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Public speaking – advice from the experts

posted on Saturday 16th July

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Surveys often find that public speaking is the biggest fear in the workplace. Not just for speakers of other languages but in one’s own native language. Fears range from how to keep calm in front of a crowd, how to keep people interested and remembering all that you wanted to say. And yet presenting information is a key skill for many of us, whether at university or in the workplace. What is the best advice from experts?

Choose your topic well

If you need to give a presentation on a topic at university or at school, choose something that interests you or an aspect of the topic you have been allocated. Your interest in the topic will encourage you to research well and to also, speak from the heart. This is a powerful start to any public speaking.

Connect with your audience

Start with strong body language: make eye contact (find friendly faces) and have an open posture. Think outside the box and get people involved in your talk. This could be as simple as asking questions and giving people 1-2 minutes to discuss a possible answer in pairs. This also takes some of the focus off you for that time and you can listen in to some conversations if you have a small audience.

Use a limited amount of text

If you have lots of information on your slides, your audience will not listen to you as much. Ultimately, you would like your audience to make a connection with you and your message so keep it simple. Choose your other visuals selectively too. Use bullet points and small cards to remember the details, if those are important. Otherwise, simple practising will help with this (see point 4 below).

Practice makes perfect

Make sure that you have practised your talk out loud at least once before you present it to an audience. This will help you with timing but also help you to make any last edits. Many public speakers use cards to help. You will also have a sense of how your talk will flow and this gives you the confidence to deal with unexpected questions.

Pace your talk

It is very tempting to rush through your talk (because of nerves). Take some good breaths before you begin and feel your breath in your chest. Your voice will drop into your chest, become deeper and at the same time, calm your nerves. Remember that leaving a pause can emphasise important information and give you an air of confidence and authority.