Public speaking comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s presenting a project in front of your peers, discussing a pitch to your coworkers, meeting new people, reading text aloud or simply asking a question. No matter the situation, you always want to be prepared to the best of your ability. If you’ve attended school, been a part of a training course or simply had a job, you’ve most likely spoken publicly in front of complete strangers. Whether you’re a seasoned public speaker or have no experience whatsoever, being vulnerable in front of others can be extremely intimidating. You must remember to remain calm and collected and project your voice with confidence. You must be clear and speak with intent, keep a strong posture, and have good rhythm. Remembering to do all these things while maintaining your flow isn’t easy, getting up and speaking in front of others isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds. Therefore, I aim to discuss a few tips and reminders that I believe will be most helpful in situations of public speaking and how to do it with confidence.
Although this seems straightforward, I have witnessed plenty of people go to speak in front of a crowd and appear as though they are unprepared. To have an overall positive experience with public speaking, make sure you are ready and have everything you need will only set you up for success. This means bringing appropriate notes (if allowed), having your materials ready (laptop, images, links, slideshows, props etc.), dressed appropriately, knowing what you’re going to say, and being ready for questions or comments at the end.
Sometimes people are called upon at times when they least expect it. Not all forms of public speaking are ones that you can become prepared for. Professors or supervisors can ask questions, test your knowledge, request a comment - you will have to talk to other strangers to reach your goals. The best way you can be ready for any type of situation is to always be aware of your surroundings and to always pay attention. This way, you will never be caught off guard.
Although not every form of public speaking is reading a solo monologue on stage in front of hundreds of people, practicing will always make you feel more confident. The best ways to practice something you are going to be publicly speaking on is to do it in front of people you are comfortable with, like your friends or parents. By doing so, you can get real-life comments on your posture, pace, timing, and rhythm and you can start improving immediately. Plus, this gives you a chance to rehearse what you are going to say in different ways and see what works best!
If you are not comfortable with practicing in front of family or friends, try rehearsing in front of a mirror or recording a video. This helps you get a close-up view of what you look like when you are speaking, and it lets you observe yourself and your body language.
There is nothing worse than speaking in front of a class and someone asks you to be louder. To avoid this, make sure to project your voice. See who is sitting the farthest away and make sure to speak at a level that they can always hear you, without yelling or straining your voice. To test how your voice sounds, record a video of yourself standing far away from your phone and rehearse what you are going to say. Listen back to it and see if you need to make any adjustments. Standing in front of a crowd with a loud and clear voice will help you appear as confident as possible.
While appropriate volume is important, so is the speed at which you speak. Rushing through public speaking is a common error that people tend to make, especially when they are nervous. If you speak too fast, it comes off as though you are trying to rush through what you are saying. Taking your time allows you to say everything that is needed to be said and helps you feel more collected. Finding a proper balance between too fast and too slow is what is most important. Practice, practice, practice.
For an SFU student or someone who is simply looking for general public speaking tips, there are so many great resources available. There is a great online course that is offered for Public Relations students titled PRP230. Although this course is limited to specific students, it is extremely beneficial in learning and practicing proven methods for effective public speaking. There is also a Voice and Presentation Skills section on the SFU website that focuses on workshops and private sessions dedicated to coaching how to communicate properly. If you are looking for more direct experiences, make sure to explore the OLC site as there are endless student stories that deal with the topic, like Overcoming your Fear of Public Speaking or Taking the Plunge into Public Speaking.
At the end of the day, remaining calm and believing in yourself is all you need to project confidence and be effective while public speaking. Standing up in front of others isn’t a simple task and can feel extremely intimidating. With these tips, I hope to have eased the pressure and made it clear that everyone struggles at times. Utilize the resources around you, take a deep breath, and you’ll do great!