Study videos of yourself. Watching yourself on camera can be less than fun. (What happened to my hair? Is that really how I sound?) but it’s also extremely helpful. Once you get past your initial reaction, you’ll be able to judge your diction, speed, gestures, vocal pitch, and other factors, then adjust accordingly. You’ll also see what makeup or types of clothing are your most flattering. If you don’t have a friend who can videotape you, then record yourself with a tripod. Alternatively, use a webcam. With time and practice, your presentation skills will undoubtedly improve.
Remember, practice makes perfect. After practicing at home, it’s time to take your show on the road! One way to ease your way in to public speaking is by moderating a panel discussion or being part of the panel. That way you’ll share the spotlight with others. You could also join a Toastmasters group, volunteer to speak at your church, local Chamber of Commerce, school group, or other small gathering. Talking in front of a small, intimate group can actually be more intimidating than lecturing in front of a much larger group, but it’s a great way to get valuable feedback and practice. Take every speaking opportunity you can and bring along a friend or colleague whom you trust to be brutally honest. Then you’ll be ready for bigger and better speaking appearances!
Do what works for you. Some people work best with a PowerPoint presentation or with note cards. Others feel comfortable speaking off the cuff. A nice basic format is an introduction, 3-5 main talking points, and close. Find the format that works for you and stick with that. Over time, as you gain more confidence, you’ll probably find that you can be more flexible depending on the situation. But if the thought of public speaking terrifies you, then simply speaking in front of a crowd is a triumph.
Being nervous isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, even the most eloquent speakers get stage fright on occasion. Focus on the content of your presentation rather than those little butterflies in the pit of your stomach. And keep your eyes on the prize. After all, public speaking is an excellent way to boost your income and promote your business. The more practice you get in front of an audience, the easier each engagement will become and the more opportunities you’ll get to speak.
© 2010 Ali International
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