7 Tips to Improve your Public Speaking
We all have to speak in public one time or another, and according to some (somewhat doubtful) research, public speaking is the number one fear of most people. However, with some preparation, mostly anyone can do a pretty good job at it. There isn’t as much magic to public speaking as some make it seem. By implementing the following 7 Tips anyone can come across as a pretty good speaker. You don’t believe me??? Try it!
1. Dress for success! While this might seem an obvious one, I regularly encounter speakers who majorly underdress or (some) overdress. The thumb of rule is, of course, better be overdressed than underdressed. Your audience wants to look up to you and good “packaging” will enhance your image tremendously. When unsure, contact the event organizer and find out what is the expected attire for speakers.
2. Develop a great intro and closing and practice them till you can say them forward and backward even in your dreams! There are only few things screaming “I’m not a professional” than someone starting their presentation with excuses or some weak mumbo-jumbo. Start your presentation with a quote, an intriguing question, humor, or a short story, or even magic; then link your intro to the topic of the day. Close your presentation by bringing up elements of your intro and build to a strong finish to elicit your well-deserved applause. One of my favorite techniques is the short suspense story that captivates the audience, then without finishing it, link it to the topic of the day. Then as a closing of the presentation, bring up again the suspense story, make a comparison to the topic again, and this time finish it.
3. Notice your tendency to use “Ah’s,” Mmm’s” and other fillers in your presentation! It can become really annoying when a speaker is uncomfortable with pauses in between sentences or while thinking, and fills those gaps with “Ahhh..,” “Mmm.,” or other sounds. Another, almost equally, annoying fillers are the constantly repeated “You know what I mean,” “You see what I’m saying,” and other constantly repeated fillers. There are two good ways to raise your awareness about these fillers: a) record one (or more) of your presentation(s) and listen with an ear for filers; b) Join your local Toastmasters International club – they are really good about helping you break your filler habits. (I had around 60 “Ahh’s” and “Mmmm’s” in my first speech I delivered at Toastmasters. By the time I gave my 7th or 8th speech I had zero fillers.) Once you are aware of your tendencies of using certain fillers, you can consciously take steps to eliminating them.
4. Don’t overwhelm your audience with too much information! Do you want your audiences to leave with a sense of “This was great! Today I learned something?” Then narrow down the information you want to present in a way that will not overwhelm your audience. Ask yourself “What is it that the audience really needs to know about this topic?” Then break down that info into chunks that will fit the length of your presentation. At the end of your presentation give your audience information on how they can learn more about the topic – hopefully, by buying your book(s), tapes, CD, extended course, etc.
5. Build your presentation in an easy to follow format! Whether you are using PowerPoint, flip chart, or other methods to stay on track and to keep your audiences on track, make sure that you tell them in the introduction what points you will cover, then stick to the “plan” as close as possible. An easy way to accomplish this is by giving out handouts where participants can follow your train of thought. One of the most effective ways would be to have the main points spelled out on the handout, then have some fill-in-the-blanks fragments relating to each particular point.
6. Time yourself! When you practice, time each segment of your presentation and prepare a little cheat sheet (a 2 X 4 card, for example) that you will keep in your sight while you speak, right near a timer or watch. With this little “tool” you’ll always know whether you are on track. If you are running out of time, speed up or skip parts of your presentation and conclude with your rehearsed closing.
7. Keep eye contact! One of the biggest difficulties of novice public speakers is keeping eye contact with the audience. However, this is a very crucial element to come across as a great speaker. When a speaker keeps looking above the audiences head, the ceiling, the floor, etc., after a while the audience starts wandering “Who the heck is this guy talking to?” The easiest method to keeping good eye contact with your audience is by finding one smiling or friendly face and keep eye contact most of the time with that person… Then as the presentation moves on, start making eye contact (for a second or two) with some other audience members, but always returning to your smiling/friendly face. Then once you find another encouraging audience member, start keeping eye contact for some time period with this second person, while also wandering away to make eye contact with other audience members for a second or two. By following this method, usually one finds themselves more and more encouraged and the confidence gained that way will result in an easier flow of the message and more and more audience members will become engaged and be transformed into “friendly and smiling” faces.
Public speaking can be one of the most rewarding experiences. When applying the above 7 tips should make it more enjoyable for anyone, including your audiences who definitely do not want to see a speaker fail, mumble, talk to the walls, etc. People listen to a speaker to learn something or to get entertained; so follow the above tips and give your audience the great presentation they deserve.
————————————————————————————— © Copyright E.G. Sebastian, 2007. All rights reserved.
To hire E.G. to provide Public Speaking/Presentation Skills training – for groups or for individuals – call him toll-free at 877.379.3793, or contact him by E-mail at email@example.com.
E.G. Sebastian is an international speaker (speaks 6 languages), Certified DiSC Behavioral System trainer, and is an Authorized Inscape Distributor.