Statistics show more Americans are afraid of public speaking than they are of death. However, speaking in front of a crowd is almost inevitable. In fact, in many professions it is a part of the job every day. Public speaking and giving presentations do not have to be terrifying. There are a few simple steps for getting better at professional presentations and making speeches more effective.
First, know the material of the presentation. Most experts suggest having an overall topic, and then three main speaking points. Think of it like a bulleted list. The audience does not want to hear everything there is to know about the topic at hand. They want a short, easy to listen to and easy to digest version. They want to walk away having learned not everything there is to know about a particular subject, but just one or two new things. Keep the bullet points in mind and try not to stray from them too much.
Next, have note cards on hand. Do not type out a full script or speech, rather, keep it in the form of main talking points. A key word here or there will do. A speaker does not want to sound as if he is reading an encyclopedia aloud. The goal is to sound as if it is part of a natural conversation.
When it is time for the presentation or speech, begin by taking deep breaths. The key is to not think too much about the task at hand. Go into it as if it is something normal, natural. The audience is not an enemy. Remember, everyone loves to laugh. If the audience gets a laugh out of the presentation or a fumble here or there, great. Nobody is perfect, and being able to laugh at mistakes is an endearing quality. An important thing to remember is the audience is uncontrollable. Do not attempt to predict or manipulate what the audience will do or how it will respond. Let things happen on their own.
Finally, like most things in life, practice makes perfect. Practice speaking to small groups of people in social situations, and getting up and doing things in front of a crowd. Become comfortable having many sets of eyes on you, and remember, it doesn’t really matter what anyone is thinking. Many of them are perfect strangers. Soon, speaking in public will become second nature and even enjoyable.