We’ve all been there. Standing in front of a crowded room, palms sweaty, mouth dry, dreading what’s to come with all our being.
Three out of every four people have a fear of public speaking. You could almost say being nervous before a presentation is the “normal” reaction in today’s judgmental world. But it doesn’t have to be.
In PR and marketing, this is what we do. It’s what we are “supposed” to be good at – communicating. Now, that’s not to say we still don’t get those same pre-speech jitters. We’ve put together some of the classic public speaking tips with our own SHIFT spin on them.
Imagine everyone in the room is in their underwear happy
Is envisioning everyone in his or her underwear supposed to put you at ease? Why would you want to do that? One of the first things anyone learns in a public speaking class is to make eye contact with the audience. So tell me again why you want to imagine those people as half naked?
Instead, just smile. If you smile at someone, they’ll smile back. It will put both you and the audience at ease, giving you the confidence boost to get that speech rolling.
Dress for success the audience
It’s just like going in for a job interview; you want to dress to impress – wear the shiny new suit and they’ll be so blindsided by your impeccable fashion taste that you’ll win them over in a second. Okay, so maybe not that fast. There is something to be said for dressing for your audience. Like in an interview, we can’t condone anyone to show up to speak at an event – no matter how casual – in shorts and flip flops, but being aware of your audience and the setting should absolutely play a role in your appearance.
Rocking a full suit to speak to an audience of college students may not have the same effect as if you were speaking to CEOs. Adjusting your appearance to your audience will make you more relatable and trustworthy, and they will be more likely to pay attention to what you have to share with them.
Know your material like the back of your hand and make sure it doesn’t suck
You definitely need to know your stuff before giving a presentation. But knowing word-for-word what you are going to say and having it memorized is not the way to go. Keep things conversational and talk to your audience in a way that encourages them to ask questions when you’ve finished speaking. Which brings up our next point: have meaningful material that tells a story.
It does suck to be stuck in a presentation where the presenters share about too many things irrelevant to their story. Your presentation should be about the audience – what’s in it for them? What can you do for them?
Last, but certainly not least: Content is key
If you only remember one thing from this post, let it be this: well thought-out content and organizational structure trumps all. If your content keeps the audience engaged, they won’t remember what you wore or that you had your hands in your pockets the entire time. Which is the point, right?
As with any marketing or PR, you’ll want to make sure your message sticks during your pitch or presentation. Once you’re off the stage, it won’t matter how the message was delivered or where they heard it, as long as it made it through noise and clutter to make an impact with the audience, consider it a success.
A version of this post originally published 4/8/2014, updated 3/6/19.