Q: Karen, my new job is going to require more public speaking than I am used to. What tips can you offer to increase my comfort level and be more effective?
A: Public speaking causes anxiety for a great number of people, but there are some things one can do to be more effective and more comfortable with public speaking:
• Take deep breaths before going on stage. Focusing on the audience instead of yourself will help with those butterflies in your stomach.
• Start with a strong opening line.
• Know your subject matter. The more you know about your topic, the more likely you will be to get comfortable with presenting.
• Know your audience. The same presentation or style may not be effective with every group.
• Watch your body language. Keeping both feet on the ground about shoulder width apart sends a message of confidence.
• Keep your hands away from your face and don't gesture excessively.
• Don't wear jewelry that makes noise. This can be very distracting to your audience.
• Don't overdo PowerPoint. The PowerPoint presentation should be an aide. And keep slides simple. ... Less is more.
• Decide ahead of time if you are going to take questions from the audience. If your time is short, taking questions at the end of your presentation will be more efficient.
• Do repeat the questions that you are asked so everyone can hear what has been asked.
• When possible, step away from the podium. Speak to both sides of the room.
• Arrive early to see how the room is set up and to make sure all of the technology is working correctly. Be prepared to present if the technology fails.
• Drink water with no ice. Ice water can be hard on your vocal cords.
• If your presentation is new, practice, practice, practice in advance.
• Avoid filler words, such as, um, ya know and like. Try a pause instead.
• Use relevant stories to make a point. People will remember the story and the point.
• Dress appropriately for the audience. Remember all eyes will be on you.
Karen Hickman is a local certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy. To submit questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.