How to Improve Your Public Speaking and Presentations

Fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, is one of the most common phobias, but luckily there are ways to help you be calm and positive. This guide will help you to develop your presentation skills and become a master of your own mind while speaking or presenting publicly.

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Preparing Your Presentation

Most of the success of public speaking is in the preparation. The best preparation you can have is to know your topic. The more you know, the easier it is to speak and the more engaging your audience will find your presentation.

Choose a topic that’s interesting to you. The research will be enjoyable and your speaking will have some added enthusiasm. If you have to present on a topic you don’t particularly love, then stay positive. Find the most interesting parts of the topic and bring attention to them.

Look carefully at the marking criteria for a hint at what approach to take with your presentation, including what information to cover and how long it needs to be. Often the most important criteria asks you to ‘demonstrate your knowledge’, so speak about what you know and have discovered through your research.

PowerPoint slides are a great way to engage your audience. A good slide should have only a small amount of information presented in an easy to read manner, such as dot points. To keep your audience engaged, the slides should stay related with what you’re speaking about at every point, so the average slide shouldn’t stay up for more than one minute.

Including relevant, fun pictures in your slides can be a great way to break the tension. Including a joke in the opening can set the mood and make people attentive, relaxed and interested. Ultimately, you will gain confidence and marks.

Speak from your head rather than reading from a script. Have your main points and structure outlined on ‘palm cards’, but only use these if you get stuck. Do not have full sentences on your cards, as you may find yourself reading from your notes rather than presenting what you have discovered to the class.

‘Practice makes perfect’ is the saying, but don’t stress about perfection, rather think that ‘practice makes relaxed’. Rehearse your presentation by speaking it aloud to practice the structure, and your expression and dynamics. If you’ve practiced enough, everything should flow naturally.

Rehearse to friends, family, or with a video camera. Take feedback and use it, as this will improve your presentation and public speaking skills. If you record yourself on video, you will notice if you’re speaking too fast, looking down at your notes too much, or moving anxiously. Try again and see if you can then cut these out of your presentation.

Presenting Your Work

Nerves can kick in at any moment, from when you wake up to when you open your mouth.

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Think about the big picture. Your classmates are too focused on their own presentation to worry about yours. Your teacher is just doing his or her job. Stay positive, do your best, and regardless of how it goes, a small personal celebration is deserved. Congratulate or reward yourself afterwards.

Your body language and gestures influence how engaged you and the audience will be. Stand tall with a smile, make eye contact and use your hands. Science has shown that good posture and a smile releases positive chemicals in your brain.

Speak with inflection in your voice. Remind yourself to speak slowly and clearly. Pause for a deep breath at the end of each sentence and continue on with a more relaxed pace. Practice this by recording yourself on your phone. Expression and pace are essential elements of public speaking.

Most people fear the ‘mind­blank’. It’s never as long as it feels and it’s not a reason to panic. A line such as “Excuse me one moment, I just need to find my place” can be very useful in case this goes for longer than 10 seconds, and everyone will permit you the time you need to find your place.

Most mistakes are only noticed by the speaker. No­-one else knows what you meant to say, so if you accidentally say something else, just move along. If it’s a tongue twister and you stutter a bit, don’t stress, it will be forgotten by the end of your next sentence.

The best thing you can do is think positively by visualising yourself making no mistakes and feeling good at the end of it. Just remember, preparation and practice makes for a relaxed and successful presentation!

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