Sweaty palms, nervous fidgeting and irrational pacing—if thoughts of classroom presentations and public speaking have just come to mind, then you’re in the right place! Some people can walk right up to a podium and speak confidently and flawlessly for hours, without ever giving the impression that they’re nervous. Those people, however, are not you. You need time to repeatedly practice your speech, study your material, and get to know your audience before even thinking of going up there and speaking to them. If you’re a student at a liberal arts college, you can understand how important it is to develop public speaking skills now, so you can be prepared for your professional future. Pursuing a liberal arts bachelor degree can lead to positions in teaching, business management, and politics (just to name a few), in which confident oral communication is essential. Here are some tips that will help you stop stressing and deliver a great presentation.
Know Your Audience
A great way to control stress when you’re about to give a speech is to get to know your audience beforehand. How? If your class is quite small, becoming acquainted with fellow students should be quite easy. Chatting about common interests or assigned readings can help nervous presenters feel more at home in the room and more friendly with their audience - which helps makes public speaking a little less intimidating. Since your presentation is probably part of a class assignment at the liberal arts degree college you’re attending, try striking up a conversation with a classmate about your topic ahead of time. You’ll feel more comfortable sharing your ideas with the whole group when your turn to present arrives.
Know Your Material
Nothing builds confidence better than having a detailed understanding of the topic you’re about to present. Learning your material, and not just memorizing it, can help substantially if you forget a specific line or phrase. If you’ve taken the time to learn and understand the subject, you’ll be able to easily improvise and move on, without your audience being any the wiser. Practice your speech as much as you can to make sure it’s engaging, informative and audible. Try presenting in front of a family member or close friend who can provide feedback about where you could improve. You can also try video-recording yourself, and preparing your own constructive critique!
Slow and Steady
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that if you’re nervous about giving a public speech, you’ll probably want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Rushing your speech is one of the biggest mistakes you can make during a presentation. Remember that this may be the first time your audience is hearing the information you’re discussing (or at least your take on the subject), and they’re likely to lose interest and tune out if you speak too fast. A great way to slow down your speech is to take short pauses at the end of each sentence—and don’t forget to articulate your words!
Dress to impress. Wearing clothes that make you look professional - and worth listening to - is important. Your posture is also a key factor, so try to avoid crossing your arms or legs, or looking down at the floor, which gives the impression that you might be nervous or anxious. A solid stance and consistent eye contact communicates that you’re prepared, energized, and confident.
How do you keep calm before and during a class presentation?