I find myself doing a lot of public speaking for my FIRST Robotics team.
This year and last year, I was the primary speaker at presentations that we would do for schools, businesses, and other potential sponsors. I would generally give a power point presentation, and I would read a script. Lately though, I have been finding that scripting the entire presentation was a little bit too formal, and as I have gotten used to presenting more, I have been going without a script and have decided to talk more naturally. The power point slides prompt me about the topic, and I just talk about it. I am less nervous now that I used to be, and going unscripted is actually less nerve racking than reading a script, because you can’t really mess up as long as you know what you are talking about. Also, with unscripted speaking, you can get other members of the team to pitch in and say something… which is what I want to move towards in our presentations… more contribution from the entire team, instead of just me.
I have found that public speaking has generally come easily to me…I have no idea why, but I have always been comfortable explaining to large groups of people my thoughts, knowledge, or opinions. I have also had an acting background from when I was younger…I learned how to project my voice and get over having stage fright. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still get nervous… I am always a little bit jittery before I give a presentation… but usually after I start talking the nervousness goes away.
I am not totally sure what advice I would give to those who are less “public speaking inclined”… but I would say that when you are learning to speak publicly, use a script for the first few times… make notecards that you can read off of. But if you do this, make sure that you maintain eye contact with your audience by looking away from your card every time you finish a sentence. However, the tough part about looking away is finding where you left off. In order to keep from losing my place, I often use my finger to track where I was reading last. I generally conceal this by placing my notecards/script on the podium or a music stand, and then rest my hands on the cards… pointing to what words/sentences I am on so I can easily see where I left off.
Once you get more familiar with the topic, and have spoken about the topic mulitple times, then I would advise getting away from the notecards and scripts, and start speaking naturally on your own. When you speak naturally, you get a better connection with the audience because it is more personal. I also find that scripted speaking in front of a small, personal audience can be somewhat awkward, and therefore speaking without a script makes your presentation alot more adaptable. The problem with unscripted speaking is making sure that you don’t forget to talk about key topics that will help your presentation. I use power point slides to prompt me about what topic to speak about next, but if you dont have a power point presentation, try writing an outline that you can refer to when trying to figure out what to say next, and not leave anything important out.
One other thing to remember… whether you are speaking with or without a script… always project your voice, and use a microphone if possible! At one of the presentations I did for the local Rotary Club, there were alot of elderly people in the audience, and we had no microphone. Alot of them struggled to hear what we were saying, and some of the team members that spoke up didn’t speak loud enough for them to hear. Also make sure that you put energy into your presentation… don’t just stand there expressionless, speaking in a flat, monotone voice. Engage your audience! Smile! Most likely you will be talking about something that you care about, and that you have a passion for. Let it show!
I hope this helped! Good luck to everyone who is doing public speaking!