Speaking in front of a large group of audience can be an intimidating task and a source of anxiety even days before it is carried out.
For many people, the mere idea of exposing themselves (and their communication skills) to so many people is a terrible idea, which makes the tremors and indecision at the time of speaking take hold of one’s body .
However, everything can be improved by learning, and the same applies to the ability to make a good oral presentation. That is why below you can read a series of keys based on psychological principles that will help you to present your speech in the best possible way after using them several times.
Learning to speak in public in the best way
The first thing to be clear is that improving our ability to give oral presentations is a process that takes days and weeks .
Being aware of this is important so as not to get frustrated in the early stages. Secondly, taking this into account means making a commitment not to avoid the kind of situations that should be talked about in public and taking advantage of them to practice.
1. Have at least one week in advance
The ideal way to prepare a 45-10 minute oral presentation is to spend at least one hour a day preparing it during the previous week, if not earlier. It is very important to spread out the preparation over several days instead of using almost the whole day before preparing it; not only because this way you can take more time than you would spend in case of unforeseen events , but also because knowing that you have many days in advance has a psychological effect of relative calm and security on you.
This means that during the first few hours we will not feel so much anxiety if we notice that we are having trouble making progress, and this will make the learning more fluid . When we reach the last days, which is the stage in which the nerves emerge the most, we will do so knowing that we have already come a long way, and this will allow us to be productive without stress leading to a loss of motivation, effort and attention in what we do.
2. Getting the facts right
Before creating the script of what we want to talk about, we must be clear that we know what we are talking about and that our knowledge has no gaps.
To do so, we can help ourselves with a graphic representation that will allow us to know the degree of depth with which we know the subject well. To do this, in the centre of a sheet of paper we write a series of items or key words that we consider to be the most important topics of the presentation . Then, we draw a series of concentric circles around them, and we write other secondary topics in them, around what we have written before.
In this way we will have an overview of the topics to be covered and the importance of each one in the oral presentation. We can start by learning about the essential topics, to gradually document those that are secondary or incidental.
In the last circle we can write topics that we think are somewhat related to what we are going to talk about but that we don’t need to know about for the presentation. In this way we will be prepared and, if someone names them during the question time, we can have a prepared answer in which we indicate in which books or sources the person who wants to know more about it can be documented.
3. Be clear about the main idea we want to convey
Oral presentations are more attractive if throughout their development there is an idea that underpins all the sub-sections into which we divide the talk. This idea does not have to be something like a moral; for example, if the presentation consists of explaining how we have carried out our thesis, the main idea will simply be the thesis itself.
The important thing is not to deviate from the topic and to express directly what it consists of during the first 2 or 3 minutes of the oral presentation. In this way the backbone of the talk will be clear and the audience will know how to put into context what we say in the right way and without being confused by possible digressions.
4. Prepare the introduction first
Before thinking about the structure that the talk should have, it is better if we first discuss the first few minutes of the talk in as much detail as possible. This way, by now we will have focused on the topic and it will be very easy for us to think about the sections of the talk and the order they should follow .
The objective we pursue in creating the introduction is to draw the attention of the audience while raising the subject matter of the oral presentation. That is why we have to avoid very technical introductions or dictionary definitions. It is much better to start with a suggestive question or a short story.
5. Devising the structure of the talk
In this step we will write several ordered titles that express as directly as possible which subtopic will be dealt with in each section of the talk . These topics will be written down in a detailed script about what we want to say, and at the beginning we’ll work on each one of them in a separate and orderly way, from the ones closest to the beginning to the ones at the end.
This is a phase in the oral presentation planning process that is especially important if what we want to communicate is relatively complex and must be addressed through different sub-sections, so spend as much time on it as you need, since the difference between a clear message and one that is not depends largely on the structure.
6. Linking sub-sections
This step is very simple, because it simply consists of making the different sections of the oral presentation refer to other earlier or later ones. In this way the audience will better understand what we are talking about, seeing it as a whole in which the pieces are related to each other : “as we saw before…”. “this we’ll see next…”, etc.
In short, to know how to make a good oral presentation is to know how to manage to create a coherent discourse that has its own entity, instead of being a sum of parts.
7. Checking for possible gaps and leftover parts
In this step we will compare what we have written with the graphic representation in which we ordered the topics according to their importance, and we will see if the extension of each sub-section and of each line referring to these topics corresponds to that order. In this way we’ll see if we need to talk longer about certain things and less about others and we can modify the script accordingly .
This stage allows us to have an overview of what is written and to detect errors that a more detail-oriented point of view would not allow us to detect.
8. Read aloud
This step can be the most boring, because it only consists of reading aloud several times what is written. It is good to read everything often, but it is also good to think about each of the sub-sections and read only the part corresponding to that one.
In this way we will link each topic to be dealt with with certain phrases and with certain ways of spinning the speech. It is important to know, however, that the goal is not to memorize the text by making an effort to make every word stick in our head; the goal is for our brain to get used to learning the order, not the exact content .
Knowing the order of the sub-sections and the different simple ideas included in them helps us to remember better what we are going to say and to express it more naturally , without being afraid of not remembering exactly how a certain part was written. Each item you talk about acts as a hint to the next item.
However, and although it may seem silly, it is also very important to read aloud, to hear ourselves speak. In this way our own voice will also be an element that will make the memory about the script richer and more complete.
9. Rest well the day before
We must get to the day before the exhibition by knowing the script well. This way, we will only spend some time reviewing , and we will be able to rest so that our body recovers and relaxes a little. Also, it is very important to go to bed early to get enough sleep. Preparing well for an oral presentation is also knowing how to manage the time to regain strength.
10. Following a sequence of steps
When we give the talk in public, we should concentrate on saying what we are supposed to say at the stage of the talk where we are, and focus all our attention on it. This means that we should forget about trying to remember the general script of the oral presentation at all times ; this option would only distract us and generate anxiety, since our focus of attention cannot be everywhere at once.
11. Knowing how to look at the audience
It is important to look in the direction of the audience during the oral presentation, which does not mean looking at the audience. Our attention should be focused on our speech and on what we are saying at that very moment, and on little else. To contribute to this, a good help is to play at imagining that the people in the audience are dolls, or in any case, the audience of a very realistic video game. Although it sounds a bit bad, the idea is to depersonalize the audience as psychopaths objectify the rest of the people; in this case, to think that they are not real people but something like components of a simulation .
This will help us keep our nerves down. Later, when we master the art of public speaking, we can dispense with this step.
12. Learning to live with nerves
The last step is to embrace the idea that a little bit of nerves is no problem. When we are nervous we think that our tremors and stuttering are very noticeable, but the truth is that this is not the case, the distance from the audience and the clarity of our message make these little signs of nervousness automatically go unnoticed, because all the attention of the audience is much more focused on the content of what we say (what they want to understand) than on how we say it.