5 Public Speaking Tips for the Sweaty-Palmed Student

Giving my speech at the AIESEC SFU President elections

Giving my speech at the AIESEC SFU President elections

Last week, I had the opportunity to host AIESEC SFU's General Assembly, where I gave a presentation on Public Speaking. Here are the five main points from the presentation.

1. Your body speaks to your audience, even before you open your mouth. Every twitch, scratch, and crack of a knuckle sends a message to your audience. These little things lets them know how self-assured you are. Even when you feel confident in yourself, your body may signal otherwise. You've worked hard in preparing your speech, and want to show this. Convey your confidence by standing straight, centering your weight and facing your audience. Also, avoid crossing your arms, leaning on objects and putting hands in pockets, as this can be mistaken for disinterest.

2. Don't let visual aids, tools and others steal your spotlight. People came to hear you speak, and shouldn't be reading off a Powerpoint slide. Encourage your audience to listen to you by only including the main points on your slide. This way, they will have to pay attention to you and your words, instead of the screen. Doing a group presentation? Don't stand behind your co-presenters when it's your turn to speak.

3. Speak about your interests. Zero interest in your topic? Speak like you do. When you are passionate about a topic, your tone, volume and pitch naturally changes. Enthusiasm is contagious, and others become drawn to you. I once had a professor who taught Management Information Systems (MIS) which I had no interest in. However, he had great passion for his work and this showed in his voice. Though he spoke about databases and systems, which normally would have been synonymous for a sleeping pill, his interest and love for MIS kept me awake for a whole semester.

4. Rehearse, without being rehearsed. Practice your speech to familiarize yourself with your content, flow and transitions. However, do not memorize a speech or read it line by line.

5. Grab every opportunity to speak in front of an audience. Make a speech at a family reunion. Videotape yourself speaking. Ask someone to listen and analyze your delivery. Join an organization, such as AIESEC, which provides you the opportunity to improve your public speaking skills. Look up your closest Toastmasters chapter, and start practicing. Toastmasters gave me my first taste of public speaking, and has helped me improve.

I'm still guilty of fidgety hands. However, the first step to making a change is self-awareness. Become aware of your body, volume, tone and eye contact. With these tips in mind, I know you and I can both become better communicators.

How do you prepare yourself for a speech?