Last fall, my hair stylist let me know that she was going to be the Master of Ceremony for the Master Pioneer Awards in Brooklyn, NY. The award is a big deal since it is awarded to natural hair stylists who have made an impact in the industry (she is a recipient of the award herself). She asked if I could provide her a list of public speaking tips since I teach public speaking.
I am sharing a revised version of the list because many of us are in front of people in our classrooms, doing presentations for work, or conducting workshops and presentations for conferences. I hope that you find something that will be useful to you in the work that you do. My stylist said that it was helpful to her.
Quick Public Speaking Tips
SMILE: It’s contagious. If you smile you are creating the atmosphere of warmth in the room and people will reciprocate it back.
DO YOU. BE YOU: Audiences can smell a phony a mile away and they don’t like them. Don’t try to be something you are not. Everyone has their own presentation style.
POSTURE: Stand up, and sit up, straight. Great posture exudes confidence and competence.
EYE CONTACT: Look at the people in the front, middle, and back of the room. Do not look at empty seats, the floor, or the ceiling. Look at the living breathing human beings in the room. When looking at people in the room, don’t be creepy with it. Avoid the stalker stare at all costs.
VOLUME: Use appropriate volume. Make sure that you are not too loud or too soft. Pay attention to the audience reaction to your voice. Are they covering their ears or are they straining to hear you?
TIME: Have someone in the audience give you time signals to keep track of time if needed. This is especially helpful if you are pretty chatty and have a tendency of being a little long-winded.
DRESS TIP: Be mindful of how close people are sitting to the stage if you are wearing a dress/skirt on stage. You only want to show the audience your speaking skills. Make sure that clothes are ironed and that a lint brush is used if needed.
GUM: Don’t chew gum. Carry around mints or some spray if you need it. Smacking on gum while talking to important people is not cute.
H2O: Keep water close by but be mindful of how much you are drinking right before the event. I recommend making sure you drink a bunch of water the night before so that you will be hydrated the day of the event. Drink water throughout the day of the event but have a stopping point before the event starts.
BATHROOM: Go to the bathroom before you speak. One time I did not do that and it resulted in one of my most embarrassing moments. Ask me about it the next time I see you and I will tell you the WHOLE story.
GESTURES: Use your hands to speak, just make sure that it is not too distracting.
VERBALS: Try to avoid fillers that include um’s, uh’s, er’s, you know’s, likes etc. We call them fillers. Try to end sentences as statements, not questions. Try to avoid the uptick at the end of your sentences. Individuals come across as incompetent or unsure when they use them throughout the presentation.
PREPARATION: Study your script/presentation/program the night before the event. Do a run through before the event. Don’t skip on the dress rehearsal if there is one. Some find it helpful to rehearse in what they plan on wearing to the event to get a sense of the outfit and how well it works with the presentation. Expect the unexpected. Carry around a care kit (needle and thread, clear nail polish for runs if you are wearing pantyhose, a pack of kleenex, a little mirror, mints, hand sanitizer (for all the hands that you will be shaking), fan/handkerchief (if you run a little warm at these events)
NERVES: Breathe and stay calm when the unexpected happens. I recommend breathing in for a count of four and breathing out for a count of four. I also recommend creating sayings that you can say to yourself to calm yourself down. Something like “I am awesome. I am amazing. I am prepared.”