Matter Chatter

A Public Relations Pro Afraid of Public Speaking?

It is graduation season, which means many actors, comedians and entrepreneurs have recently headed back to their alma maters with inspiring words of advice to students about to embark on the “real world.” Commencement speakers like Jim Carrey, Charlie Day and Mindy Kaling have entertainingly and effortlessly expressed words of wisdom and guidance to thousands, in front of thousands, without the blink of an eye. I don’t know about you, but just watching clips of these very public speeches on YouTube has my palms sweating. However, since working in the public relations industry over the past few years, I have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that have helped to “manage” my fear of speaking in public.

Preparation: For most people, public speaking is not an off-of-the-cuff type of thing. You need to be as well prepared as possible. Make sure you know who your audience is and prepare your content so that they can connect to it. It helps to know more about the topic that you are speaking about than what is actually written in your speech or presentation; the more you know the more confident you will be.

Practice, Practice, Practice– It is true: practice makes perfect. Once you have developed your speech or presentation, it is time to practice.  Read it and then read it again… and again. Practice out loud, in front of a mirror, to family, and to friends. Every time you go through what you are going to say, you will get that much more comfortable saying it.

Dealing with Nervous Energy– Feeling some nervousness before speaking in front of a large group of people is natural and even beneficial, but too much nervousness can kill your presentation before you’re even out of the gate. It is important to harness your nervous energy and turn it into enthusiasm. A helpful hint is to focus on your message and not yourself. After all, it is about what you are saying. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.

Delivery- Your physical presence and verbal delivery enhances the understanding of your message. Balancing your stance or sitting up straight helps to project authority and confidence and using gestures expresses energy and helps to engage a conversational style.  Your audience prefers that you to talk to them, not at them so it is key to use a genuine tone that lets the audience know you’re invested in the material you’re presenting to them. Most importantly, don’t forget to breathe.

Mistakes Happen- After all of your preparation and practice, mistakes can still happen. Nobody expects you to be perfect, the important thing is to regroup and move forward. Remember, even the pros mess up from time to time