Few if any would deny that they've had the odd wobble when it comes to public speaking and even those renowned for their great speeches had to start somewhere. So if you get clammy hands and butterflies at the very thought of stepping up in front of others, here are a few tips to help you speak with confidence.
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Know your stuff
Knowing your material inside and out is the key to feeling relaxed and confident. With proper research and preparation you should know your topic well and this will enable you to overcome any mistakes or mishaps without losing your way. Never be tempted to wing it.
Practice makes perfect
Once you've written your speech, read through it once, twice... as many times as you like. The more you practice your presentation, the more confident you will feel and it is a good idea to try it out in front of a mirror, or a friend or family member as this will take away some of the nerves associated with speaking in front of others. Nervousness often makes us talk more quickly so be conscious of speaking at a normal, or slightly slower, pace and ask your friends to tell you if you turn into a motormouth.
Whether in front of colleagues, friends or complete strangers, being fully prepared will help to settle some of those nerves. Familiarise yourself with the room in which you will be speaking and, if you are using a microphone or visual aids, try them out so that you won't be fumbling come the big moment. Dress professionally and smartly.
In the days leading up to, and even on the day itself, try to visualise yourself giving your speech. Hear yourself speaking in a clear, confident manner and imagine the audience clapping. Remember, they don't want to see you fail... they are on your side.
Engage the audience
We've all sat through the odd long, boring speech. Don't make the same mistake - engage the audience with eye contact and a little humour as this will help the audience warm to your personality. Of course, you don't want it to turn into a stand-up routine or they won't take you seriously but a little light-heartedness goes a long way.
If you miss a sentence or fluff your lines, don't apologise to your audience. The chances are you were the only one that noticed and there's no need to draw attention to your mistakes. Your stomach may be turning somersaults but your audience don't need to know that - act confident and your audience will believe you. And if something does go wrong, relax and make a joke out of it - it's not the end of the world!