Do you hate public speaking?
The thought of getting in front of a lot of people and talking make you shake and sweat a bit?
It’s cool. You’re not alone. I’m not in that group, but I understand the fear.
I used to be afraid of lots of things. Like going to school because kids would pick on me. But I got over that. Just like you can get over your fear of public speaking and be a better public speaker.
Here’s how to be a better public speaker:
1 — Be Prepared
There’s absolutely no substitute for preparation (not H — unless you need that, then use it).
Even improv is better when slightly prepared. It’s a lot easier to wing it when you know what the hell you’re talking about.
You need to know your subject matter very well. More than you need to memorize a speech. In fact, don’t memorize. You’ll lose track or mess up, then panic and sweat and it’ll be gross and your speech will suck.
Plus, people will know it’s rehearsed and like it less than if you come across as genuine and just a regular person. So, don’t be a robot. Be prepared (knowledgeable).
2 — Don’t Point
Nobody likes being pointed at. It seems antagonistic or condescending. Neither of those is something you want your audience feeling.
They will not like you. Or your stupid speech. Which is exactly what they will be saying about it after you shoved your pointy finger in their faces for 20 minutes.
Body language is everything. Most of the message. Stay relaxed and open. Move your hands a bit. Always: open palms. It’s an inviting, friendly, warm gesture. People like that stuff. Be likable.
3 — Don’t Picture Them Naked
That’s just terrible advice. Who started that? It’s weird and creepy and might make you more excited than you should be.
Do: make eye contact. If you can’t do that yet, look just above their heads. They probably won’t notice the difference. Unless they’re looking for stuff like that (like I do, but I’m weird, so don’t mind me).
Eye contact will make you more trustworthy and people will listen more. They will be more attentive to your message if you make eye contact. It shows openness and an attempt at connecting with them (your audience).
4 — Don’t use cards or too much text in slides
If you use cards, you’re not prepared enough. You’re using a crutch. Your legs aren’t broken (probably), so don’t clutch your crutch (or crotch, because that’s weird too).
Engage with your audience. Be open. Move around. But not like jogging from one side of the room to the other. Pacing is distracting. So is being a statue. Don’t think about. Let it go. Your body will move when it needs to.
If you put a ton of text in your slides, people will just read your slides and not hear a word of your speech.
Maybe that’s what you’re hoping. Well, they still won’t think you made a great presentation.
They’ll think, “Wow. He’s really good at putting a ton of info in a PowerPoint. Can we get that in a PDF?” And no one will care about your ideas.
In public speaking class in college, I learned 4 x 4 method: 4 points per slide with 4 words per point. It’s a good rule of thumb. Keep it simple.
Guy Kawasaki’s rule is pretty good too: 10/20/30. 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font.
5 — What’s the worst that could happen?
Seriously. Will they kill you if you suck? No. Will they imprison you or harm you in any physical way? No? You’re good.
They might not like you? Ok, well, not everyone is going to like you. Get over it. If they judge you for your presentation skills, then screw them. You don’t want to be friends with them anyway.
Are they strangers? Perfect. Then their opinions matter to you why? Shouldn’t. Be you. Do your best. If that’s not good enough for some overly critical schmuck, tell ’em to “piss off, wanker.”
If you can, use a British accent while saying that. It sounds cooler. And nobody will question it if you say it with confidence, then walk away.
There you have it. That’s how to be a better public speaker.
You’re already a better public speaker. I can tell.
Don’t worry about how I know. I just do. You got this.
Also published on Medium.