Public speaking and giving presentations can be a daunting task for many of us, but it helps to analyse exactly what it is about speaking in public that worries you. Are you afraid of blushing, of forgetting what you'll say, or of the audience laughing at you? Once you have pinpointed your fear, you can think about it rationally - for example, is it likely that an audience of your colleagues and senior managers would really hold you up to public ridicule and laugh you off the stage? If your fear is about something practical like not being able to work the overhead projector during your presentation, practice until you are completely confident.
Following on from the first tip, practice, practice, practice is one of the best pieces of advice when it comes to presentation skills. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be, and there will be less likelihood of you drying up or not being able to answer an audience member's question.
One of the most valuable presentation tips is to to use creative visualisation. This can be a powerful part of your practice routine if you are particularly nervous. Creative visualisation is where you mentally rehearse the process of delivering your presentation; not just what you'll say and where you'll stand, but how you'll feel, how the audience will respond etc - and you do it all in a positive way. Imagine yourself delivering your public speech perfectly, timing it exactly right, and getting a rapturous response from the audience. If you are worried about a specific element of the presentation, like remembering a complicated word or phrase, spend extra time visualising yourself doing this bit flawlessly. In other words, practice for giving presentations successfully, and carry this confidence with you when you actually make your speech.
Speak at a steady pace - many of us find ourselves talking more quickly when we are nervous. If you slow down, and give yourself time to breathe, you will feel more relaxed; it will also give you a chance to gauge audience reaction - you don't want to be rushing into your next anecdote while they are still laughing at the last joke. Don't be afraid to pause between sentences or sections of your presentation either, to give you time to gather your thoughts, or have a drink of water. Contrary to your negative thoughts, the audience won't use this hiatus to start talking amongst themselves - they are actually interested in what you have to say!
Practice your presentation skills and don't pace, fidget or use excessive hand gestures - these are likely to feed your nervousness and won't create an impression of studied calm. Stand fairly still in a comfortable position, where you can reach all your notes and material, and are able to see the audience. And when it comes to the audience, remember to look at them, even if you're terrified of them! Don't worry about making eye contact with each individual audience member, but don't fix your gaze on a point above everyone's heads either - let your eyes move around the room so that all parts of the audience feel acknowledged and included.
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How to Develop Self-confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking
By Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie is the author of the world famous best-selling 'How To Win Friends and Influence People' and founder of the Dale Carnegie Institute. Develop your presentation skills...
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