How to Ace Public Speaking as an International Student
Do you get nervous when presenting to your classmates or speaking in front of large crowds? Don't worry, even experienced speakers suffer from nerves.
Contrary to what you might think, public speaking is a skill that must be developed over time — no one is born with it. The best speeches are not necessarily the ones you have memorized, they are the ones you practice and take time to cultivate. Practice, hard work, and feedback are the best steps to become a confident, memorable, and natural speaker.
“Even experienced speakers suffer from nerves.”
Mastering the basics
We've gathered some top tips to help you develop the technical skills you need to ace public speaking.
#1 — Pause.
Pausing is a good way to give the audience time to digest what you've said, while also giving you time to transition onto the next idea.
#2 — Film yourself and watch it back.
This is a good way to catch nervous ticks you may not even realize you have, which can be very distracting. It's also a good idea to practice with a timer to see whether you are rushing through your speech, or rambling on for too long. This helps ensure the content is meaty enough, but also presented in a succinct way that is easy to understand.
#3 — Use your space.
Make sure you have enough room around you to physically use your space and capture the audience's attention. Use body language and gesticulation to emphasize your message.
#4 — Avoid filler words (uhm, so, like).
These little words can be really distracting if overused and can obscure your message. It's challenging because these words are so embedded into our speech — this is why practice is so important!
#5 — Mind the audience.
Be aware of cultural differences, depending on who you are speaking to, especially when making jokes.
“With enough practice, the pre-stage nerves will disappear.”
Reinforcing your message
It's important to identify the key message(s) you want your audience to take away from your speech or presentation beforehand, and to make sure you emphasize those points clearly.
#1 — Be emotive.
If you're conveying something exciting, are you gesturing? Is your voice elevated? If you're asking a question, is it obvious? Are you inflicting and varying your tone of voice so people know what you’re talking about?
#2 - Tell a story.
Use stories or personal anecdotes to illustrate your points and connect with the audience.
#3 - Make the audience laugh.
Jokes are a great way to entertain your audience, but make sure they will resonate with everyone (or a good part), or else, they will fall flat.
#4 - Use the rule of three.
Provide three supporting arguments to drive home your message and make it memorable.
Structuring your speech
It's important to structure any presentation with a distinct opening, body, and conclusion. What story are you trying to tell? How can you make sure it resonates with your audience?
“Don't launch into your speech immediately.”
#1 — Opening.
Don't launch into your speech immediately. Begin by taking a deep breath, looking around the room, and making eye contact with as many people as possible. Not only are you giving your body time to relax, but you're giving the audience time to truly connect with you. It's important to hook your audience in the first 20 seconds to get their full attention, and then outline what is to come. Sometimes it's helpful to open with a personal story, as this helps you build trust and familiarity with your audience.
#2 — Body.
Connect each section clearly, while avoiding abrupt transitions.
#3 — Conclusion.
Finish by recapping what you just discussed. Repetita iuvant!
Succeeding at remote public speaking
Given the recent global events, we are increasingly using our computers, so you may be asked to film a presentation or speech in advance, or speak live virtually. Here are some guidelines for adapting your technique for video:
- Decide whether you are going to stand or sit. Whichever you choose, make sure your body language remains natural and unconstricted.
- Dress up for the occasion if you would do so in person.
- Remember that lighting is key. Make sure the spotlight is pointed directly at you so people can see you well — it's your time to shine!
- Make sure you remain visible inside your camera frame and direct everything to that area.
- Look at your audience (the camera). This way, your audience will feel like you're speaking directly to them.
- Move slowly, without making any sudden gestures, as it will look more natural.
- Make sure to practice ahead of time, and always ask for feedback.
"Don’t let fear stop you."
Even the most experienced speakers get nervous before public speaking, but it doesn't have to be a huge obstacle every time. Don't let fear stop you. Instead, you can harness that nervous energy and use it to inspire your audience. With enough practice, the pre-stage nerves will disappear as soon as you begin.