing an audience as a gathering of critics, which can cause major performance anxiety, see them as customers who all came to your shop for advice.Realizing you're eminently qualified to deliver a speech can also help you relax and go with the flow.

3. If at all possible, rehearse at the actual site of the speech.Find out where the microphones will be placed and what you may have to do in order to accommodate them.If there is a podium or lectern, make sure it is adjusted to suit your height.There may be some strong lights which affect your peripheral vision, so be prepared to angle yourself away from them.Look for a place to keep your note cards or possibly some water if your speech will be lengthy.If your speech is short, you may want to forego drinking water onstage- it denotes nervousness unless your throat becomes genuinely troublesome.

Practice your speech several times if possible, including changes in eye contact and gestures. Click on several different positions with your eyes as you speak.This will give the illusion of direct eye contact and help you connect with an intimate audience.For larger crowds, select a spot in the back of the auditorium and speak to it as if it were your best listener.Most audience members should still get the feeling of personal eye contact.

4. Speak slowly and clearly.This does not mean to over pronounce your words or speak at an unnatural pace, but try not to rush to the end of a line or mumble indistinctly.A microphone will amplify your voice, but not magically improve your vocal quality.If the sound technician has done his job correctly, you should be heard by the audience if you speak at a natural volume level.Leaning into a microphone may work for a quick emphasis, but it's bad practice overall.Certain letters like P or T tend to 'pop' when amplified, so trust the microphone to boost your volume and focus on being clear and slow.

If you sense your audience members losing interest quickly or murmuring amongst themselves, you might assume you're not using your voice correctly.If possible, you may want to have a friendly face in the audience who can send you feedback while you're speaking.He or she might signal for more volume or better enunciation or a change of pace.This is where practice really pays off, but you can't always prepare for how an audience will receive your speech in real time.

5. Use humor with caution.It's standard speechwriting practice to suggest using a humorous anecdote or joke as an ice-breaker, but it pays to make sure the story or joke is appropriate and actually funny.Almost every speaker feels better after getting a laugh or two from the audience, but you must not overuse humor if the majority of your speech is serious.It's always good to have several different anecdotes prepared in case one proves to be completely inappropriate.Good speakers also have the ability to improvise a joke based on the specific circumstances surrounding a speech.Instead of preparing a joke or anecdote you're unsure about, you may want to pay attention to events and speakers who may have gone on before you.A quick humorous remark which is perfect for the audience and occasion may succeed better than a scripted moment.

If you do open with a joke, allow the audience some time to recuperate from laughter before continuing with your speech.If you have another opportunity to be genuinely humorous take it, but never lose track of the overall tone and purpose of your speech.

6. A little nervousness is okay.Most audiences are very forgiving, because they also share your fears and concerns about speaking in public.A few stammers or awkward transitions should not doom your speech.If it's appropriate and the occasion is informal, you may even acknowledge your fears and casually apologize to the audience if your nervousness interrupts the speech.Audiences in general will forgive signs of nervousness if the rest of the speech is delivered clearly and slowly.Only if you become completely incoherent will you experience any serious problems with an average audience.

To combat stage fright and nervous energy, try some light callisthenic exercises before your speech.Jog in place or shake your arms and legs vigorously.Take a walk around the block and return in plenty of time for your speech.What you don't want to do is become exhausted or over stimulated by caffeine.One alcoholic beverage may appear to take the edge off, but two or three just before a speech could prove to be disastrous.You want to channel some of your excess energy and nervousness into your speaking so you will appear energized and dynamic at the podium.

7. Always test out your audio-visual aids.Your first public speech is not the best time to discover a burned-out bulb in an overhead projector or an erased videotape in the VCR.If your speech is coordinated with a PowerPoint slide presentation or an actual slide projector, make sure your images are in the right order and are properly aligned.Test any remote control units to make sure they're sending out the appropriate signals and their recipients are responding properly.Look for any potential blindspots from the perspective of the audience. Can you still read your notes if the room lighting is reduced or eliminated?Would you know how to correct a problem with an audio-visual aid yourself, or will you need an assistant?The sooner you can eliminate technical glitches, the happier you'll be when delivering the actual speech.

8. Always try to leave on a high note.If you keep your energy level up right to the very end of your speech, you should get a very strong reception.Arrange your speech in such a way that it builds naturally to the most inspiring or most important point last.If time permits, repeat your key points briefly.If you're going to rehearse any part of your speech intensely, it should be the opening or closing lines.Things may go wrong in the middle of a speech, but a good closing line can still save you.All speeches have natural highs and lows, so expect your energy level to change several times throughout the speech.If you feel the audience's interest begin to peak towards the end of your prepared speech, be prepared to jump straight to a solid closing line.While they are applauding, thank them for their time and leave the podium area in a confident manner.

9. Find a trusted Monday morning quarterback.If you know someone from the audience who can be a constructive critic, ask him or her for an honest evaluation of your performance.Pay attention to both the positives and the negatives.Use this information to improve weaker aspects of your speaking technique.The more you speak, the better you'll become.A first public speech is really a shakedown run for all the speeches that will follow.If it goes extremely well, remember that feeling and use that confidence to your advantage.If you had some technical difficulties, at least you'll know what to do if it happens again during a speech.If you had a rough time getting over your anxieties and nervousness, consider spending more time rehearsing in front of people.The most important element of many speeches is not the speaker, but the material he or she delivers.By spending more time polishing and revising the speech itself, you may be able to find a better way to deliver it later on.

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