As someone who’s been speaking in public for over a decade, I tend to get asked a lot of questions about public speaking and most of them are the same. In this blog post I’m going to share the topics and questions I tend to get asked about the most.
Keep in mind that my answers are subjective and may not apply to everyone. Public speaking, or at least getting more comfortable speaking in front of others takes time. Be patient with yourself and put yourself out there. One of the best ways to address questions you may have about public speaking is to present often and improve your comfort level of speaking in front of others.
- What is the best way to deal with speech anxiety? There are a number of techniques you can use to overcome your feelings of anxiety when up on the big stage. But the most important is practice, practice, practice. In fact, you want to practice so much that your subconscious mind does most of work and it all comes naturally.
- I get dry mouth or shaky when I present, how can I make it stop? It takes time to address and overcome the symptoms of anxiety, but you can alleviate them using a few simple methods. The first is to prepare, working through every detail of your presentation before you stand up on stage. The second is to bring a water bottle to use during your presentation. And the third is not to physically pick anything up during your presentation as it will accentuate your anxiety.
- How many times should I present to get comfortable? When I was working on my public speaking skills, I tried to do as many speeches as I could on a weekly and monthly basis. If you’ve never spoken before, I suggest trying to do 2 presentations per month (if not more). The more you do, the faster you’ll begin feeling more confident in your ability to present.
- How long should my presentation be? I like to keep my presentations to 50 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for questions and answers. Of course this all depends on the amount of time you’re allowed to have to deliver your presentation.
- What type of introduction should I use? There are many ways to introduce you as the speaker or the topic you’re discussing. You need to find the opening that works best for you. Personally, I like to have someone introduce me and then chose one of the following openers: asking a question, presenting a fact, sharing a case study or data, showing a video, playing music. Regardless of which opening or introduction you use, always make sure that it’s appropriate for your audience.
- What if someone asks me a question I don’t know the answer to? There are a couple of basic techniques you can use to help navigate through difficult questions. The first is to say, “That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, let me get back to you.” Another is to say, “Let me through that one out to the audience,” repeating the question allowing an audience member to answer. And finally, turning the question back on the person who asked it, “I’m not sure, how do you feel about [fill in the blank]?”
- How long did it take for you to feel comfortable presenting in front of other? Some people have an easier time overcoming their fear of public speaking than others. For me, I had to give about 10 presentations (about 1 per week) before I broke my anxiety. After that, it took another couple of months to begin to enjoy and feel good about public speaking. Some people move faster or slower than I do but I’d consider my fear and anxiety about a 10 on the danger scale. If I can do it, so can you.
Public speaking brings with it a number of questions, issues, and concerns. But it also brings an opportunity to dramatically improve your confidence and communication skills. Each person will progress at a different pace. You should always focus on making progress, not perfection. Over time, your skills will develop and you’ll be comfortable addressing all aspects of public speaking.