Many people find public speaking a terrifying,
horrible experience, and prefer to avoid it if possible. However, as
conservationists, working with people is part of our daily routines. It’s very
likely that at some time in your career you will be asked to make a
presentation—to producers, partners, or colleagues. Being a little nervous is a
sign that you want to do well. But being overly nervous or scared is a problem.
With a little practice you can learn to overcome your nervousness or fear and
make informative and memorable presentations. Here’s a few tips to follow for
successful public speaking.
Before the Presentation
Know the room, test
Check out the place in which you will be making
your presentation. Arrive early, test the microphone, computer equipment and
other visual aids. Walk around the speaking space. Make sure you can see your
visual aids from the back of the room. Make arrangements for assistance with
your visual aids, lighting, etc. , if needed. Make sure you have a glass and/or
pitcher of water if you think you’ll need it.
Know your audience
Before developing your presentation find out the
particulars on who will attend the presentation, their ages, interests, and
occupations. You need to know how many people will be there, as well as your
speaking format, including how much time you have, if there’s a Q and A session,
equipment available for your use, etc., etc. At the presentation, if you have
time, greet people as they arrive and engage in light conversation. You’ll feel
more comfortable speaking to a group of people you know than to a group of total
Know your material
Practice your presentation, make changes if
needed. If you're not familiar or comfortable with your material, you will be
more nervous, and it will show. Practice the night before your presentation, but
make sure to get a good night’s sleep. You come across better and be less likely
to make mistakes.
Dress for success
Choose professional clothing for the day of a
presentation. Your outfit should not be too casual or too flashy that people
focus on it instead of your message. Wear a favorite outfit that makes you feel
confident and comfortable.
Try to find a quiet place to spend a few moments
just prior to the presentation. Try to clear your thoughts, Take a few deep
breaths, stretch if it helps to ease your tension.
Visualize yourself making
When you visualize yourself as successful, you
will be successful. Imagine yourself confident and articulate. Remember to be
yourself. You can speak clearly and hold an audiences’ attention. You can be an
eloquent and persuasive. You can be a successful public speaker.
Turn anxiety into
One of the challenges of public speaking is the
dread people have that something awful, terrible, or publicly humiliating will
happen to them. Try to put it in perspective. What’s the worst thing that could
happen? You could pass out from nervous exhaustion? You could forget everything
you were going to say? These events might be embarrassing, but wouldn’t be the
end of the world. So relax, and smile. Concentrate on channeling your nervous
energy into an enthusiastic and vibrant presentation.
Realize the audience
wants you to succeed
Many of the people in your audience are scared
to death of public speaking, just like you might be. They know the risk of
embarrassment and failure that people take every time they present themselves in
public. They admire your courage, and will be on your side. They want you to be
interesting, stimulating, informative, and entertaining. They don’t want you to
fail, they want you to succeed. (Remember how uncomfortable you felt the last
time you saw a not so effective speaker). Smile and your audience will likely
During the Presentation
Use good posture
Stand straight, balance your weight on both
feet, and hold your stomach in--it'll improve your posture and maybe even your
confidence. Avoid nervous body movements, even if you feel uncomfortable. Try
not to fidget as it detracts from your message. Keep your hands away from your
face and out of your pockets. Also, don’t be afraid to move around a little bit
during your presentation. It may ease your tension and keep your audience alert.
Use good eye contact
Eye contact with your audience is a powerful
tool to connect with them. Try to include everyone in the audience equally when
you look out over the crowd. Good eye contact increases your credibility as a
A good speaking voice is essential for
delivering an effective speech. Your voice should be pleasant, natural and
dynamic. Speak directly into the microphone. If you don’t have a microphone,
pay special attention that you project enough for everyone in the room to
hear you. Use pauses when appropriate- for effect, laughter or applause.
Sometimes a pause can help reinforce or point or make a transition to
Don't mention that you’re nervous
Don’t apologize or call the audience's
attention to the fact that you are nervous. They may not even notice, and
you certainly don’t want to accentuate it.
Concentrate on your
Focus your attention outwardly toward your
message and your audience (and away from yourself and your nervousness). Make
sure you don’t use acronyms or try to impress your audience with jargon. An
audience will quickly tune you out if you try to speak above them or use
language they don’t know. Concentrate on making your message understandable.
It's fine to have notes to speak from--but don't let your notes be a
distraction. It's usually apparent from your tone of voice and your appearance
when you are reading from a script. But no one objects to a few index cards in
your hand with the main points you want to remember to make. During your
presentation, don’t try to control your audience. If people are whispering,
fidgeting or sleeping, let them be. Concentrate on the things you can control,
your presentation and your energy. Don’t worry about things you can’t control,
like other people and their actions, which will only lead to anxiety and
Experience builds confidence, which is the key
to effective speaking. And the only way to do this is to put yourself in the
spotlight, over and over and over again. Every speaking opportunity will help
you become more confident and comfortable. You can start small and work your way
up to bigger audiences and events. In time you’ll begin to develop trust in your
ability to speak successfully. Consider joining a group such as Toastmasters to
expand your experience and confidence. Volunteer to make presentations at
school, social settings, and to colleagues. Pretty soon you’ll be an old pro at
public speaking. Who knows, you maybe someday you’ll even enjoy it.