No matter how confident you might be, public speaking is something we all tend to dread. Whether it’s a tutorial of 10 people or an auditorium of 10,000, the thought of public speaking to any audience can be equally as daunting.
Something our lecturers never fail to mention is that at some point in our future careers, we will have to present to people and that we should take advantage of all the practice we’re getting now through group presentations. And it looks like they might actually be right.
Overcoming the fear of public speaking can seem like an impossible feat (especially if you’re someone who currently tries to avoid it all costs) but there are a few ways we can train ourselves into making the whole experience slightly less frightening.
A lot of motivational speakers consider the skill to be like driving a car; the first time is completely and utterly terrifying, but from there each time gets that little bit easier. The fact that public speaking is actually a learnable skill that we can develop should make those of us who aren’t naturals at it feel a bit better.
An interesting way to help yourself with public speaking is to read more – it doesn’t need to be the world’s most sophisticated book with words so long you can’t comprehend them – any old book will do. The important thing to take away from it is that it’ll help you to be more grammatically accurate as well as allowing you to practice internalising your content –two essentials for public speaking.
Another way to become a more confident speaker is to forget about yourself and focus on the message you’re trying to get across. One of the biggest problems we face when presenting is feeling self- conscious – either you don’t know where to put your hands or you can hear your voice quivering in the back of your throat – and all this does is make you more nervous than you probably already are. Just remember, your audience is much more interested in what you have to say and how they’re going to benefit from it than they are in you as a person (no offence).
When presenting, silence is pretty much inevitable yet it’s what we all fear most. To avoid silence (and because we’re nervous) we tend to talk too fast–a combination of adrenaline and the hope that the faster we speak, the faster it’ll all be over. However; it proves beneficial to find comfort in the silence and to actually allow pauses in your presentation as this not only makes you look more confident, but it’ll also help you to connect with your audience and see them as a group of individuals rather than one large, scary crowd.
Last but not least, don’t underestimate the benefits of basic practice. In the mirror, to your flatmates or even to your dog – practice, practice, practice. After all, it does make perfect. The more times you rehearse it, the less likely you are to be fumbling over your words or being overly reliant on any notes. It makes for much better watching and looks more impressive.
Ultimately, try not to worry about your public speaking abilities because they will naturally get better over time from a little practice.
It’s also a lot easier to do a. presentation on a topic you’re actually interested in, which may not always be the case at university. However you may present right now isn’t an accurate representation of how you may present in the future. It is also important to remember that everyone at university is in the same boat. It is unlikely that everyone around you is the most impressive public speaker, but following some of these steps could help calm your nerves and help you address those around you.
Illustration Credit: Felix Pawlyn