Do you feel your heart beating faster, your palms sweating and your voice trembling every time you have to perform in front of an audience? Stress is a natural reaction to speaking in front of a wider audience, but there are ways to control your emotions and present yourself in a favorable light.
The first step should be to build a speech plan. It is necessary to answer the questions: who the audience is, what kind of knowledge they have, and on this basis adjust the level of the speech: the language and the scope of the information provided. Equally key is to specify what is the purpose of the speech and what conclusion is to resound.
It is worthwhile to pour on paper the rambling ideas and thoughts, on the other hand, it should not be learned by heart – a learned text not only sounds artificial, but also adds to the stress when memory begins to fail. Remember that the performance has an imposed timeframe that must be maintained. You will find it helpful to record your speech or rehearse your speech in front of a trusted person who will provide constructive feedback.
Proper preparation is not only about the textual layer of the performance. You need to make sure that the equipment you are using works without any problems. It is difficult to erase the impression of unprofessionalism after nervously struggling with a non-functioning projector or microphone. It’s a good idea to show up at the speaking venue a little early to get used to the space, familiarize yourself with the acoustics, talk to the organizers and plug in the equipment. This will give you a sense of control over the situation and give you more confidence. Remember that proper hydration has a stress-reducing effect, so stock up on a glass of water even for the speech.
Mental state is related to breathing rhythm, so during a stressful situation breathing is rapid and shallow. Mastering proper breathing techniques (inhaling shorter, exhaling longer, breathing through the diaphragm, slow, calmed breathing through the nose) effectively reduces stress levels. Calm breathing is a signal to the brain that the threat has passed. The voice is the main tool during a speech, so care should be taken to properly warm up the mouth apparatus to improve diction. There are a number of exercises that, with daily practice, will greatly increase the correct pronunciation of the vowels.
Repeat to yourself that the audience are not enemies who are just lurking for every slip of the tongue, but people who will receive some value from you – knowledge, inspiration, impetus for further thought. Even if a linguistic error crept into your speech, there is a high probability that no one paid attention to it. The audience will pick up the artificiality very quickly, so you should remain yourself, use simple, understandable language.
Public speeches should not be a collection of dry facts, it is worth enriching them with examples from life, history illustrating the issue, so that your speech will remain in the memory, and the audience will keep their attention on you. Each speech must have a proper structure, do not forget the beginning and the end, otherwise you will leave the audience with a sense of chaos. The multimedia presentation should be a form of complementing your words, avoid slides overloaded with text, graphics and photos work much better.
A gaze fixed on a piece of paper or at a point above your audience’s heads will betray your stress and create a barrier between you and the audience, so it’s a good idea to make eye contact. Don’t be afraid to pause – short pauses between sentences help build tension, give you space to absorb information and help keep the audience interested.
main photo: unsplash.com/Evangeline Shaw