You know the moment: your boss tells you “I need a presentation, Monday, to the business – here’s the topic.” Your heart moves into 5th gear, you start sweating, and you stammer in response: “uh, uh Monday? You mean this Monday? Okay…”

Fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears around the globe. Public speaking beats snakes (who can kill you), sharks (who can kill you), small spaces, heights, and spiders as the ultimate fear. Kids at schools hate orals more than three-hour exams. There is something very intimidating about standing in a room with a sea of people looking and listening to you. For many of us, public speaking does not come easily.

Thing is, public speaking is something you are probably going to have to do at some point in your life – whether you are holding a dinner, giving a speech for a friend, or presenting something new for work, you are going to need to hold your own in front of the crowd.

Some people are naturally gifted public speakers, but regardless of whether this is a natural gifting or not, we can all learn to give an adequate speech no matter what our personality may be. Here are a few things to remember:

1. Have a positive attitude

If you spend hours thinking negatively about your presentation it will affect your body language and confidence on the day. Remember, there is a reason why you have been asked to do this and the audience wishes to hear what you have to say. Monitor your self-talk and believe in yourself; it will make a huge difference to the presentation and how you feel about it.

2. Prepare

Write your speech before, prepare an outline that you can reference on the day, and do the research to find out about your audience. Say your speech in front of a mirror or record it over a microphone. If you do this you will be able to hear your own errors and learn from them.

3. Be okay with silence

It’s okay to take a moment and gather your thoughts when you are speaking. If you don’t do this you may talk a lot and too fast. Taking a moment’s break lets your points sink in and helps to keep you calm.

4. Pay attention to your speech patterns

Is there a certain word that you keep on saying? Do you adjust your glasses or crack your knuckles? Even if you are talking with a friend on the phone there will be speech patterns which you will be able to see and may wish to change. Be aware of these and work on improving them.

5. Dress for success

Wear something you feel comfortable and confident in. Don’t wear an old T shirt as you wish to appear professional but don’t wear high heels which make you fall over. Feeling good is important as it will make you appear more confident and collected.

6. Introduce yourself

The first few moments of a speech are as much for the audience as they are for you. This is your time to ease yourself into the presentation. Tell the audience a joke to warm up the environment or a fun anecdote. You may also want to give them an outline of what they will be listening to so that they are aware of the flow and can pay attention.

7. Use eye contact and good body language

Look your audience in the eyes. Don’t be afraid to use your hands and facial expressions to add life and interest to your topic. Walk – you don’t have to stick behind a podium. Make sure you smile as this will make you appear friendly and inviting. Use your voice – speak clearly and loudly.

8. Have fun

Passion and fun are the most infectious attributes to a person’s presentation. If you enjoy yourself, chances are your audience will also enjoy themselves.

Perhaps now you have read this, that next presentation won’t leave you quivering and shaking. Believe in yourself. Be bold and brave. Smash it out the park!

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