Everyone wants to command winning communication in public speaking, the skill of good speech making isn’t something most people born with. The good news is that it can be learnt with thorough preparation and practice.
“There are always three speeches, for everyone, The one you practiced, The one you actually gave, and the one you wish to you gave”Dale Carnigie
How to become a better Public Speaker?
Public speaking is something you cannot avoid at some point of time you need to speak in public. That can be in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience. And it’s not just professional; you could be asked to speak in public at a party or even at a wedding. Whatever the situation, public speaking can be quite fearsome. For some people it is hard to admit that public speaking is worst fear for them. We might be worried outcome that affect the way that people think about us.
If you feel nervous about giving a speech, you are in very good company. Even the people having years of experience will still tell you that they feel those famous butterflies in their stomach before they get in front of an audience. Some of the great public speakers in history suffered from the stage fear Leonardo DiCaprio was so nervous about an acceptance speech that he hoped he would not win the Academy Award for which he had been nominated.
“There are only two types of speakers in the world (1) The nervous and (2) Liars.”Mark Twain
So here we are going to discuss the Five effective strategies for good public speaking.
Five Strategies to improve your public speaking skills
You don’t have to be naturally fascinating or extraordinary to be a good public speaker. The key to be a good speaker or presenter is preparation. Preparation allows you to focus on the what, when, and why you are speaking. By narrowing all the elements down, you become familiar with your subject. It allows you not only to give a more concise presentation but to reduce fear of the unknown. This produces fewer nerves and therefore more confidence on the actual day. Even the most polished and professional public speakers plan what they are going to say in advance.
“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain
Preparation is not limited to the subject matter. Warming up your body and vocal chords and creating a positive mindset are also pivotal to success. Remember, our body and mind are the tools we use to convey our message. The more relaxed and natural we appear, the more successful we will be arresting and maintaining our audience’s attention.
Knowing your audience is important for successful public speaking. These details will allow you to plan your speech accordingly, focus on the relevant content and ensure you go into the right level of detail.
2. Answer the questions
You need to find the answers of the following questions: Who? How? When? What? And why? Answers to these questions will help you create a speech and will help you capture and maintain your audience’s attention.
Let’s start with the first question: who? Who are your audience? Will it be a group of 100 people, 10 people, or 5? Depending on the size of your audience, the way you express the content of your presentation will be different. You should also ask yourself, how familiar is my audience with the subject I’m going to present? Are they beginners or experts? Will you be speaking to a tech savvy crowd, a room full of managers, or a group of students? By determining the demographic, you will be able to adjust your vocabulary accordingly. Audiences lose concentration, and stop listening to the speaker where the speaker assumes that the audience has the exact same background and knowledge as them.
The second question you need to ask yourself is: How will your presentation be made? Will it be face to face? Remote or online? Live? Or pre-recorded? You must also consider what equipment you will have at your disposal. Will you have a microphone and, if so, will it be worn or hand held? Also, will you be able to use slides for your presentation? Will there be a projector? Will you have to ask for a remote control? Depending on these answers, your hand gestures will differ. You’ll also know if you have the possibility of carrying notes.
The third question is when? When do I have to give this presentation? More importantly, how long does the speech have to be? Will it be two hours, one hour or five minutes? By defining the date and length of the presentation, you’ll know how much time you have to prepare yourself.
The next question is what? What are you going to talk about, exactly? It might sound obvious but it’s important to be able to prepare a well-structured speech. This means not deviating from details that are relevant.
Finally, the most important question is why? Why have you been asked to give this presentation? What makes you the best person for the job? Are you an expert on the subject? Do you have any experience to share? Maybe you’ve got certain qualities that can bring life to the presentation such as a good sense of humor. The point is, you need to know why you are there. Is it to inform, teach, or inspire your audience?
Note down all this information. Your ideas and plans will control the answers to these questions. It will also serve as an outline for your draft. Here’s a trick for getting started: make 2 columns; a “Before” and an “After”. Under the “Before” column you can write down everything that you think your audience will know before the presentation. In the “After” column, note everything that you want your audience to retain from your speech. From here, bridge the before and after by creating a middle column. This will be the content of your presentation. Try it out for yourself.
