Although public speaking classes are nerve-wracking and a ton of hard work, taking one in high school or college is extremely helpful for presenting yourself in other classes. Everyone remembers their public speaking teacher, and the tips that these teachers give are almost always unique and memorable. Below are ten pretty widely agreed-upon tips and tricks that should be taken to heart when preparing and giving presentations in the future.
1. Prepare an enticing introduction.
Always open your presentations by introducing yourself, your topic of speech and something that will interest the audience. Right off the bat, give a fun fact or pose a question. This will hook your audience from the start, and it is your job to keep them engaged throughout the entire speech.
2. The simpler the PowerPoint, the better!
If you're using a PowerPoint as a visual aid, make sure that it doesn't distract from you speaking. If you've struck up the courage to talk in front of an audience, you better make sure they're paying attention to what you're saying. Make sure your slides have a maximum of five words per bullet point, and only around four bullet points. Use understated colors and a limited amount of transitional elements. Include relevant pictures to give your audience a means to connect the concepts you are explaining to reality.
3. Know your content by heart.
Memorize how your PowerPoint slides or other visual aids are set up so you are not constantly turning around or looking down at notes. Not only do these actions make it seem like you are avoiding contact with the audience, but they also muffle your voice because you are not projecting it towards your viewers. On that note...
4. Say it loud, and say it proud.
Speak up! Nothing is worse than when you're watching someone give a presentation and you can't hear a word they're saying. To avoid this problem: project! Physically aim your voice at the back of the room. It might take some straining but it'll pay off when you don't get "speak louder!" as constructive criticism from all of your classmates. However, don't yell. That's a little terrifying.
5. Posture is everything.
Try to never lean against the podium in front of you (like the cat in the picture, who should get docked a letter grade for that awful posture and lack of eye contact). The same goes for any nearby tables, chairs, walls, etc. This is usually a crutch to keep people from shaking or walking in place. However, it usually just makes you look lazy and disinterested with both your presentation and audience.
6. Express emotion!
Use facial expressions and affirming gestures throughout your entire presentation to express how invested you are in your topic (even if you aren't). Change the volume and vary the intonation of your voice while making key points in your speech to break up any monotony and accentuate the importance of your statements.
7. Dress nicely.
Not only do teachers usually grade on fairly nice attire during presentations, but wearing a fancy outfit will make you feel much more confident in yourself. A big component in people's fear of public speaking is worrying about what the audience thinks. Appearance isn't everything, but wearing an outfit that you feel good in should make you less worried about how you look to the people you are presenting to.
8. Use subtle gestures to control your nerves.
Nervous? Press your thumb and pointer fingers against each other from where they are at your side into an upside-down 'okay' sign. This is the second hand sign in the picture above. Squeezing those two fingers together at your side is a subtle way to release some pressure and nerves if you are prone to fidgeting around a lot.
9. Eye contact is important.
Looking out at the people that are watching you present is always scary; however, it makes your audience feel more obligated to listen to you if you're looking right at them. Scanning your audience is key, so don't just stare at one person. It makes your face look engaged rather than dead inside, even if you were up at three in the morning memorizing your content. Don't go crazy with it though — you shouldn't let your eyes manically jump from person to person. If you need to look down to read a particularly long quote or excerpt, look up between every few words. Spend no more than five to seven seconds at a time looking down, or else you will lose the engagement of your audience.
10. Dominate the front of the room.
Use the space around you! Walking forward or to a particular side of the room is visually engaging. Standing still is boring! When slowly making your way to another spot at the front of the room, you are showing that you own the entire space around you, even though you're only one person. This is an incredibly important characteristic to be able to convey to the people watching you. However, do not pace or walk too fast because that will distract your audience from your content. Use gestures to accentuate your points and take up additional space at the front.
This advice should instantly transform the caliber of your presentations and make you more confident with how you're presenting yourself. Disagree with any of these tips? Have any that were oddly unique to your own public speaking class? Share them with Fresh U on Twitter!
Lead Image Credit: NASA Goddard Flight Center via Flickr Creative Commons