So Mark Twain said that there are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars!
Most people do get nervous when they have to speak in public and some people will just do everything they can to avoid it, but lots of us will have to do so occasionally, either at a funeral, a wedding or in a job interview. I have had to do so on many occasions now: I was a teacher; I did a speech at my second wedding; I was a researcher and spoke to several audiences including about 100 people at an international conference; I have lectured to BSc and MSc students; and now I can add doing a sermon to my list.
So here are some tips to help you, if you find yourself in that situation anytime soon:
- Talk slowly and fall in love with the full stop!
- If nervous get rid of the excess adrenaline in advance by either shaking out your hands or by doing some rhythmic breathing (longer on the out-breath).
- An old cliche, but true – speak to the person at the back of the room, especially if not miked up.
- Don’t worry about people’s hearing aids – that is their responsibility not yours!
- Move around a bit and use hand gestures to keep them on their toes.
- Modulate your voice.
- Don’t be afraid to use notes – but do look up at your audience at regular intervals.
- Don’t tell jokes if that is not your forte, but do use humour when appropriate.
- Don’t speak for too long – shorter is normally better and if asked to speak for more than 15 minutes, include elements of interaction.
- If using PowerPoint, include pictures when you can and if using written slides follow the 666 “rule” ( 6 slides per 10 mins, 6 lines per slide and 6 words per line).