By Sameera Polavarapu
For many, public speaking conjures up impossible fear, pieces of advice to imagine the audience in their underwear, and imagining feigning a sudden sickness that makes it impossible to attend a speaking engagement.
While public speaking can be intimidating, learning how to present yourself in front of others and convey your message is an essential skill in every career path.
Over time, I have found five methods that make me stand up just a little straighter and help me slowly remove the stammer from my diction:
Consider why you’re nervous in the first place.
When presenting, it is so easy to get caught up in nerves and anxiousness that I find myself forgetting why standing in front of others and speaking is scary in the first place.
Am I nervous that people won’t like me? Am I horrified that people will think I’m stupid? Do I hate the idea of being judged?
Stepping back and thinking about the reasons that you don’t want to speak in front of others ultimately helps you look forward and tackle the specific issues you have head on.
Remember that speaking confidently will make the audience WANT to listen to you.
When answering the questions running through my head, I often come to the consensus that people will likely dislike me, find me stupid, or judge me much more if I appear unconfident.
I have seen that when I speak loudly and stop shuffling around, the audience seems more tuned in to what I have to say. In return, I grow more confident in what I am saying because people seem to care about what I am speaking about.
Be enthusiastic and believe in what you are saying.
If you don’t sound enthusiastic about what you are talking about, how can you expect others to?
Working on a presentation is a task in itself and its important to show your audience that you are proud and excited to show them all you have done. Although it sounds extremely cliché, I’ve found that believing in what you are saying will ultimately help you believe in yourself.
Know your audience: Find three points to guide your eyes.
Let’s be honest, the content of a presentation is only half the battle; it is just as important to have great eye contact and body language. In the past, I have had countless critiques about seeming unhappy, looking into space, and talking unnaturally fast or slow.
I think this often stems from not having a solid understanding of my presence in front of a crowd. Not knowing where to look and direct my voice can easily make me forget my train of thought or what I have to say altogether.
To combat this, it’s a great idea to pick three specific points throughout the crowd and transition from each point in your presentation by guiding your eyes to a different point in the crowd. Knowing where to be speaking towards really helps the presentation feel more put together, in both your mind and the audience’s.
In the end, it all comes down to practice. There is no better way to feel great about presenting than to understand the logical flow of what you will be saying and how you will be saying it. Practice in front of your friends, practice in the mirror, practice in the room you’ll be presenting in—it will only make you better.
Most of all, practice being confident, telling yourself that it is just public speaking, and that you are going to do just fine.
Sameera Polavarapu will graduate in 2019 from the University of Maryland at College Park with a major in international business and marketing. Her dream job is to do marketing for a global organization such as the United Nations.