Your business professor tells you that you have an individual presentation assignment to do by next week. It entails you standing in front of your class, speaking and engaging with everyone, for 12-15 minutes. Oh, and let’s say your class is 100 people. What do you do? I don’t know about you, but I’d definitely panic.
It may seem like everyone else is a natural public speaker, and that they don’t get nervous at all, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. Whether it is in front of 10 people or 100 people, everyone gets afraid to speak publicly, and it is a completely rational fear. The key, however, is to continue practicing with presenting, and fake it until you make it.
For advice on how to speak like a professional, I recently interviewed Madi Noel, an Ohio State alumni. Madi graduated two years ago and now works at a company called Western Digital, which is a large data technology company. As a marketing major during her time here at Ohio State, Madi jumped into the world of public speaking early on. In marketing, you have to know how to strategically speak to a group of people in order to represent your product and persuade them to buy it. However, having to learn these skills throughout her career at Ohio State was a critical step to becoming prepared to work in the real world.
When I interviewed Madi, the first thing I asked her, to no surprise, was if she enjoys speaking publicly. Although she replied that she “used to not be a huge fan,” she added that she now has a different perspective. After doing it so frequently, it gets easier and easier to get the hang of, and you learn to appreciate yourself for doing it. She added that “it’s a great way to show knowledge about something and feel confident about yourself,” which could not be more true. After you finish presenting, you feel relieved and powerful, like you can take on anything else that comes your way, and I think most people can relate to this feeling.
To dive deeper into this topic of public speaking, I asked Madi how, once you have the basics down, to take your presentation one step further and really make it stand out in comparison to others who may be presenting on similar topics. First, she mentioned that visuals, which can include graphs, photos, videos, and anything else that will catch the eye of the audience, are key when presenting. Another helpful tip is that you should not just have paragraphs of text listed on the screen. Instead, include a few important words, and leave the rest to explain to the audience, making sure to pause and engage with the audience while presenting. Even small actions like polling the audience or asking them to vote can help make the presentation more interesting and seem less like a boring lecture, especially if you can tell that the audience seems unintrigued.
Lastly, Madi left me with a few pieces of advice that I’d like to share in hopes of making you feel better about your next presentation. Even though presenting in front of people can be nerve wracking, “practice is key.” In addition, she noted that by doing research and really becoming an expert on what you’re presenting, you will instantly “feel more confident,” because you’re sharing your knowledge in whatever it is that you are speaking about. She concluded with “You’re the expert, and that’s the leverage you have in a presentation.” So, next time you have a presentation and begin to worry, take these notes into consideration, and I guarantee you will feel much less stressed.