3. Body Language
Body language is as important as your content. It is non-verbal communication. The position of your body, the spacing of your legs, your arm movements, and your facial expressions are all part of it. For example, when you’re stressed, you may cross your arms or tap your foot. Unfortunately, an audience can interpret these gestures to mean that you’re either bored or that you don’t want to be there. It can also look unprofessional. Let’s look at some ways in which we can improve our body language while public speaking.
Standing and speaking in front of an audience can prove physically difficult, especially if you’re not used to it. We have a tendency to get tired and to shift our body weight from one leg to another or to cross our legs or to do a little dance like so. This results in giving the audience the impression of uncertainty, anxiousness, and even ungracefulness.
To avoid this, you need to be well-centered. This means having a strong, stable standing position. It will showcase greater confidence and power. Place your legs a little further than hip width apart. Remain loose and flexible. Your legs aren’t tight and your knees aren’t locked. Avoid slouching by keeping your back and head stretched and drawn up towards the sky. Imagine you have some kind of invisible thread pulling you upwards. Being centered does not mean staying still. Your legs are strong but you can still move and make gestures with your arms to accompany your words. This brings us to another important point: managing your movements.
If you have room to do so, you can walk. That being said, avoid walking for walking’s sake. Make sure you have a destination. Wandering aimlessly for no apparent reason can become distracting. It can also reveal that your nerves are getting the better of you. One thing you can do is to simply cross from one side of the stage to the other. Walk with purpose so that you can highlight transitions in your speech. When you change topic a few minutes later, walk back again. Notice how I’m not turning my back to the audience. This is useful for a variety of reasons. It changes perspective, allows you to catch your breath, but above all, it allows you to make a transition between two parts of your talk. In the audience’s mind, it marks a change which will help them follow the thread of your story.
Now, how about managing gestures? Good gestures begin with the palms of your hands facing upwards, towards the audience. Your arms should make full, rounded gestures, not closed ones. You can’t keep your arms folded! Keep your arms flexible, not glued to your body. Spread them a few centimeters away. Also, your arms or hands shouldn’t hide your face when you move. Your movements should be full but not exaggerated. This can sometimes be difficult if you are used to speaking with your hands. In that case, use the energy that you have from your nerves or the passion that you have for your speech and control those gestures. Use them to give examples such as “firstly, secondly, thirdly” or to make your audience feel included like so [open arms].
Things not to do: Don’t fold your arms in front of you or clasp them behind your back .Don’t lean on a table or a podium. Don’t click your pen or fiddle with an object as that can irritate and distract your audience .All of these movements give the impression of boredom or lack of confidence. They have the effect of cutting you off from the audience.
Now, who should you look at? Don’t fix your eyes on one single person the whole time. That will make the rest of the audience feel that you are addressing just that person. It could also make that person feel overwhelmed or embarrassed.
Instead, include the whole audience. Sweep the room, resting your gaze at several points. To do this, you can follow the W pattern. For example, rest your gaze for a few seconds on one person, then pass to another and so on until you reach the furthest point of the audience. When you reach the end, sweep the audience in the other direction. You can also change the direction of the W. Look, speak, then look again and speak again. Last but not least, remember to smile. Smile with your mouth but also with your eyes. If your eyes don’t smile, your smile will be forced. If you’re not happy to be there then the audience won’t want to be there either.
4. Manage Verbal jerks
Language is about what you say but also how you say it. This can completely change your audience’s perception of content when delivering a presentation. Beyond choosing a suitable register for your audience when speaking, it’s important to be aware of linguistic jerks. Linguistic jerks refer to things you repeat endlessly, without even being aware of it. These are often connecting words such as ‘like’, ‘basically’, ‘actually’, ‘so’, ‘and then’ and/or sounds such as ‘errrr’, clearing one’s throat or small intakes of breath. As it is correctly mentioned in quote,
“The most precious things in speech are the pauses” -Sir Ralph Richardson
In order to minimize your own verbal jerks you need to become aware of them. This way you can first learn to hear them and then work to change them. If you’re not sure you have any linguistic tics, film yourself. Take a subject that you haven’t prepared or written down and talk to the camera, so if your jerks are words, prepare synonyms in advance. Make yourself use them in your talk. If your jerks are sounds, replace them with silent pauses and breaths.
