The Art of Public Speaking

In acting there is strong emphasis on altering your posture, tone of voice, and overall demeanor to transition from being yourself into a character. This same process occurs with public speaking, but instead of a character, you are playing a leader, a womxn with important things to say, and your overall best self. Being a good public speaker can be a very important and empowering thing. Public speaking is not only about presentations and pitches, but it is also about having confidence in yourself, and your voice, to state your opinion and stand up for what you want. It is useful in personal and professional settings, as well as aids with being a good conversationalist.

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The Elements of An Effective Presentation

Be prepared.

Preparedness will help you overcome nerves – if you really know what you’re talking about, you don’t have to worry about what you’re saying. You only have to pay attention to how you’re saying it. If possible, avoid using notes as they make you appear like less of an expert on your material and can make the presentation less natural. You want to be candid and not sound like a robot.

Body language

Body language is crucial to commanding the space. Confident body language implicitly communicates that what you’re saying is important and worth listening to.

The first element is good posture: standing firmly with your feet hip distance apart, your shoulders straight and pulled back, and your chin up. Avoid crossing your arms or legs, clasping your hands, or fiddling with clothing. Keep your body language open and inviting.

Adjusting clothes frequently communicates being insecure or discomfort in front of an audience. If you know you’re going to be speaking, wear something that's comfortable and easy to wear and that communicates your most boss-b**ch self.

When presenting, it’s good to not be static but rather move around freely; this also demonstrates your comfort and confidence in the space. Your presentation is also more engaging when you make brief eye contact with members of the audience.

Voice

There are Five P’s to having a confident and communicative voice:

Project: Make yourself audible, but do not yell.

Pace: Vary your pace to keep it interesting, and avoid speaking too fast.

Pitch: Vary your pitch to avoid monotony and for emphasis. Be sure to avoid ‘uptalk’, or when you use an upward inflection at the end of sentences.

Pronunciation: Articulate clearly and avoid mumbling.

Pause: Use pauses for emphasis.

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Tone

Tone pertains to the words you choose, which informs the style and mood of your presentation. It’s important to know your audience and determine the appropriate balance of colloquial versus professional. If it's appropriate though, try to have fun with it. A presentation from someone who is more casual and fluid in their presentation tone while still being an effective communicator is more engaging than someone who appears petrified. Especially as young people in the workplace, allow yourself to have some spunk in your presentation and demeanor – it is refreshing. Also, if you appear bored with your topic, your audience will be bored too – if you’re not interested in it, then why should they be?

Overcoming nerves

Overcoming jitters is the hardest part of presenting, but start out by taking some extra time before the presentation to take care of yourself and make sure that you’re feeling your best: do your hair in a way that makes you feel confident, wear an outfit that you know you don’t have to worry about, and eat a solid breakfast.

After that, channel your nervous adrenaline into enthusiasm and delivering an energetic presentation. Fake it til you make it! Even if you’re scared, if you play the part and present yourself with confidence, the audience will perceive you as someone worth listening to.

Finally, embrace the challenge. It can be scary but know that like everything else, it is a growth curve. Being a competent public speaker is mostly about confidence and that’s something that can really only be gained through experience.

Remember: you have important things to say and you have the skills to say them!