Public speaking. Whether it’s giving a best man’s speech, delivering an address to a conference or making a presentation to a handful of colleagues, not many of us relish the prospect of public speaking. In fact, most people actively avoid it. There’s something about that vulnerability and the nakedness of being out there all by yourself that makes it deeply unappealing. Well, it may never be something that you positively seek out, but it is possible to train yourself to be a more confident and accomplished public speaker. Carry on reading to find out just how.

  1. Start with your key message

When writing a speech or presentation, it’s easy to get bogged down in the detail. The starting point, however, should be your key message. What is the one thing you want people to take away from your presentation? This is your core message. Everything you subsequently say should somehow enhance or illuminate that core message. And if it doesn’t, then it shouldn’t be in your presentation.  A speech with a clear and consistent message will be much better received by your audience than a rambling one that jumps from one idea to another.

  1. Be economical with visual aids

Visual aids should be just that – they should assist in getting your message across rather than being the main focus of your presentation. Too often people go overboard with visual aids and either have too many or they contain too much text which means that instead of listening to what you’re saying, the audience is too busy reading what’s on the slide. The golden rule when it comes to visual aids is less is more. And try and use pictures that will match and support your message rather than taking away from it with too much text.

  1. Adopt a conversational style

The best speeches are those that are pitched at the conversational level. Even if you’re making a speech to a large auditorium with hundreds of people, you should still speak as though you are talking to a friend from across the table. The most successful public speakers are those that build a connection with their audience and an important part of that is coming across as though you’re having a genuine conversation with people. In addition, make sure that you engage your audience by looking them in the eye. Rather than scanning a room, fix your gaze on an individual member of the audience for a second or two before moving on to another individual member.

  1. Avoid memorising your speech and using cue cards

To avoid coming across as stilted in your deliver, try not to memorise your speech word for word. Instead have some signposts or key milestones set out that will shape your speech and point you in the right direction. Likewise, cue cards can become a distraction for the audience and if you lose your place then they can interrupt your flow and make you look unconfident.

  1. Practice makes perfect

Being familiar with the content of your speech is what will give your delivery that air of confidence and the only way to achieve that is practice. Use your family and friends as guinea pigs, practise in front of the mirror, even try videoing your speech – take every opportunity to practice and your confidence will increase exponentially.

Don’t let your fear of public speaking get in the way. Use these tried and tested tips to train yourself to become a more assured and capable public speaker.