1. Wear a blazer to cover up sweaty pits.
Unless you have that armpit Botox, you’re going to sweat. A blazer or cardigan is a good way to hide the inevitable sweat circles. If it’s hot and you’re wearing just a blouse, avoid colors (like light blue) and fabrics (like silk) that show wet patches more.
2. That blazer will also help you keep your shoulders squared back without making your chest seem obscene
Posture is important! But women know that just pulling your shoulders back can be a little…too boobiful? It sucks, but it’s true.
A blazer helps keep your shoulders somewhat straight just because of the cut, and gives the illusion you’re not slouching. Plus, the modesty of a blazer offsets whatever business you have going on in the front when you pull your shoulders back.
7. Wear your glasses. It makes you look smarter (really).
I know, it seems so stupid, right? But it actually works: According to a British study, 40% of test subjects thought a person looked smarter when they were wearing glasses.
Obviously, don’t go out and get fake frames if you don’t need glasses, and don’t wear them if they’ll impair seeing into the audience (if you use them just for reading). But if you have the option to wear glasses, wear them!
8. Make eye contact with your audience.
It’s easy to sort of just glaze your eyes over the room, but if you’re presenting to a smaller group (like in a meeting room, not a giant auditorium), try to lock eyes for two seconds with each person.
It keeps people engaged — think of it like when a band gives a shout-out to the people in the back or the sides of a stadium.
9. Don’t wear jewelry that will make a lot of noise or is distracting to your audience.
Bangle bracelets that jingle whenever you move your hands or earrings that swing as you talk will distract your audience. People are like ravens and will focus on shiny objects. Great for fashion, but not if you want to keep people’s attention completely focused on your words.
10. Break your bad “filler word” habits: um, like, you know, literally, actually, sorta…
This is REALLY hard to do. Not only can using filler words undermine your point and your credibility, it’ll distract the audience when they notice your weird vocal tic.
This isn’t something you can easily turn off right when it’s time to give a “serious” talk. The best way to rid yourself of these filler words as well as “upspeak” — the Valley girl way of ending sentences like a question? — is to really commit to fixing it.
Record yourself speaking and be horrified. Record yourself again and be slightly less horrified. Repeat until you don’t totally want to, like, die, you know? Ask a close friend to help you and point out when you’re saying “like” (or whatever your filler word or phrase is). It’ll drive you nuts and make you hate this person for a while, but it’s worth it.
11. Always have a drink of water handy.
You’d be surprised at how thirsty talking for 10 minutes straight can make you! If you start to get a dry throat, it can make it harder to talk. A glass is better than a bottle since you don’t have to awkwardly unscrew the cap.
If possible, avoid coffee or tea, which will just get cold and gross as it sits there for 15 minutes.
12. Give yourself a break from speaking by letting people ask questions.
If you find yourself running out of breath from talking so much (this happens!) or just at an awkward pause, ask the audience if they have any questions. It’ll give you a minute to regroup, even if no one has a question.
Whether you let people ask questions through your speech or only ask for questions at the end is up to your own presenting style and the size of the group. But taking that pause for questions is a secret little trick you can use when you need a moment.
13. Before you get up to talk, try sitting like a man. When you take up more space, you have a bigger presence.
Yes, this is inadvisable if you’re wearing a short skirt (without sounding like your mother, maybe this is a good reason to wear something longer). When we take up more physical space, we feel and appear more powerful.
When we cross our legs and cross our arms, the body language we’re sending out is less confident. Try “sitting like a man” with your legs all splayed out for a few minutes — it’s way more comfortable, right? Don’t be like a subway jerk all sprawled out all over the place, but find a happy medium where you aren’t shrinking into your chair.
14. Do a “power pose” before you speak to give yourself confidence and lower stress.
Amy Cuddy is a researcher who found that people who did “power poses” like the ones Oprah and Mick are doing here can actually raise testosterone and lower cortisol, the stress hormone. Just doing one of these poses for two minutes in the bathroom ahead of time is enough to change your body chemistry to give you a little more confidence and calm your nerves.
The flip side is that if you do a “low power pose” for two minutes beforehand, it will have the opposite result. A low power pose is where you’re sort of scrunching up your body — crossing your legs and arms, hunching, or holding your neck.
The key takeaway: Your body language BEFORE you actually do public speaking will affect how you come off to your audience. Take two minutes to stretch in a bathroom stall!
15. Don’t spend the whole time staring at your own PowerPoint!
If you’re presenting something on a screen, it can be tempting to just stare at it the whole time and read off it. Don’t do that!
If you have a TON of information on each slide that you need to read off, maybe rethink your presentation. An option is to create a paper handout supplement to pass out, and keep your slides lean and focused.
16. Most importantly: Here’s what to do with your hands: Just let them hang at your sides. That is all.
Is there anything scarier than the “What do I do with my hands?” panic?
Just. Let. Them. Drop. To. Your. Sides.
There. Easy and natural.
It’s fine to do some gesturing, that’s normal. It would be weirder if you NEVER moved your hands. The whole idea is to avoid the awkward hand movements that make you appear nervous.
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