My first attempt at public speaking was back in 2013 at an exhibition for assistants and office managers. At the time I was absolutely petrified. Every fibre of my being was telling me to run away as quickly as my shaky legs could carry me. I managed to get through that first speech and since then I have presented at a number of events. Although I still get incredibly nervous I am less likely to bolt or shake uncontrollably. There is definitely a sense of triumph that I feel at the end of every presentation and I’m really pleased that I have managed, in the main, to overcome my fear of public speaking. Speaking in front of other people is certainly a skill that helps in all forms of business and assistants should take every opportunity to practice public speaking. Here are my top 10 tips for public speaking.
1. Practice, practice, practice
This is really my number one tip because practice really does make perfect. Write your notes and then practice reading them out loud as often as can you before the presentation. I have spent weeks reading my notes out loud and front of very very helpful friends and family.
2. Even Madonna has fallen off a stage
This is what I often tell myself before I get up on stage. Most recently Madonna was dragged down a set of stairs at the Brit Awards but she still got her fabulous self up and carried on strutting her stuff. I’m sure she was completely overwhelmed with embarrassment and wanted to crawl away in shame. But she didn’t and if you do something embarrassing you should carry on too – that is what I tell myself anyway!
3. Create a great set of slides
If you need to include slides with your presentation make sure they are really great. Remember that your slides should emphasis your point rather than spell it out, so don’t add to much text. Instead make them visually interesting so that you can tell yourself the audience are looking at your slides rather than at you!
4. Feel good about yourself
I always try to turn up at an event looking my very best. If I feel confident about the way I look it is more likely that I will deliver a good presentation. Call me shallow but I do find it helps.
5. Get to the room in plenty of time
Another tip I’ve learnt over the last year is to get comfortable with the room prior to the presentation. Check that you have everything you need, your slides are up and in the right order, you have a lectern if you need one and you have some water in case you start coughing uncontrollably, which is a real fear of mine!
6. Have a safety blanket
If you are incredibly nervous it is well worth having something that helps you remain calm. It could be that you take your notes on to the stage with you, or you use your own laptop to flick through the slides. Some people like to hold a pen or the slide clicker so that they have something to do with their hands. Others like the room to pace up and down while they are talking. Whatever it is don’t worry that the audience are going to notice because they won’t, they will be concentrating on what you are saying.
7. Who is going to be in the audience?
It is worth knowing who will be in the audience before your presentation. It may help to have a few friends sitting in the front rows so that you can look at them while you are speaking as friendly faces do help ease nerves!
8. The only person who knows you’ve forgotten something is you!
I keep having to remind myself of this. You may have memorised what you are going to say but if you forget something you really are the only person who will know. Yes it can be annoying, especially if it is a really great point but it isn’t the end of the world.
9. Pretend to be someone else
Again I’ve used this a few times in the past. I’ve seen some amazing speakers over the years and often channel their presenting style depending on the event I am speaking at. I’ve also watched a lot of TED talks and tried to replicate the confidence of their speakers. It might seem ridiculous but pretending to be Oprah Winfrey really does help!
Last but not least try to keep your breathing steady and your voice slow and conversational. If speakers are nervous a real giveaway is the speed at which they speak. I find that I can speak really fast if I’m nervous so I make sure I take lots of deep breathes prior to the speech and make sure I speak at a slow pace.