Sooner or later everyone has to speak in public . Well in educational settings, in more or less extensive meetings, in family groups, in work settings … Avoidance behavior in these circumstances is a fruitless strategy in two directions: fruitless because there are situations in which speaking in public will be inevitable, fruitless because if we experience fear or rejection of a behavior, whatever, the avoidance of it will only lead to a greater feeling of inability to face it.
Speaking in public, therefore, is like a Band-Aid. The sooner and faster it starts, the better. If we experience some kind of rejection of this possibility, all the more reason we should jump without fear to an occasion that requires communicating something in front of other people.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that a great speaker was not born being one, but is the result of a very long process of training , practice and a good dose of preparation. Communication in public is a skill, and like all of them, it can be trained. Human beings base their cognition on communication. Our communication skills are the ones we use the most, and we train the most throughout our lives. Therefore, public speaking is simply about applying that communicative ability to a new environment. A rare and strange environment , but easily dealt with.
Preparation is the most important part of any public explanation . There are professors, politicians and journalists who come to develop public interventions of a high level without support material. Without preparation. Simply using improvisation. They are professionals in the field, and to get to that level they have had to go through years and years of meticulous preparation and improvement. Even in these cases, if these profiles prepare their intervention in advance, their result will also be more brilliant than using mere improvisation.
Preparing a script with schematic ideas, as well as structuring the intervention according to the times and fundamental points that we want to follow, is a basic preliminary process. The more thoughtful this aspect is, the better the result of our performance will be.
2.- Clear and concrete ideas
It is very common, especially when making presentations in academic contexts, tend to detail all the processes in a very meticulous way. Time ends up strangling the presentation, and the conclusions part, the most relevant, is condensed into a hodgepodge of ideas fired at full speed.
To avoid this. We repeat, a very frequent effect, the best thing is to have a series of very clear ideas of what we want to say. Three or four ideas should be extracted from our presentation. We must know those ideas, and focus on them. What aspects do we want the public to stay with at the end of our intervention? This is our first major decision.
3.- The audience we are addressing
Of course, in order to condense ideas and prepare a speech, it is essential to know the audience we are dealing with. If the audience is co-workers, there are many aspects that we can take for granted that they know. If the public is general and our speech is technical, we must adapt the concepts we handle so that they are easily understandable in a brief intervention. If the audience is close colleagues, we can handle a more friendly language ; if instead we find ourselves in a more formal or institutional environment, our language must also be adapted.
Knowing the audience is important in the presentation phase in two ways: it allows us to shape the ideas of our discourse, what we want to focus on; It also allows anticipating the type of language to be used, a closer one or a more formal one.
4.- The support material
Knowing in advance if we have the possibility of using support material, such as Power Point or simply notes, is a priority. The Power Point and the notes should not be a text script of our intervention. Listening to someone read is boring, and making a presentation by reading a sheet of paper is a resounding failure.
The Power Point or the notes must contain the structure of what we want to convey. On the correct way to make a Power Point we will not stop at this point, since it deserves an independent study, but for the subject at hand it is an important element, since the possibility of having notes or Power Point provides security. No one will ever be left blank, because they have notes or Power to turn to. We should think of this resource as a prompter in a play.
5.- Practice in front of the mirror (and recordings)
Once we have our structured presentation, the four or five ideas to convey clear, and the support material ready … we are ready to begin.
If we start from the basis of what we need is security to make presentations in public, we must know that security is achieved by controlling the situation. A public presentation has a series of clearly specifiable factors to control: the content of the speech, the support material, being able to remember the ideas we want to convey, getting to know the public … we have already been specifying and controlling all these factors. The main variable to control, however, is our own speech , so practicing before the presentation is essential.
The advice is to repeat the presentation several times, perhaps in front of the mirror, and recording yourself is also a good idea.
The optimal path would be the following: practice in front of the mirror twice the presentation, and record the third test. Then listen to the test, in order to verify that, indeed, we are perfectly capable of making a solvent public presentation.
6.- Time control
This pre-presentation simulation also serves as a time control measure. If we prepare the presentation well, the time we dedicate to making our speech beforehand will be quite similar to the time to spend in the presentation itself. However, it is usual that in the room we extend ourselves somewhat more in time than in the preparation phase. Given this perspective, the most appropriate thing is to try to be conservative with the times : to try that our intervention is designed to be loose.
A maxim in presentations and speeches is that it is always better to spare time. Extending beyond the time limits that we have, is not only disruptive for the audience, who may have subsequent commitments, but also in case there are other speakers who are going to chat later. In the same way, it also does a disservice to our presentation, since the rush ends up generating a disorderly, disjointed and poor speech.
At the beginning of the presentation it is important to have a timer that regulates the time we have been employed. A good strategy, if we have problems adjusting to the fixed time spaces, is to divide the presentation into segments. For example, if we have 15 minutes we can distribute them in this way: “if after five have passed I have made the introduction I am doing well; if when I have reached the conclusions I am going for 10 minutes, I am doing well”. Again, the previous preparation is once again the perfect tool to control the situation.
7.- Room control
There are some cases in which the exhibition will be held in a family room, of which we know the characteristics. In other cases the room will be unknown to us. It is important to ask three preliminary questions: do you have a projector and a computer? How much capacity does it have? Will the presentation be standing or sitting?
If we also have the opportunity to enter the room before the presentation, that will serve as a reassuring element before making the speech.
8.- Our support person
If speaking in public causes us some uneasiness, or if it is our first interventions in public and we are not sure how we are going to react, having a support person in the room is a reassuring element that can be used.
Although in an intervention you should look at the audience as a whole – never down, or fixed at the same point all the time – you can look for someone familiar with whom you can cross your gaze from time to time.
It is important to comment beforehand with that trusted person that you are uncomfortable speaking in public, so that your ally can give you positive feedback. For example, nodding when you look at each other or simply smiling.
9.- Know what intimidates us, and face the situation
Possibly if someone has read this article it is because they know that speaking in public is unpleasant for them. It is important not to avoid these negative thoughts, nor to ignore them. The most fruitful thing is to be aware that speaking in public is an uncomfortable situation and simply show courage to face it. Prepare the presentation very well, practice and carry it out later. If we overcome that uncomfortable situation, without a doubt successfully if we prepare it correctly, the satisfaction of being aware of having solved an unpleasant trance, will not only be tremendously gratifying , but it will be the greatest impulse to develop future similar occasions normally.