Public Speaking for the First Time? Top 5 Things to Think About

New facilitators, speakers, presenters, need not worry – there’s a wealth of tips and tricks you can Google to assist in your preparation for your upcoming session. Here are my quick and easy to remember pointers that I’ve used to assist my students, my peers, and colleagues from decades of presenting, teaching, and speaking in public.

  1. Know your AUDIENCE – I try to connect to them through pop culture, books or journal articles I just read, sports, cars, music, arts, theatre. I research this first before I stand in front of them. I will try and have a session that they will take away immediately and use in their own work place. “What’s in it for them?” is a timeless learning nugget.
    1. In knowing your audience, you would know if you just stand in one place or not. Visual impairment and other AODA considerations may prevent you from moving about to change your classroom landscape often
  2. Know your TOPIC – at the end of the day, you may be wearing a clown suit but if you don’t know anything about how to make people laugh, your audience will not laugh.
    1. In knowing your topic, be conscious of just spilling out everything without stopping to take a breath. Pace is important
    2. Nervous? It’s ok to be nervous. I get nervous when I speak in public and I’ve done thousands of them in my 20 year career. So long as you don’t let it control you, it’s a good check that keeps you on point on your topic.
    3. Jittery with unnecessary hand movements? Don’t worry though you may want to hold cue cards, hold onto the side of your podium or desk, hold a microphone, hold your water bottle but just make sure not keep playing with it since the sound of an empty bottle being crushed can be annoying to some of your students. Any of these when paced well can prevent you from too much hand gestures that may distract your audience.
  3. Have a clear AGENDA – know your timing, your content, have an outline in front of you if you have to. Having a clear lesson plan will keep you on track.
    1. Are you starting with an icebreaker?
    2. Would you start with a bio of who you are?
    3. Are you going to engage your audience immediately at the onset of your session?
    4. When do you gauge its time for a knowledge check? Would you need to do this?
    5. Are you going to give handouts? When are you doing this?
    6. Are you going to measure knowledge acquisition of a skill? How?
    7. How would you close the session?
  4. PRACTICE times three – nothing is worst than practicing for the first time in front of your audience
    1. Prepare for questions. In knowing your audience, you would be able to scholarly guess what their questions will be.
    2. Practice in front of trusted colleagues who will provide constructive feedback
    3. It would be great if you didn’t have to look at the screen if you’re projecting anything. Practice can help you with this.
  5. KNOW YOURSELF in how you deal with a potential stressful event like speaking in public
    1. Some people bring a bottle of water with them to ensure they are hydrated
    2. Some individuals I know bring a lucky charm with them
    3. Others eat raw ginger to ensure they don’t lose their voice (I would bring a tic-tac if I was to do this)
    4. Then others don’t have a big meal for they may lose focus as their bodies start to churn

Oh and here’s two more….

  1. A trick I was told when I was a first time speaker was to look at people’s foreheads as I was speaking to them. That old saying of thinking everyone is naked doesn’t work. Looking at their eyes initially scared me so their foreheads worked. Afterwards I got used to speaking in front of the public that I would try to catch as many eyes as possible.
  2. With Social Media, one study indicates that the average attention span is 5 seconds so how are you going to intersperse your presentation with engaging changes in your presentation landscape to ensure that they are compelled to pay attention? Do you use videos, charts, graphs, exercises, discussions, tactile activities? What if the session is virtual? Do you incorporate virtual breakout rooms, whiteboarding activities, music? If you are unsure, call a colleague for advice, leave me a comment below, check out LinkedIn discussion groups, look up a mentor you trust for advice. There’s many avenues, just remember, you are not alone when you are up there speaking for the first time.

 

 

photo credit marsha.com

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