In general, the better you’ve prepared your content, the more your jerks will disappear. Practicing and training yourself in speaking will help you learn to control them. Preparation also helps to overcome stress and uncertainty. You’ll also manage any improvisation more effectively. It’s an excellent way of progressively eliminating bad habits.
5. Stress Management
One of the biggest concerns people have in public speaking is that famous feeling of stage fear: stress, nerves, butterflies in your stomach. It can be even more stressful when giving a professional presentation to your boss and colleagues. The first thing you need to remember is that those nerves are good. Nerves are a sign of energy, and energy gives us the power to make our audience listen to us.
It’s impossible to eliminate stress, but you can use it to your advantage. Reuse the energy in your body. Tell yourself that your heart is racing because you have something important to say. There are a few ways to effectively manage stress before a presentation. If you can, take a couple of minutes and find a private area. Stretch your body out and warm up and fine tune your vocal chords, and you’ll feel ready to go.
Just before getting on stage or entering the room, mentally repeat your first sentence. This will reassure you that you haven’t forgotten anything. Once you’ve said your first sentence aloud, you’ll be able to carry on with the rest of your talk.
Another very common stress symptom is dry mouth, which can interfere with elocution. Have a drink of water before starting. If possible, keep a bottle or glass of water close by in case you need to rehydrate during the presentation.
Similarly, stress can alter our ability to articulate well. To remedy this, do this simple exercise: Place your tongue between your upper and lower teeth like so; close your teeth firmly over your tongue (but don’t bite down too hard). While keeping your tongue between your teeth, say the first few sentences of your talk out loud; Release your tongue and speak normally. Your elocution should be much clearer. This exercise forces you to articulate well. By doing it just before your presentation you will train yourself to speak smoothly without stumbling.
Walking across the stage, centering your posture, managing your gestures and using the W method to look at your audience are techniques that allow you to occupy and to take charge of your space, helping you feel more confident and in control.
Remember to make yourself heard and understood. Sometimes you won’t have the aid of a microphone. You need to speak loudly, clearly, and articulate as much as possible. Keep in mind that the rhythm of your speech should be sustained but not too fast, and that certain words should be marked and emphasized. Silence can also be your friend. Adding small silences between certain sentences will help you to keep the audience’s attention for much longer.
However with all the preparation in the world, sometimes there can be unexpected problems. Memory lapse is one of the most common occurrences during professional presentations. Memory lapses don’t have to necessarily be something serious, as they can often be unnoticeable. The audience doesn’t necessarily pick up on a three second pause being a memory lapse. So, if you do go blank, take a few seconds and take a breath for the time it takes to get back on track. Be aware that even if the memory lapse lasts for longer, the audience won’t turn against you. They’re not waiting for you to trip up. They’re human, just like you.
The top tips to take away from this section are: You are there for a reason because you have something important to say. Be concise. Speak loudly and clearly; articulate. Look at your audience. And respect the time limit. And most importantly, nobody is hoping or expecting you to fail; have faith in yourself and know that YOU are the right person for the job.
- The key to be a good speaker or presenter is preparation.
- You need to find the answers of the following questions: Who? How? When? What? And why?
- The position of your body, the spacing of your legs, your arm movements, and your facial expressions are all part of body language.
- Manage linguistic jerks. It refers to things you repeat endlessly, without even being aware of it.
- It’s impossible to eliminate stress, but you can use it to your advantage.
- How to become a better public speaker
- How to prepare a presentation
- Key information needed for efficient preparation
- How to become aware of linguistic jerks
- Why body language is important
- How postures, gestures, and facial expressions can improve your presentations
- What linguistic jerks are?
- How to minimize linguistic jerks when speaking in public
- The benefits of elocution and articulation exercises
- How to stay calm if you make a mistake during a presentation
- How to manage stress and nerves when giving a presentation