Picture a room full of eyes watching your every move, a room full of ears listening to your every word. Your face getting hot and your hands trembling standing alone in front of them. Your legs start hitting the potty dance as your body sways back and forth like a tree in the wind. You’re speaking so fast to rush through that you skip a point or two, jumble your words together, stutter in front of the whole audience. Now your body feels like its on fire. Who turned up the heat? You can’t bare to look at all the eyes locked onto you so you stare down at the stand in front of you. You’re studdering more and more, your pauses between “ums” is getting longer. Its feeling like you’ve been on the stand for forever…
Yes. Public speaking can be so, so hard, and this is probably a feeling you’re more than familiar with when while you’re giving a speech. Always keeping your hand down when the teacher asks for volunteers to go first, ducking and dodging the random draws from the attendance sheet until you’re the last one left, and still your mind just isn’t ready to be in front of the class.
Giving speeches is nothing short of nerve-racking for most, but that pressure you feel in front of an audience can be lessened dramatically if you know how to prepare yourself. Here are a few tips that will help calm your nerves when giving a speech:
1. Outline Your Speech
The best way to calm your nerves ahead of a speech is to have everything organized and prepared. The first step to doing that is outlining the main points of your speech.
The outline serves as the skeleton of your speech. Its the basic layout of its structure and helps you put everything that you want to say into order.
2. Use Note Cards
Once you have your speech structure all ready to go, you’ll want to write out the main points on some note cards.
You’ll usually always get the opportunity to bring up note cards for your speech to hold and have a chance to take a quick glance at in between segments. Note cards serve as reference points just in case you forget where you’re trying to go next in your speech, and having them in your hand will calm your nerves for sure.
3. Practice Your Speech Out Loud
You’re going to be nervous if you’re winging your speech and are speaking it out for the first time in front of a live audience. Giving yourself a test run through your notes will have you poised when its your time to shine.
Practicing your speech out loud will allow you to hear how your points link together and if they transition smoothly into each other. Getting a feel for how your speech is going to sound ahead of time will no doubt calm your nerves.
4. Memorize Main Points
Note cards are there as a “just in case,” but you should make it a goal to memorize the key points of your speech.
Really, note cards show your main points as well as the smaller bullet points within those points, so they’re better for when you’re forgetting something in the middle of your explanation. Your main points are the headlines of your argument in a speech and memorizing them will calm your nerves when you’re up there facing the heat.
5. Speak Clearly And Confidently
Once you get the first couple sentences of your introduction down, it really does become smoother sailing the further you go.
Be confident in the way you’ve prepared for this moment to speak in front of your peers. Speak clearly so that everyone can understand and truly absorb the things you have to say. Also make an effort to speak at a nice, even pace. Talking too fast could get you caught up in some stutters, and talking too slow makes you look like you’re really winging your speech.
You know your content, you’ve rehearsed it a decent amount of times. Just get out there, take a deep breath, and speak.
6. Visualize The Setting The Night Before
Close your eyes and visualize what the room will look like as you stand at the front of it. Picture yourself giving your speech. Imagine the audience applauding you and your success.
Just visualize it all. Having an idea of what’s going to come and what you’ll see when you get up there to present is going to help calm your nerves a whole lot more than just going up there and you start asking yourself where all these faces came from.
7. Make Occasional Eye Contact
Don’t get lost trying to decipher the chicken scratch handwriting on your note cards, and definitely don’t stare down your audience during the entire speech, because that’s super awkward.
Doing too much of either is a bad thing. Looking down for too long will have you feeling the pressure of a thousand eyes looking at you, and looking up the whole time is only going to put pressure on you not to slip up.
Doing a little bit of both will help calm your nerves on the big stage. Acknowledging the audience from time to time is just fine. It’ll let them know that you know that they’re still there, and seeing them listening to you will make you feel like you’re doing something right.
8.Engage Your Audience
Don’t get tight and start speaking to the audience like you’re some kind of robot.
More times than not you’re going to be giving a speech in front of your peers, and even if the crowd is unfamiliar, you’re going to be giving a speech to a room full of humans (I hope). Speak to them like a human being. Engage the audience with a question at the beginning of your speech or sprinkle some jokes to get a reaction. It’ll really help calm your nerves a lot.
Some of the best public speakers will tell you that they feel some butterflies in their stomach shortly before they speak, but all of the best public speakers also utilize each of these tips to prepare themselves to deliver their message. Speeches, presentations and any kind of public speaking takes readiness and calmness from the speaker in order to get top-of-the-line results. Following these tips will both fully prepare you mentally for the daunting task of facing a large crowd!