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If you have ever thought to yourself “I’d rather die than speak in front of an audience” then you are not alone. In fact, a recent survey of British people revealed that for most, the fear of public speaking ranked higher than the fear of death.

However, as I have recently discovered through the TIPi Academy, public speaking can be very important. Nailing a presentation can secure you that top grade, new job, or important business client; and in my experience, we enjoy what we are good at. So, here are my 6 top tips to tackle those fears and smash your next presentation.

1) Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

On reflection of my past attempts at public speaking. The times I really fell flat were those where I simply wasn’t prepared. Preparation is in fact key. And here’s how to do it:

  • Start it early! Don’t put it off, the sooner you write the speech the more time you’ll have to rehearse it.
  • Consider your audience. Before you craft your message, consider who it is actually for.
  • Know your time limits. If there are time restrictions, make sure you’re following them.
  • Test your equipment. Using audible and visual aids are great, but check they are all working before you go on.
  • Prepare for questions. You will likely have to answer a few at the end. Think of what people may ask you and try and prepare some answers.

2) Practice Might Not Make Perfect but It Definitely Helps

While no speech will ever be perfect, rehearsing your delivery can be a great way to improve. You can try:

  • Recording your voice and playing it back to yourself.
  • Practicing in front of a mirror. Here you can watch your movements, gestures, and facial expressions and see what looks most natural.
  • Rehearsing in front of any willing person you can find. Whether this be a friend, parent, significant other, or even your pet hamster.

3) Death by PowerPoint

Using slides can be an impactful way to highlight your points and enhance your communication with the audience. They can also be your downfall.  Overloaded slides, bad graphics, and illegible fonts are universally hated by any audience. Here are some tips to remember when building your next deck:

  • Firstly, ditch the block of text. Less is more, try and be concise and use bullet points instead. And remember, despite what we woman love to claim, no one is that good at multi-tasking. So, if your audience is reading they might not be listening.
  • Secondly, it may sound obvious, but pick a font big enough so that people can read it! Anything under size 24 point is too small. Try and aim for 30-point size, or if that’s too dramatic you can follow this simple formula: (Find out the age of the oldest person in your audience) / 2 = Your ideal font size
  • Also, consider your choice of colours. No matter how big the text, no one will be able to read white writing on a yellow background. Just be sensible.
  • Lastly, pictures really do say a thousand words. Images cause an emotional response and allow your audience to better retain your message. Source high quality visuals, or try taking your own pictures, as this can add a unique quality to your presentation.

4) Make Your Nerves Work for You

I find there is a fine line between being nervous and being excited. Both increase your adrenaline, your heart beats faster, and you prepare for action. While many may try and calm their nerves before an important presentation, the real trick is to put a positive spin on them and channel the buzz into an engaging performance. Personally, I have found if I say something out loud with enough conviction then I can often convince myself of something that isn’t really true. So now before I have to do a presentation I always make sure I tell someone how much I am looking forward to it and this makes my outlook more positive. This is known as “anxiety reappraisal.” And I find it really helps.

5) Connect with Your Audience

Building a rapport with your listeners is a great way to get them to pay attention and take on board your message. To do this you can try the following:

  • Use anecdotes. Drawing from your own experiences will humanise your speech and allow you and your audience to feel more relaxed.
  • Interact with your audience. Try asking them a question. This will help keep people engaged.
  • Use humour. A joke every now and then will relax your listeners and keep your audience alert and waiting for the next.
  • Make eye contact. Hold someone’s gaze for a few seconds then move onto the next.
  • Smile. Always remember to look like you’re enjoying yourself (even if you’re not).

6) Welcome Feedback

Finally, we are all just trying to learn and improve so never be afraid to ask for some feedback after your presentation. Effective feedback allows us to review, reflect and improve our future performance. So, don’t shy away from that constructive criticism, take from it what you can and learn from your mistakes to succeed next time.

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