How to Ace Public Speaking (from someone who hasn’t)

A few days ago, I gave a presentation in AP Psych. Despite the possibly hundreds of  presentations I’ve given over the years, I still found my hands shaking and my mouth salivating far too much for my comfort.

The idea of getting up on stage has never been too daunting to me. I’m no actress by any means, but I’ll always be the first one to jump in front of a crowd for the sake of entertainment. Last week’s Spectacular marked my third or so run in with the auditorium stage this year alone. Other unconventional stages of mine include a table in the commons, where I rallied the senior class before our big run-in to the pep rally, the football bleachers, where I lost my voice during countless Friday nights under the lights, and a single chair in the cafeteria, where I volunteered to be the first of 50 to cut eight inches off my hair in front of the entire lunch populace.

I’m not the master of public speaking, but there are ways that I can help not only myself but anyone reading this to prepare for any form of it, whether this be a small group presentation or a performance in front of hundreds.

First, no matter the occasion, you must be prepared. Now, this doesn’t mean memorizing a script word-for-word, but instead this means knowing the material you’re presenting front and back. This knowledge allows you peace of mind to quell the fear of, “what if they think I’m stupid” or, “what if I don’t know this topic well”. Not only that, but this will make recovery easy by giving you the ability to wing it if your speech goes haywire.

Second, know that the audience is on your side. If it’s an event where attendance is optional, like any kind of concert, show, play, Ted talk, and seminar under the sun, there is a big chance that the audience WANTS to be there! A willing audience will be more likely to react in the way you want them to: laugh during funny parts, cry during sad parts. When someone wants to see a certain show, they’ll probably hand over their attention and emotions. Try and lighten the vibe between you and the sea of people. By thinking of them as someone who wants to hear what you have to say rather than someone you need to impress, you automatically change the atmosphere from a negative and demanding one to a positive and encouraging one. 9 times out of 10, the audience really wants to work with you and see you succeed (it’s definitely better to see someone confident on stage rather than get second-hand embarrassment from someone on stage).

Lastly, the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, practice. The more times you’re willing to put yourself out there, the more comfortable you’ll be on stage. Take it from me- I definitely get my fair share of jitters, but the last four years of high school have turned me from a stumbling, stuttering mess during a class presentation into someone who will dance to songs from a kid’s movie in front of the whole school.

 

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