Tips for Effective Public Speaking

Regardless of what position you hold at your association or chamber of commerce, chances are, at some point in time, you’re going to find yourself in a position where you have to speak in front of a crowd. Maybe it’s presenting a speaker at your annual conference. Or perhaps it’s making an announcement at your quarterly luncheon. It may even be presenting something important in front of your board of directors.

Whatever it is, it’s probably a little anxiety-inducing. But the good news is, that’s totally normal, and there ARE tips for overcoming those fears and delivering a top-notch presentation. Take a look:

1. Prep, prep, prep

Whether you’re expected to present for an hour or simply a couple of minutes, it’s always wise to spend some time prepping. Make an outline for your presentation, jotting down all the key points you’d like to make. Then, practice – out loud and against the clock.

Is the clock really necessary? Yes! What you think might take 10 minutes may only take five – or vice versa. Plus, when you’re nervous, you tend to talk faster, so it’s important to factor that in (and practice slowing down).

2. Talk to people as they enter the room

This depends a little bit on the environment in which you’re presenting, but if you’re presenting in a fairly small room (in a conference room, for example), make an effort to talk to people as they gradually enter and take a seat. Think of it as a way to break the ice. You don’t have to have long conversations with anyone, but by talking to them just a tad, you’ll feel like you know them, which will give you a sense of comfort when you actually start your presentation.

3. Think of it as a conversation, not a presentation

The term presentation almost implies putting on a performance – and that’s incredibly intimidating! So, rather than thinking of it that way, think of it as a conversation. (This holds true whether you’re presenting for an extended period of time or just a few minutes.)

Are you trying to teach the audience something? Or inform them of something? Or perhaps even convince them of something? Whatever you’re trying to do, do it as if you were talking to just one or two people – calm, collected, and most importantly, sincere.

4. Insert some personality when you can (and when appropriate)

Think of what it’s like to actually be in the audience, whether it’s at a conference or in a fairly large meeting. Do you ever find yourself drifting off? We all do, particularly when the content is a bit…dry.

Keep your audience engaged by adding in some personality when you can – and when appropriate. Note: This does NOT mean trying to be funny. If you’re a funny person, then by all means, tell those jokes. But if that’s not in your nature, don’t force it. Just smile and be who you are!

5. Remember, no one is judging you as harshly as you’re judging yourself 

This. Is. So. Important. It’s so easy to psych yourself out when you get up in front of a room full of people – and that can often impact your actual presentation.

When you get up there, take a deep breath and just remember: No one is taking this as seriously or judging you as harshly as you are. No one will be thinking about this tomorrow or likely even in a few hours. Go easy on yourself and try to have a little fun. (And when you’re done, give yourself a little pat on the back…because most people ARE afraid of public speaking. So if and when you do it, you should most definitely be proud!)

What tricks do you use to stay calm in front of a crowd? Let us know in the comments below!

And hey, if you are speaking at one of your organization’s upcoming events, check out our free guide below for other tips and best practices regarding the planning process!