As we progress professionally, inevitably the opportunities to speak come up more frequently, This can be in front of a team at a meeting, at a company all hands, or an industry conference. These opportunities are exciting but can also be nerve-wracking.
To help support a new manager with his transition into more public speaking, our community offered advice and tips to overcoming stage fright, becoming comfortable at the podium, and potentially looking forward to speaking in front of an audience.
Cater to your audience
Amy Little starts with, “always know your audience, and start with content that will engage your listeners if you can.” Once you know who you are speaking to, it will offer context on what they most want to hear and will respond to. As David Rayner says, “Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Don’t tell them things that are obvious or that you know they already know – don’t waste their time with trite content.”
Others recommend starting with an understanding of what your audience wants to hear and then telling them a story. Don’t just read from slides or memorize facts. Make your content compelling.
Practice, practice, practice
Myron Troschuk recommends to “practice what you are presenting and visualize all that can go wrong and then decide if you could change what went wrong and how you would change it.” Others advise to use a mirror, friends, or record yourself to get comfortable with the material and presenting it aloud. Not sure where to start? Ashok Kumar Sharma offers an easy first step: Read a newspaper or magazine to your family members.
As Baris Vural says, “what makes the difference between a good presenter and a great presenter is practice, practice, and more practice.”
Don’t just practice without getting feedback from the people you have in front of you. Vijaya Sreekanta encourages you to “enlist the assistance of experienced colleagues who can give feedback on areas of improvement.” LeeAnne Berlinsky agrees, “Tell them ahead of time and be specific about what you want them to look for or assess. Let them know that you aren’t looking for them to simply say ’great job’ because that doesn’t help anyone get better.”
Sims Sterba advises to get a variety of backgrounds in your test audience so the feedback comes from a diversity of perspectives.
Tap into external resources
There are lots of other resources available to learn tips for speaking, or to give you opportunities to practice. Ali Soheil recommends taking public speaking courses and watching TED Talks of great presentations. Greg Pride offers up Toastmasters as a resource and group to join.
James Mitchell suggests becoming “an officer or find a role in an organization to which you belong and in which you are comfortable interacting with the other members. A leadership role will require you to speak and make presentations within the group. Use these opportunities to develop your style and experiment with what works.”
These external organizations will provide the variety of experience and backgrounds that are helpful when you are getting feedback. They also help to build up your professional network and personal brand.
- Design your presentation for your audience
- Practice as much as possible
- Get specific feedback from your colleagues, peers, and potential audience
- Look to external opportunities to help develop strong speaking skills