Public Speaking: 101

You know that moment when your palms get sweaty, your knees start to shake and you feel like you’re going to throw up (gross…I know)? No, I’m not referring to a first date—I’m talking about the moment you have to get up in front of a crowd of people and give a speech.

The comforting news is, three out of four individuals suffer from speech anxiety, also known as glossophobia, so you’re not alone!  With that said, it’s important every college student take at least one public speaking course while in school. Almost every single major and job requires some sort of public speaking/presenting and it is vital to know the basics.

As a communication arts major, I figured I was going to breeze through my public speaking class—WRONG. I wan’t all that great when I got up there to present.  I had to learn how to tame some of my my mannerisms, how to use body language to draw in an audience and how to effectively use technology to enhance my presentation.

So, here are some simple tips I learned to help improve your public speaking skills:

  1. Know the material. Unless you are required to improvise a speech, know your subject inside and out.  This will help you to avoid stuttering, depending on filler words (uh, um, etc.) and you’ll relay your message effectively.
  2. Practice. There is no better way to master a speech than to practice. Practice in front of your roommates, your friends, or even your mirror. The more times you say it, the more comfortable you’ll get.
  3. Breathe. Many people speak too quickly when they are nervous and forget to breathe. If you are one of those people, write on your note cards to “slow down” in the margins. This will serve as a visual cue. If you have your speech written out, put dashes in between sentences to remind you where to take a breath and pause.
  4. Relax. Everyone gets nervous to some degree, but most people won’t even notice you’re nervous. Stand with your weight evenly distributed and your knees unlocked. This will relieve some of the stress on your body. If you find you start to stutter or lose your place, don’t panic—just pause, take a breath and pick up where you left off.
  5. Learn from experience. The best way to overcome your fears is to give speeches as much as possible (torture—I know). But, the more speeches you give, the more comfortable you’ll feel. You will also learn what works best for you and some personal tricks to keep calm.

Do you have any techniques that help you get through public speaking?

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