What’s Your Point? 5 Tips for the Novice Public Speaker

Many people, even those who are friendly or extroverted in interpersonal interactions, would rather have nothing to do with public speaking. But why?

There are a lot of reasons why people avoid these situations, including the increased likelihood that they will be judged or appear incompetent.

Is your best friend forcing you to make the man of honor speech at his wedding this spring? Has your boss just insisted you lead the presentation on your project team’s latest findings? Just the thought of having to stand in front of coworkers, clients, or friends could be stressing you out. Many people, even those who are friendly or extroverted in interpersonal interactions, would rather have nothing to do with public speaking. But why?

There are a lot of reasons why people avoid these situations, including the increased likelihood that they will be judged or appear incompetent. According to studies conducted by Statisticsbrain.com in September 2016, as many as 74% of people suffer from a fear of public speaking known as Glossophobia. There is no getting out of it.

The best way to handle your impending speech is to make the experience as comfortable as possible for you and the audience by being prepared.

The best way to prepare a speech is to plan what you will say and how you will say it. The following five tips will help guide you through planning and delivering a speech or presentation.

Make a point. If you do only one thing to prepare for your speech, be sure your speech has a main point: one solid message that people can remember after the speech is over. Even audience members who are paying attention to a public speaker usually do not remember every part of a speech.

Organize your speech. In addition to having one clear point, break the rest of your speech into a few sub points that relate back to the first point. This will make your words easier to follow and understand. If people are listening to your speech, they are likely to only be able to absorb one concept at a time.

Know how much time you will be expected to speak. Be sure your material fits into this timeframe. You don’t want to alienate friends or coworkers because you made them sit a lot longer than they expected. If you are nervous at all, or are unsure how long your speech is, time it ahead of time. When I first took Public Speaking classes in college, I was concerned I would not be able to speak for ten minutes. When I timed myself, I realized that I had over fourteen minutes of material, and had to cut a bit of it out.

Make (the appropriate amount of) eye contact. Too much eye contact will make you and your audience uncomfortable, whereas prolonged, unwanted  eye contact is widely considered intimidating in western cultures. Too little eye contact will cause people to lose interest in you and your topic, and make you seem meek or less authoritative. According to Carol Kinsey Goman in her Forbes article Fascinating Facts About Eye Contact,direct eye contact ranging from 30% to 60% of the time during a conversation – more when you are listening, less when you are speaking – should make for a comfortable productive atmosphere.” If you are not sure how much eye contact to make, try looking up and scanning your eyes across the room while you slowly count to five in your head.