Public speaking is Americans' biggest fear, according to a recent survey conducted by Chapman University, The Washington Post reports. If you, like 25.3 percent of the population, dread giving presentations and speaking in front of large groups, you can take a variety of steps to overcome your fear. By making an effort to master public speaking, you can put yourself in a better position to attract customers and establish new business connections.

Tips and Tricks

Here are six tips on how to gain confidence and improve your public speaking skills:

  1. Take Advantage of Smaller Speaking Opportunities
    Many successful public speakers have gained their confidence through practice and repetition. By participating in smaller speaking opportunities, such as a local Toastmasters group, you can start to become more comfortable and prepare to tackle larger engagements.
  2. Show, Don't Tell
    You can make your presentation more engaging by using props, stories, pictures and graphs to vividly show people what you want to convey.
  3. Keep Your Presentations Short
    If you're preparing a presentation deck, you should try to keep each slide short and sweet, as this will help your audience stay engaged and focused on the information. You can always provide background materials if you'd like your audience to have access to additional, lengthier text.
  4. Slow Down
    When people get nervous, they tend to speak more quickly. Try to take deep breaths throughout your presentation, and make a conscious effort to slow down. This process will help you speak more clearly.
  5. Tell Stories
    Stories have a unique ability to capture your audience's imagination and attention. Instead of simply presenting a slew of facts, consider giving your presentation a story arc with a beginning, middle and end. Try building on the principles of drama with an opening hook, a climax and a resolution.
  6. Move
    Clinging to the podium or your notes as if they were a life raft only betrays your nervousness. Instead, move with short, graceful strides, use natural hand gestures, and make eye contact with people in the audience.

How to Transfer These Skills to Your Team

As you work to improve your own public speaking skills, don't forget to help your team develop their skills as well. Most importantly, you should demonstrate the best practices you've learned and provide your team with the necessary training and opportunities to help them improve.

  • Set up a standard in which different employees take turns running team meetings; this can help everyone demonstrate and develop their basic public speaking skills.
  • Organize an optional training that teaches employees how to master public speaking and gives them the opportunity to receive constructive feedback after presenting in small groups.
  • Create a lunch-and-learn series in which employees can sign up to hold a seminar for their peers on a specific area of expertise.

By creating an environment in which your whole team is striving to improve their public speaking skills, you can help improve both internal and external communication.

Tags: Presentations Employee Development Training