There’s no way to avoid public speaking as a college student. Most college students have a fear of public speaking. Every student in college is required to give a speech or presentation in class at one point or another. Standing in front of a room full of people may make some students nervous or uneasy.
“It is hard to get in front of an audience because you can’t hide. The fear of public speaking is something we [people] all have,” said Lorena Riffo-Jensen, the President of VOX CREATIVE public relations firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. Riffo-Jensen has been in public relations for 17 years.
Riffo-Jensen offers some tips to help students get over the intimidation of public speaking.
The more students speak in front of an audience, the easier public speaking gets. Build rapport with the audience. Think of your audience as conversing with them. Maintain eye contact at all times with the audience.
Anytime students have the opportunity to speak in front of an audience, students should take the opportunity. As with anything else, the more a person practices an action, the more natural the person becomes at that action.
Build rapport with the audience. Students can engage their audience by asking questions relevant to the topic being presented or by sharing stories that are associated with the presentation or speech that the audience can relate to.
Students need to remember they are having a conversation with each person in the audience. Although the audience does not respond, the audience is still listening.
Maintain eye contact at all times with the audience. It is hard for students to keep eye contact with the audience because it is overwhelming to see so many faces in the audience. Keeping eye contact is a way of building report with the audience. Eye contact also makes a strong public speaker and makes the presentation more effective.
“The fear of public speaking is mostly the fear of self-consciousness. That is why students need to be prepared before giving their presentation,” said Riffo-Jensen.
Create an outline. If students make an outline of their presentation, students will be more prepared. By creating an outline, students have a plan of how they want to present to their audience. An outline serves as a road map to the student when in front of the audience. If a student gets nervous during their presentation, the student can refer to their outline.
Students should speak in the areas they are comfortable with. Students should shy away from subjects they do not know enough about. The presentation will be weak if not enough information is given. It also causes embarrassment if the student does not know the answer to a question that is brought up by the audience.
One thing a student should always do is practice. Students should practice in front of a mirror or a group of friends or family.
“After so many years of experience in public relations, I still get nervous at times. But not as much as when I first started. I’ve done it [public speaking] so much that speaking in front of an audience has become natural to me,” said Riffo-Jensen.