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Public Speaking: Practice Makes Better, Not Perfect

Published on March 4, 2020, at 10:22 p.m.
by Macy Krauthamer.

Believe it or not, there will be times when you have to come out from behind the phone screen and social media handles to talk to people … out loud! Whether it’s a new business pitch or an on-air interview with the media, public speaking can be nerve-wracking. Even the most confident people can be intimidated by public speaking.

Courtesy of Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

For instance, glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is estimated to affect up to 75% of the population. Keep this in mind when you’re nervous about an upcoming pitch: You’re not alone. Most people have some level of anxiety related to public speaking because it makes us feel exposed, vulnerable or nervous. Sometimes all three.

Unfortunately, for public relations professionals, public speaking is baptism by fire — aka, you have to learn the hard way, by experience. As a University of Alabama Speaking Studio consultant and budding PR professional, I want to share the three P’s to ease speech anxiety and build confidence in any public speaking situation.

Preparation is key.
Know what you want to say before you say it. Do your research and write down the main points that you want to remember. This legwork may lead you to discover something you didn’t think of before. Preparing will help calm your nerves. That said, writing out what you want to say in a speech doesn’t mean you should memorize points verbatim or read from a piece of paper when presenting. It’s important to prepare yourself, but not so much so that you come off as robotic or stiff.

Practice makes better, not perfect.
I can’t express this enough … don’t just wing it! Public speaking is one of those things that you have to rehearse over and over and over and over again. Practice reciting your speech in front of the mirror. Practice reciting it to a friend, roommate or spouse — anyone who will listen and provide feedback. Use your phone or laptop to record yourself reciting it and watch the video later to learn from mistakes. Whatever practice method you use, review your speech numerous times. Practice will help you familiarize yourself with the material and, in turn, make you more comfortable when presenting.

Courtesy by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

Be present.
Sometimes when you get nervous, particularly in a public speaking setting, you tend to speak really quickly. This tendency might be because you don’t want to forget your lines or miss the details, and you likely want to get it over with as soon as possible. Speaking quickly during a presentation leads to finishing sooner than expected — the awkward moment when you finish a speech in five minutes when the time allotted was 15. If you stutter over a word, audiences are usually more forgiving than you think. Remember: The people you are talking to are human, just like you. After all, it’s just a conversation.

The time will come when you have to present, pitch or interview, so follow this advice to power through it. Visualize the most confident version of yourself and then become it. Roll with the punches and most importantly — remember to smile! 🙂

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