#TipsForShyPeople: And if you’re shy or simply consider yourself not a “natural public speaker,” the prospect of having to command a room might feel especially daunting. The truth however is, many before you have conquered those fears and even gone on to become great speakers, and you can too. Here are eight tips to help you do it.
1. First and foremost: Practice, practice, practice. When you see smooth, well-timed, engaged presentations, it’s almost always because the presenter has practiced and rehearsed over and over. Practicing out loud, repeatedly, is key; the more times you practice, the better you’ll know the material and the more accustomed you’ll be to the rhythm and flow of the presentation overall. There’s no such thing as preparing too much in this context, only preparing too little.
2. Pay special attention to the start and end. You probably know the substance of what you want to talk about pretty well – the middle – but figuring out how to start and end can be trickier. So while you should practice the whole thing, be particularly sure that you have the start and end down cold in your sleep.
3. Video-record your presentation and study it. This might be excruciating the first time you do it, but it will help you spot verbal and non-verbal tics that could be detracting from your effectiveness or things you need to correct to appear more polished. Alternately, the next best thing is to ask a trusted friend or colleague to give you candid feedback – but nothing beats seeing yourself in video for spotting where you can tweak your presentation.
4. Still not comfortable? Fake it. Think of a presenter who you admire – someone who seems confident and in command of the room – and emulate their approach. (Take a look at Amy Cuddy’s fantastic TED talk, “How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” for more on why this works and how to do it.)
5. Pretend you’re talking to one person. You’re probably a lot more comfortable with one-on-one conversations, so pretend you’re having one! Find an interested face in the audience, and talk directly to that person. Then, after a while, switch to another. You’ll find that you’re more engaged and probably more at ease – and will probably give a better talk. Relatedly…
6. Find ways to interact with your audience. Presentations are extra nerve-wracking if you let them feel like a monologue rather than a conversation. So find ways to build in audience interaction, like asking for a show of hands on a particular point or having people engage in a short activity. You’ll get better engagement from your audience, and you’ll feel better seeing that people are listening and responding.
7. Remember that you’re the most knowledgeable person in the room on what you’re presenting about – or at least people think you are. You were asked to present for a reason, and simply being the one who’s at the front of the room talking gives you some automatic authority in your audience’s eyes.
8. Don’t sacrifice authenticity in the pursuit of polish. The most interesting speakers aren’t necessary perfectly polished. Plenty of them are eccentric, or goofy, or even nerdy. What they have in common is passion about their subject and an ability to convey information. So don’t strive to be a generically polished speaker; it’s okay to show some personality (especially if your personality is one that’s geeking out about your topic!).
9. Watch TED Talks. Seasoned speakers in any genre will acknowledge that TED Talks are now the industry standards. Consume as many talks as possible. There are over 100,000 of them for free on their site. I can’t overemphasis how this has been of great help to me personally – in fact “watching Ted Talks” has a place on my CV.
6 Other Important Tips
If having to give a presentation at work makes you feel a bit queasy, you might not be sick. Instead, you might be a bit shy. You, too, can become an effective speaker.
- If you feel confident, you will come across as knowing what you are talking about. Take a few minutes to go over your material before a presentation. A little bit of preparation will give you a dose of confidence.
- Knowing what you are going to say will also help you relax. Being relaxed is an important component of effective communication. People will be more drawn to listen if you seem relaxed.
- Make eye contact when speaking to your boss and co-workers. You don’t have to enter a staring contest, but do avoid bowing your head a lot or looking away.
- Use gestures to help you communicate. Sometimes, shy people’s voices become more quiet or even shaky. Gestures are non-verbal communication and using them helps you get your message across.
- Use a warm tone of voice. According to Psychology Today, a warm and supportive voice used in business communication is the sign of transformational leadership. A warm tone of voice generates satisfaction, commitment, and cooperation between other members of the team.
- Brevity is your friend. Effective speakers use fewer words to get their message across. People are unlikely to get bored or stop listening if you keep can explain things in a concise fashion.
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