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How to Ace Your First Public Speaking Engagement

Public speaking is one of the greatest fears among people all over the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or old, inexperienced or successful; speaking in front of large groups of people makes almost everybody nervous.

If you’re one of those people, the good news is that public speaking is an acquired talent.

Four Tips for Success

When you study some of history’s great orators — folks like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama — it should be clear that you don’t have to adopt a particular speaking style to be successful. There are some key principles and tips that you would be smart to heed, however, in order to connect with audiences in an effective way.

  1. Practice in Front of a Mirror

As they say, practice makes perfect. Unfortunately, practice is hard to come by for actually appearing on a stage to deliver a speech or presentation to large group of people. It is possible to get some practice without a stage or an audience, though: All you need is yourself and a mirror.

One of the cardinal sins of public speaking is looking down at your notes too much of the time and failing to connect with your audience. This is a hard habit to kick, especially if you aren’t confident.

“Practicing in front of a mirror discourages overreliance on notes. After all, you can’t look at your notes while looking at yourself in the mirror,” says Joey Asher, professional communication skills coach.

“If you practice in a mirror, you learn to connect with that person looking back at you. You get a feeling for what your audience experiences. And that’s a good thing.”

  1. Dress the Part

Confidence is huge for speaking well in public, and one of the quickest and most effective ways to create confidence during your presentation is by looking good. Always dress the part and try to be the best-looking person in the room.

For women, this means taking the small details into account. “You want to create that perfect ensemble, but sometimes making your clothes and jewelry complement each other isn’t easy,” explains Diamondere, a leading jewelry retailer. Spend time thinking about your selection of jewelry and try to incorporate a statement piece that compliments your outfit.

For men, the details also matter. Two of the simplest yet most important things a man can do is iron his clothes and shave his face. You obviously have to think about clothing selection too, but while you’re concentrating on them, these two details can get overlooked.

  1. Use an Engaging Introduction

Once you open your mouth, you have just a few seconds to capture the attention of your audience. If you jump immediately into a wordy speech, a good percentage of listeners will lose focus.

This is why it’s so vital to open with an engaging introduction. One of the best ways to grab attention from the start is to tell a brief but arresting story. People connect with stories and will also use them to remember the content of your presentation later.

Other options include posing some pointed questions, bringing an audience member onstage for a participatory exercise, telling a joke, or showing and discussing a prop.

  1. Slow Down

When inexperienced speakers get nervous, they’re often inclined to speed up and rush through their presentation. So you should watch for this and force yourself to slow down if you notice it happening.

It’s okay to pause between sentences or ideas; in fact, silence can be an effective tool for getting your audience to refocus and reconnect. Keep this in mind and practice pacing yourself.

Make Public Speaking a Strong Point

For anyone who wants to have influence and lead other people, public speaking is a skill you want to master. Fortunately, anyone can learn how to become a strong speaker. It just takes some practice and the commitment to learn.

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