Public Speaking 101

The culmination of MSRE is quickly approaching: only two and a half weeks remain before the McNair scholars present their research at the University of California-Berkeley. In the following weeks, the scholars will be hard at work practicing their oral presentations. But how can one quell those public speaking jitters? Below are some tips and tricks to help conquer public speaking fears and give a successful and confident oral presentation. 

Visualize success. In the upcoming weeks, engage in visualization exercises. Imagine yourself walking confidently to the podium, speaking with a loud, clear, and assured voice, and finishing with a satisfied applause. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful!

Come prepared. The best way to overcome speaking anxiety is to know your material. Though it may feel overwhelming knowing you’ll need to stand in front of other scholars and speak about your research for 12 minutes, you can feel assured that you know your research better than anyone else! Of course, it will still be necessary to plan and organize your speech so it flows, is easy to understand, and is interesting to your audience. The more familiar and comfortable you are with your material, the less anxiety you’ll have. Practice and revise until you can present with ease.

Conduct a few test-runs. Practice in front of small (and warm) audiences such as family, friends, or co-workers. The more times you practice in front of small audiences, the more comfortable you’ll become.Image

Be positive. Think positive thoughts and don’t automatically assume that everyone is judging you. Rather, assume that your audience is interested and likes what you’re telling them.

Dress for success. Dress professionally and comfortably. You’ll want to wear something that does not require any maintenance. For example, you don’t want your shirt to be so short that if you lift your arms to point to a figure on your PowerPoint, your stomach shows. You also don’t want your shirt too revealing or your skirt so short that the audience doesn’t take you seriously. Avoid colors and materials that will easily show perspiration such as gray or light blue. Simple black and white will be the least likely to show signs of perspiration. Wear manageable heels, if applicable, and avoid distracting or noisy jewelry. Overall, you want your audience to be captivated by your presentation, not your outfit.

Know the audience. If possible, greet the audience before it’s time to give your speech. Shake hands with audience members in the front row and make small talk. It’s much easier to speak to a group of people you know (even if you have only known them for a few minutes!) rather than a bunch of strangers. It will also be easier to make eye contact and connect with your audience members if you’re (even slightly) familiar with them.

No need to apologize. Never feel as though you need to apologize for feeling nervous. Everyone gets a little nervous before speaking in front of others. However, most of the time, your nervousness is not even apparent to the audience. If you don’t mention how you’re feeling, no one will even know, so don’t call attention to your anxiety. And if you make a mistake, don’t fret! Your audience has no idea what you have planned for them, so if you accidentally omit a word or even a sentence, they will have no idea. Just gather your thoughts and continue on with your speech!

Good luck!

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