Often in life we all want to be the best, but rarely do we work as hard as possible to become the best. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to press “yes” when the Netflix screen asks you “are you still watching?” than to get up and finish that paper. One time I thought I could give a presentation with zero practice and it did not go over well to say the least.
Early in my life I knew that I enjoyed public speaking. It’s among one of the largest fears in all of society and many people want to improve their ability to stand in of a group of people and talk. I’ll give you four tangible tools to help you overcome your fears and begin to gain confidence in your public speaking abilities.
Within the first millisecond of laying eyes on someone, our minds instantly create a first impression.
Knowing this, when you step on stage, stand up in the crowd, or present your final project to the classroom, what are people thinking of you before you even say the first word? By the glare in your eyes, the strut of your walk, the calamity in your chest, the steadiness (or unsteadiness) in your hands, what impression do you create? From the moment the words begin to flow from your lips, till the very end when the questions come flooding in, your body language reflects your competence and confidence as a speaker.
A successful speaking method I use is what I call the “stop and trot.” This is a unique way to catch the audience’s attention, captivating them to what you are about to say next. It’s simple, when you need attention from the audience or you are emphasizing a point, say the beginning of the phrase stop, pause, walk a few steps, reset yourself, and say the rest.
Another tip that can separate you from your peers, is how you answer questions. By leaning in you’re showing attentiveness and confidence in your response. Proximity shows comfort so it always helps to shorten that distance. Remember back in high school, there was always the student that sat in the front of the class with a crisp, unmarked, college-ruled notebook that sat upon the desk opened to the first page. That’s the attentiveness you want to show the person who is asking you a question.
Use of PowerPoint
A picture is worth a thousand words. Using pictures does two main things:
1. It allows the audience to create their own story from the picture.
It allows you as the speaker to use pictures as flashcards for presenting.
Please don’t be that person that puts their entire presentation on the PowerPoint slide and proceeds to read word for word what’s on it. If I wanted to listen to you read you slides I would have asked for a copy and read them myself. I challenge you to limit the slides to either one word or just a picture! Each picture is a mental cue of what to talk about next and you don’t have to feel like you need to talk about a script, you just talk about what the picture reminds you of. Spend 10-15 seconds on each slide then move on.
“Remember that time when…I had so much fun that time when…This is so similar to…This is just like…”
These are all phrases that cue the audience that a memory is going to be told. Humans all have their individual stories, why waste time spitting boring facts and scripted presentations when speaking? Use stories to captivate your audience so they’ll be more attuned when you speak the facts and analytics. Target the story to your audience.
Stories will make or break a presentation and it’s so simple anyone can tell them! Using stories show that you are human! Keep it brief, use your sense of humor if you have it (if not just tell the story), and give a great presentation!
During my sophomore year in college, I was standing at the front of my business communication class with a clicker in my hand. This was the first time I practiced my semester long project, the day of the presentation, confident in my ability to procrastinate and still be successful which is a common trend among college students.
Once I was done, my professor asked me how many times I had practiced the presentation, and proceeded to call me out on my lack of preparation and practice. He informed me that I would have to present my project again in front of the class in one-week.
I realized the importance of practicing my speeches to truly perform well. My arrogance and narcissistic confidence in my speaking ability was my kryptonite during this time. But you either win or you learn.
During the week of my redemption, I practiced many times perfecting my craft of public speaking and before I knew it, it was time for my second attempt. I went on to practice many times within the next week and delivered a fantastic presentation. Don’t follow Allen Inversion’s infamous rant about how practice is unnecessary and instead be diligent on practicing your presentations. Your future self will thank you.
An old phrase that has stuck on me like tree sap on a car windshield is “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” To be honest, I still feel my heart pounding in my chest before I begin to speak. But, I use my body language to take control of the stage. I pause when I need to gather my thoughts. I keep my PowerPoints simple. I tell stories vividly, so I can’t mess them up because they are my stories, not scripted notes. And most importantly, I practice public speaking. At the end of the day, I have made the uncomfortable situations where I find my comfort, and so can you!
Jonathan Curti is a Health and Fitness Studies major at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where he will be graduating in May 2020. At CA Industries, he is one of our Summer 2019 interns who works in the Career Development and Training division. When he is not at work or school, he enjoys staying active by playing sports and hiking.