5 ways to nail public speaking

According to TED Talks curator Chris Anderson, public-speaking and presentation skills are a superpower for those wanting to express ideas. Although it's unlikely you'll become a TED-level public speaker overnight, we've compiled 5 top tips from our own public speaking experiences to help you get through yours.

1. Always make eye contact

The last thing you want to be doing when speaking in front of an audience is stare at your feet. It doesn’t make you look very approachable, and if you’re being graded on your public speaking you certainly won’t be getting top marks for posture. Eye contact is such an important part of how you go about speaking to an audience. If you’re really struggling to hold eye contact or fear that it could put you off your speech, ask your friends to position themselves around the room and use them as your focus points. This little hack will have you successfully scanning the audience without scanning the audience at all.

2. Practice, practice, practice

It’s true what they say, practice does make perfect. To avoid stumbling over your words, create a script to practice from. And whether you practice it in front of the mirror or in front of friends and family, the more you practice your lines, the more confident you’ll be presenting it, and confidence is key here.

3. Prompt yourself

Cue cards are not a sign of weakness when it comes to public speaking. Every great public speaker uses them. Help yourself out during your big speech, whether it's by jotting down a particular word to or the beginning of a sentence to ensure that you don’t stumble over your words. But remember to keep your eyes on the audience for the better part of the presentation.

4. Time yourself

On most occasions, you’ll be given a time limit for how long you’ll be able to speak for. When practicing your speech, make sure that you time yourself every time you go through your script. Be sure that you’re talking within the time limit and that you’re talking clearly. It can be really easy to get caught up in the moment and speed through everything you have to say. The best way to overcome this issue is to talk as s-l-o-w-l-y and clearly as possible during the big event.

5. Hesitation isn't the end of the world

Use hesitations to your advantage. If you’re presenting work on slides, use the change of a slide as a couple of seconds to gather yourself for the next section. Or if you feel yourself losing grip on your steady conversational flow, pause at the end of your point for a dramatic effect and then take that pause as a time to rethink your next section. However, the more prompts you give yourself during your public debut, the less likely you are to hesitate. But just remember, hesitation isn’t the end of the world.

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