It’s a new class. You frantically scan over the new syllabus, unraveling your fate as you reach the most critical part: Grading. Alas, your gaze falls upon what will haunt you for the remainder of the semester. Class Presentation: 20% of final grade.
Public speaking is the reality not only of the classroom, but of the world. Some may seem to have the innate capacity to enthrall others with the power of charismatic words. Others are simply uneasy with the very idea of speaking to a daunting sea of faces.
Ironically, it is sometimes solely the idea of public speaking in which the fear lies. The name of ‘public speaking’ itself sounds as if one is preparing to address a nation of warriors, which most probably (and hopefully) you will never have to do in this lifetime.
Turns out, it’s all in the brain. The key to speaking in front of an audience lies in simply using the senses and the body to your advantage, not in a manipulative but in a tactical sense.
First and foremost, by human nature, we are judgemental beings, inevitably forming opinions by what we see. Recognizing the importance of such, it is very helpful to dress in something that makes you think you look good. You literally have to trick your brain into confidence by striking the perfect balance between comfort, professionalism and fashion. Ensure that your posture reflects authority and preparedness, but add emotion to your face as you speak. A smile not only helps you relax but makes you seem approachable, resulting in people liking you (even if temporarily). Consequently, it is more likely that they will listen to you and accept what you say as reasonably true.
In terms of content, the beginning and the ending of your presentation are very decisive. Try not to start with ‘Hi, my name is …. and I will talk about…’. Rather, surprise your audience. Capture them, because that’s really what your introduction should intend to do. Start with a story, quote, joke or question. They aren’t expecting that and now will be much more receptive to the rest of your content. When speaking, the wavelengths of the soundwaves you emit should not be identical; put variation in your tone and volume. As much as we love her, avoid sounding like Siri. Lace your delivery with supportive gestures, walk around if you can or at least keep you neck moving. Interact with your audience by making ‘wall contact’.
Wall contact – the act and art of tactfully creating the impression of eye contact when one is really just staring around at the walls to skillfully avoid potential distractions and panic attacks.
Note: This can be further enhanced if you wear glasses/contact lenses. Casually forget to wear them and voila! You are now at an advantage for making eye-contact without actually making it. The worse the vision, the better! Fine print: Any resulting injuries are the sole responsibility of the bearer.
On a more conclusive (and serious) note, keep your presentation short and sweet. If you mess up, move on. Nobody has read your notes; they can’t tell that you’ve just skipped a sentence. Finish on a high note and seal your presentation with an attention-grabbing ending. Much of public speaking is about impression, even if you have to fake it till you make it. Your presentation can do wonders into uplifting your content, much to the likeness of a fancy restaurant serving a lettuce leaf on a royal platter, with a French name on the menu. You have to say it right to weave the magic.
One last tip: Do not pull out the old trick of imagining that your audience is naked. Speaking from experience, it just doesn’t work – for obvious reasons.
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