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Four Tips for Presentations and Public Speaking

Feb 20, 2013

As a student especially, doing a presentation or speaking in public can be nerve-wracking. All eyes are on you and no one else can help you move things along. You are the deciding factor in the presentation; you alone make it or break it. Much of the anxiety that arise from presentations do not actually originate from outside sources. Unless you are a stand-up comedian in a packed room on a Friday night, most of the time you will find that your audience is both quiet and respectful. Any pressure or anxiety you feel before going onstage and making that speech actually comes from yourself. Knowing this, here are a few tips that will help you confidently prepare for a presentation.

Know Your Material Well

The most important part of public speaking is knowing what you are about to say. Regardless of how much humor and flash you put into a presentation, if you don't know what you are talking about, the presentation will have no substance, and the audience will be quick to catch onto that. Before doing a presentation, make sure you know your material inside out. After all, knowing the topic like the back of your hand will allow you to make changes on the fly if you ever lose your spot in your speech, or run into an unexpected question.

Make Good Notes

While it is a good idea to bring notes with you into a presentation, it is also important to make them good notes. The last thing you want to do is write out a speech or presentation word-for-word and read it like a robot in front of a room full of people. Good notes should consist of key points and lines that you can refer to, not entire paragraphs that will come out sounding synthetic and dull. If it helps, think of your presentation or speech as more of a conversation.

Do Trial Runs

Practice makes perfect, and it is no different with speech-making. The night before a speech, do a run-through of it with a friend. Do the presentation or speech from beginning to end without stopping to simulate what it will be like to present for real. It is also a good idea to time the speech to see if you are ending too early or running too long for the allotted time. If you do not have a friend available for a rehearsal, recording yourself can work too.

Make Eye Contact

Have you ever sat through a speech with a speaker that stared down at a piece of paper the whole time, as if making eye contact with the audience would turn him or her into stone? If you have, then you probably felt that the speaker was not able to make much of a connection with the audience, and could probably have been more effective in conveying his thoughts. To avoid this, try to make eye contact regularly with the audience when you are making a speech. This is not to say you need to stare at them for the entire speech, but rather look up once very couple of lines. One technique you can try is picking out a person from each section of the audience to look at. This is because when people are grouped closely together, they cannot tell whether you are looking directly at them, or the person in front or beside them. Therefore, by looking at one person from each section of the audience, you give the illusion that you are making eye contact with more people than you actually are. You now know how to give a speech or a presentation confidently. Of course, nothing comes without practice, so if you really want to take it to the next level, consider joining a debate team or a toastmasters group to really hone your public speaking skills!

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