The fear of public speaking and the fear of failure are among the most common human fears. Since a job interview often brings up both of these fears, we can say with confidence that interviewing for a job is a very stressful thing indeed! Moreover, at any interview there are often not one but several specialists from the company present. And in some cases, candidates must make a presentation about themselves or a completed project.
Interview experience shows that the better a candidate is prepared, the more successful the outcome will be. This is where the tools of oratory come to the rescue. You can’t always make the fear disappear completely, but there are some simple tricks to reduce it:
- Prepare in advance what you are going to talk about.
- Think about possible questions regarding your presentation and prepare answers for them beforehand.
- Rehearse your presentation ahead of time.
Suppose you have a speech or interview scheduled. What can you do to be ready?
Preparing for the speech
Prepare a two- or three-minute presentation about yourself, and then rehearse in front of a mirror—or better yet, videotape yourself and watch the recording. Pay attention to the following:
- Are you looking directly into the camera (that is, are you practicing making eye contact)?
- Do you use filler words like “ah” and “uh”?
- How do you gesture? Gestures can be redundant or, on the contrary, closed.
- If you use written notes, how often do you refer to them?
- How fast do you talk? Many people talk too quickly when they are nervous.
- Does your story have structure, or do you jump from topic to topic?
Just watching yourself with the mindset of an outside observer is a simple way to help you prepare for a speech.
Preparing for presentation day
- Relax your body.
You’ll likely experience an increased heart rate on the day of your interview. Some experts recommend literally lying down for 60-to-90 seconds to reduce your heart rate. Another solution is to close your eyes and gently massage your eyeballs. An alternative is relaxation through tension: shake yourself or jump. Even giving yourself a little neck massage can help.
- Calm your breathing.
When stressed, a person breathes more often but with shorter breaths, so to calm down, you can try to focus on your breathing or take a deep breath.
It’s likely not all of these methods will suit you personally or will be appropriate for your circumstances, but you can always try some of them or come up with your own ideas.
Before and during the performance
- Drink water.
This can help with a dry throat, but it can also help if you need to pause and consider the answer to a question.
- Move and gesture.
During the speech, feel free to move around. This helps you relax and interact with the audience. Don’t cross your arms. If you are using a whiteboard, remember not to turn your back on the audience.
- Arrange for interactions (if applicable).
Have some planned interactions with the audience—questions you can ask the audience during the presentation. This helps you keep their attention.
Knowing these tips can help you break down the preparation for your presentation into several more manageable stages.
Mantra of the Speaker
As you prepare, it is also helpful to know the rules of public speaking—the so-called Mantra of the Speaker. These simple rules will help enhance the impact of your presentation and make it memorable.
- Word pictures always enhance the effect of a speech.
When describing an event or action, try to create an image in the mind of your audience. For example, you could say, "I ate ice cream," or you could say, "I ate a vanilla-flavored ice-cream cone." Your listeners will remember a vivid, detailed image much better than a plain, simple one.
- Have a positive attitude.
Your face should radiate positivity and convey energy to the audience. People will always listen to a positive and confident speaker.
- Develop your tone of voice.
It’s thought that people are more trusting of a low tone of voice. If you naturally have a deep voice, consider yourself lucky! If not, then you can practice pronouncing your speech more slowly and in a comfortable tone.
- Look into the eyes of audience members and hold their gaze.
Having a shifty gaze looks much worse than if you stop and look at someone for a few seconds.
- Work on your “speaker voice”.
When giving a presentation, your voice is your main source of energy. Your speech should be confident, moderately loud, and understandable to the audience.
- Wear comfortable clothes.
Try to choose the most comfortable clothes and shoes while still dressing appropriately for the occasion. The audience will form an opinion of you as a speaker in the first few seconds of your speech. If you adjust your clothes during the speech, it will distract from the speech topic and communicate insecurity.
- Be careful with the text of your speech.
Often new speakers prepare a full manuscript for a speech, but experienced speakers often only use key points. From personal experience, I can say that when using a fully written-out speech, we become, as it were, a “hostage” of our preparation. If we forget a part of it, we run the risk of getting completely confused.
In conclusion, we would like to recommend a few tools that have helped many people practice their public-speaking skills and gain self-confidence:
- Take a public-speaking course.
You can find courses both in person and online. A great example is the educational organization Toastmasters, which has over 300,000 members in 150 countries.
- Attend acting classes.
You can easily integrate courses like this into your schedule. They can help you gain self-confidence, they teach you to work with speech and texts, and they also serve as a platform for practicing speaking. An alternative would be to participate in amateur theater.
- Watch speeches and read books about famous speakers.
Some of the more popular books have been collated in Forbes' and Amazon's best-seller lists. You can also find the most popular TED talks on their website.
Some positions (sales, marketing, project management, etc.) involve frequent public speaking as a job duty. If you are interviewing for such a job, you should be aware that your speaking skills will be taken into account.
It is also worth noting that in our day and age, presentations are much more common in online formats. Speaking to a live audience is different from presenting on the internet. To learn more about online presentations, watch our Video Interview Tips from the June blog.