Public speaking is different for everyone. Some people are indifferent to an audience, some embrace a crowd, and some absolutely freeze up when faced with so many staring pairs of eyes. Unfortunately, class presentations will come your way no matter how you feel about them, so public speaking is a skill you need to acquire.
Firstly, never think that public speaking can only be mastered by extroverted people. If you are particularly introverted, a little shy, or maybe just even lacking strong self-confidence, that doesn’t mean you can’t give a great presentation. Anybody can stand up in front of the class and present their material; all it takes is the right state of mind, and the way to arrive at that state of mind is by getting yourself acquainted with a few simple concepts.
#1. Make sure you know your material: If you have no idea what you’re talking about, then you’re certainly not going to feel comfortable presenting it. The first step to nailing any presentation is just like the initial approach to acing any other assignment – thoroughly understanding the information. Take the presentation aspect out of the equation for the time being and allow yourself time to fully comprehend and put together this project. Invest your time in researching, organizing, and creating your visual aid if you need one. Just treat this as a regular assignment and don’t even worry about the public speaking that you’ll eventually have to do. Make yourself happy with the project you’ve created and confident in your knowledge of the topics involved. If you feel good enough about the project itself, presenting it to a group will be ten times easier.
#2. Get familiar with the respective environment: Practicing your presentation in an environment similar to that of which you’ll actually be giving it will ultimately put you much more at ease. For instance, if you know you will be giving this presentation in an auditorium, then it wouldn’t make sense to rehearse it in your room. It may be unrealistic to assume you can get into an unused theater of some sort to comfortably practice, but just getting to any larger area would be helpful. Perhaps use your living room or a basement – anywhere with a wider amount of space to prepare you for the atmosphere you will be in. Likewise, if you are going to be presenting in a regular sized classroom, using a typical area like your room would work out fine for practicing. The most important factor in all of this, however, is to make sure you are standing in and facing an appropriate direction that you could easily see yourself in during the actual presentation. It is typically a safe idea to situate yourself against the wall and face furniture, just as you would be standing against a blackboard and facing rows of desks. By associating yourself with this environment early on, the spot you will find yourself in on presentation day will be a lot less foreign to you.
#3. Organize points, but don’t memorize: You should definitely put together an outline of what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, but if you solely memorize a speech, then you’re setting yourself up for mishaps. Strictly reciting a bunch of facts will not keep you relaxed; rather, it will keep you tense. An audience can easily pick up on this tension and that will ultimately make you more self-conscious. Remember, your goal here is to communicate your topic with sincerity. A good presentation is genuine and honest, and therefore not memorized – an audience can sense fakeness from a mile away. It will be clear to you if your audience is distracted by the awkward or nervous way you are presenting your material, and their collective reaction will probably throw you off more. Avoid this negative domino effect by starting off with a clear plan of what you will be presenting, but also with an honest understanding that lets you get through the material naturally.
#4. Remember who your audience is: Usually in these situations, your audience is going to be composed of a classroom of students who aren’t particularly invested in your presentation anyway. Additionally, all of them are likely to have to give a similar presentation as well. With that being said, take comfort in the fact that the teacher is probably the only one you truly need to worry about impressing. There’s really no need to make yourself nervous about what your peers will think because odds are they’ll be daydreaming or worrying about their own presentation during your time in the spotlight.
#5. Envision your performance and make it happen: It sounds simple, but this little method can be very effective. If you show up on presentation day with no clue how things are going to go, you’ll probably find yourself stumbling through your words. But if you come prepared with goals that you are determined to reach, you are more likely to showcase them perfectly. Have a clear idea in your head of how long your presentation should and will be, what points you will go over, where you will focus eye contact, how you will incorporate any visual aids, etc. If you show up with a plan, the process will be yours to conquer. At this point, nothing but nerves are in your way. Wipe those out by proving to yourself that you can execute your vision successfully.