By Rachel Britton
Do you have an upcoming research presentation or wedding toast? Are you afraid to make eye contact during a speech? From campus to home, there are plenty of ways to enhance your presentation skills.
Where to Start
It is essential to start off by creating an outline of your main discussion points. This outline will help keep your speech well organized for both you and your audience. If need be, consider marking on your outline where you plan to take short breaths. This can be especially useful if you tend to talk really fast when you are placed in front of an audience.
After your outline has been completed and you know exactly what you want to talk about, slowly start practicing your speech in front of a mirror or a few friends. You can also try recording yourself, either with your phone or with a camera, and listen to or watch your presentation. Pay attention to your body language as well as your speech. Your body language says a lot more about your presentation skills than the actual speech does.
Continue to record yourself and practice in front of others until you feel prepared, then drop your notes and rehearse from memory. If you are finding it difficult to practice without notes, relax for a few hours and try again.
If you want some extra help, consider making an appointment at one of the speech labs on Allendale’s campus located at 154 Lake Michigan Hall and at the Knowledge Market in the Pew Library. There are also consultants on Grand Rapids campus in the Steelcase Library.
Speech Lab consultants are able to help you with organizing your speech, selecting your topic, and practicing your presentation, among other things. You can find their hours for each location and set up an appointment on Grand Valley’s Speech Lab website.
We tend to think we are ready to present until we step in front of an audience. Make sure to start by yourself to fix small mistakes, and then move on to recording yourself and presenting in front of others for greater accuracy. Don’t be afraid to ask others for critiques and advice. If you start early and practice multiple times in different settings, eventually you will find yourself practicing without notes and presenting with ease.
Your Big Day
Right before you start your speech, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it is okay to be nervous. If you forget something, stay calm and move on to your next point. Make eye contact occasionally and be confident in yourself. Everyone gets nervous, but not everyone practices for their speech.