Learn On The Job: Easy Tips for Beginner Public Speaking
Beginner public speaking is not for the faint of heart. If you have gotten yourself into a situation where you’re giving a talk, a three-minute maid of honor speech, or even a small introductory address, congratulations! Someone thought you’d be better at it than someone else, which means they have at least a little confidence in you.
So have confidence in yourself. You can do it. You’re here because you’re an adventurous mom, so be brave, and give yourself a kick in the pants. Beginner public speaking is NOT for procrastinators or worry warts. Give yourself all the time you need to prepare, and follow these tips. You’ll do amazing.
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Compliment the Audience
This is the one part of your speech I’d suggest improvising. Take a look at the audience when you get on stage. Or if you think you’ll be too nervous, check them out surreptitiously ahead of time. Really look at them as people, not as the horrifying people who will be judging your every word in a few minutes. Find something they seem to share, or even just one person who has something to admire.
Mention it when you get on stage. Something small can work, like “You guys all look fabulous! I’m impressed, when my kids were young, I got to wear jewelry about once every six months.” Give a compliment from the heart and you’ll help the audience relax a bit, and help yourself relax. You’ll also get their attention, and make them feel good about themselves. They’ll want to listen to you just a little more.
Use Visual Aids
Giving the audience something else to look at, even for a brief moment, gives them something different to focus on. It breaks up your talk, lets them fidget or change positions, and it gives them a mental stopping point when they can relax.
Just don’t use them to speak for you. Visual aids should be only that: aids. The audience shouldn’t be able to read your exact words off a PowerPoint deck. Instead, use it for photos, quizzes, and other interactive exhibits that enhance your talk. Using a remote control, you can almost pretend the slides aren’t even there. Keep talking, click the button without pause, and your audience will appreciate the narrative you give to accompany the pictures.
The audience wants to know they can apply what you’re talking about. Whether you’re speaking for a luncheon, a conference, or a crowd of school kids, you want them to identify with your words. Even if it’s only to help them pay attention a little better, relating to a speaker can mean the difference between bombing your lecture and acing it.
Use a story about an experience you think some members of your audience may have also experienced. Illustrate a point with the story, but know that it does another thing: helps the audience relate to you.
As you’re writing your speech, practice rewording things to sound more confident. Go through and notice places that you wrote “I believe” or “I think.” Those phrases are crutches that help you hedge. Take them out of the speech, and simply start the sentence with the statement you said you believed. These tricks help you sound more confident.
Another place to get some feedback is the Hemmingway App. Copy and paste your speech into their editor, and you’ll get any feedback about places where you’re hedging, instead of just stating a fact. This manner of speaking gives you more authority as an expert, and your audience will have more confidence in your words.
Remind your audience about what you’ve already talked about. It shouldn’t be obvious like the signposts you used in a 5-paragraph essay in junior high (“The next thing I’m going to talk about is…” or “In conclusion…”). But you do want to clearly mark transitions in a way that’s easy for your audience to follow.
They may not notice the guiding words throughout your talk, but if you don’t put them they, they will definitely notice. They’ll be confused and wonder exactly where you’re going with your point. Lead the audience through the speech, and remind them what you’ve already talked about when you get to a new section.
If you remember nothing else from this entire article, it’s this: you *must* practice your speech. Find time to get alone and practice. Read your speech out loud. Read it 10 times. Practice again another time, and this time read it 20 times.
Read it for your friends. Read it for your family. Read it for your toddler’s stuffed animals.
Give yourself enough time writing the speech so that you have plenty of rehearsal time. The biggest mistake you can make it not giving yourself time to practice.
Once you’ve read it enough times that you start to memorize it, outline it. Use only your outline for notes as you practice giving your speech again and again.
Eventually, the speech itself will become like muscle memory, rote and habitual. This means you can focus more on looking at the audience. Practice your hand motions. Practice your stage walking. Practice breathing, and pausing, and being confident in your posture and your body language.
In the end, you should be so confident that you don’t have to look at your notes at all. And your body language should be practiced enough that you can simply enjoy giving your speech. Have it memorized enough that if you do get nervous and lose your place, you can look at your outline and know where to pick up. But rest in the confidence that with enough practice, you should be able to give that speech anywhere, wearing anything, to anyone, in any type of weather. Practice is the key. I cannot emphasize it enough.
Beginner Public Speaking: Don’t Be Afraid of Pauses
It’s okay to take a breath. It’s even okay to take two. Pausing after an especially profound statement can give audience members a chance to process the statement. If you’re really trying to emphasize it, that may be a good place to simply repeat the sentence you said again, after the pause.
Ten seconds can seem like 60 when you’re in front of an audience, but pausing isn’t a bad thing. Act confident, even if you didn’t mean to pause and you only did it because you lost your place. They’ll think it’s part of the speech.
Pausing also helps you eliminate run-on sentences. Sentences that just keep going and going make you seem nervous. It feels rushed to your listeners, and it puts them in an anxious mode you don’t want them in. You want them to relax and sit back to listen to what you have to say. Pauses can help you do that. If necessary, you could even invite them to take a deep breath or two with you.
Stand Up and Speak
In the end, you just have to do it. If you’ve followed all the steps and practiced your little heart out, then don’t sweat it. Just get started, and beginner public speaking will feel like a skill, not the scariest thing you’ve ever done.
A sweet outfit can’t hurt, right? Try out this pencil skirt from Shein, it’s one of my favorites. If you feel good about how you look, you’ll be a little more confident on stage.
If you use these tips for your speech, leave a comment about your experience. I’d love to hear how it went!
Join Toastmasters to get in even more practice.
And if you’d rather not do it yourself after all that, you can hire A Wild Lass to speak at your next event.