Does the thought of addressing a crowd—or even a few classmates or coworkers—keep you up at night? You can learn how to perform this feat without losing sleep—or your lunch.
Step 1: Choose familiar topic If possible, choose a topic that you’re familiar with. This will make it easier for you to feel confident and share some personal experiences. Being enthusiastic about the subject is also helpful.
Step 2: Do your research Do your research. Make sure you have a broad understanding of the topic as well as a few facts and figures to bring up.
TIP: Don’t overdo it—people will tune out if you hit them with too many statistics. Be judicious with the numbers
Step 3: Choose main points Choose two to three main points. You don’t need to give an exhaustive account of your topic.
Step 4: Keep it brief Keep it brief. If you talk for too long, people’;s concentration will begin to drift, no matter how riveting you are.
Step 5: Know your audience Know your audience. This will help you tailor your talk to fit their needs. Ask yourself what they’re hoping to get from your speech.
TIP: To establish a connection with your audience, learn the names of some of its members beforehand, and incorporate them into your talk.
Step 6: Use an outline Use an outline. It’s best if you don’t have to read your speech verbatim. You might have to write it out initially, but when you’re ready to speak, an outline will help you remember your main points.
TIP: Write your outline on index cards, which will be less awkward than paper to flip through while you’re speaking.
Step 7: Rehearse Rehearse. Some experts recommend memorizing your speech, while others say to present your main points but also speak off the cuff. Test both methods by using a tape recorder, video camera, or a friend who’s willing to listen.
TIP: Concentrate on what you’re actually saying so it doesn’t sound rote. Even if you’ve rehearsed every day for a month, you want it to sound spontaneous.
Step 8: Relax When it’s time to speak, do your best to relax. If you’re in a place where you can stretch, stretch away. And breathing exercises are always useful.
Step 9: Plant feet firmly Plant your feet firmly—but keep your legs slightly bent to prevent locking your knees, which can lead to fainting. Make sure your upper body is aligned with your legs, and don’t sway.
Step 10: Watch your hands Keep your hands on the podium, holding your outline, or just down at your sides—but not in your pockets. You can gesture if it helps, but be careful not to overdo it or nervously repeat the same gesture.
Step 11: Make eye contact Maintain eye contact. Imagine that the audience are friends and family, and address them personally.
Step 12: Smile Don’t forget to smile, unless, of course, you’re speaking on a particularly somber topic.
Step 13: Nobody's perfect Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. Nobody is perfect. It’s okay to make some mistakes.
TIP: Don’t forget that the audience is on your side. They know how hard it is to speak in public and they are most likely admiring your bravery.
Step 14: Be yourself Be yourself. You have something to bring to this topic that nobody else does, so don’t hold back from sharing some of your own experiences and knowledge.
Step 15: Use humor Use humor when appropriate, and don̻’t be afraid to mention your shortcomings and mistakes if they help make a point. The audience will love you for it, and you just might grow to love—or at least endure—public speaking.
FACT: In a 1974 episode of The Brady Bunch, Marcia Brady advised her sister Jan to imagine that the audience was in their underwear. Hey, it’s worth a try!