It is not an easy task to stand in front of a crowd and speak about something. Most of us would found ourselves cowered when it comes to facing and talking to a large number of people. Nevertheless, public speaking is important. Regardless of the career you choose, you need to be able to hold a conversation with people and speak in an effective and nonchalant manner.
Public speaking needs may arise in a company when you have to hold a meeting, make an announcement to the employees, or present a conference or an event. While there are no shortcuts to improving your public speaking skills, there are a few tips that can help you get a better grasp of your speaking skills in the face of a large crowd.
Let’s take a look:
BEFORE YOU GET ON STAGE
Understand what is expected of you and try to stand up to it
Get all the information you require to deliver a perfect public speech. When you have ample information ahead of time, you are more likely to prepare the speech and the presentation that connects with your audience and puts your ideas out effectively.
“Gather all of the information regarding location, technical setup, the time you’ll be speaking, dress, topics to include/avoid, type of presentation, etc.,” says Tara Goodfellow, a Muse career coach and owner of Athena Consultants.
Know your audience
The first step to delivering an effective public speaking session is to know and understand your audience. Knowing your audience beforehand prepares you for the type of presentation or speech you need to develop. “Make sure you understand the level of knowledge,” Goodfellow says, and curate your content accordingly. “You don’t want to bore them with details they already know nor do you want to overwhelm them.”
Josephine Lee, the third-place winner in the 2016 Toastmaster of World Championship of Public Speaking, stresses that even if she has to deliver the same speech twice, she takes her time to customize it according to the audience.
Your speech pattern, style of speaking, and engaging with the audience and word choices may change depending on your audience. For instance, the speech you deliver at an engagement party might be different from the one you deliver at a wedding ceremony.
The same goes with professional context.
The presentation you give your colleagues about the future of your company will vary from the one you deliver to the company executives.
Plan your speech
In order to deliver an effective speech, you must first prepare for it. How you say what you have to say and what structure you follow to deliver your message make up for a major part of how effective your speech is going to be.
“You can have great diction and you can have great presentation skills, but if your words and structure are all over the place then people are not going to remember what you said,” says Lee, who lauds Toastmasters for teaching her to write speeches. “It is 100% about simplicity because when you’re giving a speech in front of a live audience it’s so fleeting that if you have multiple points and if you go off on tangents and if you don’t stay on one simple path then people won’t remember what you were speaking about.”
Most good speakers tend to follow a pattern in their speech, regardless of how long they have to speak. Good speakers make the theme of their speech abundantly clear by giving supporting evidence and examples and creating everything around the central plot of the speech.
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Keep your slides minimal
You have to do all the talking while you are on stage; therefore, it is unnecessary and confusing to put a lot of text on your slides or make them too informational. The slides are there to assist your speech and not the other way around.
Keep the slides for the complementary visual role while you expand and explain your points. Make sure not to read directly from the slides but use them to stay on track and keep your speech effective.
If there is one thing that can practically improve your public speaking skills, it is practicing. The more you get used to talking in front of a large crowd, the better you will become at public speaking.
Narrate a story or a movie to your friends and family and try to hold their attention. You can also develop your own speech about a subject you are interested in and deliver it in your class. Practicing often makes you more comfortable and confident in your approach. It also makes you aware of your flaws and the areas that you need to improve.
Practicing on your own is a great way to improve your speaking skills, but you also need some feedback sprinkled through your practice session. Even if it is your brother or your close acquaintances who don’t have much knowledge of public speaking, you can speak in front of them and ask them where you can make improvements.
Ask them if your words were clear, did they get anything out of your speech, was there something that confused them, and were intrigued throughout. You can also give yourself feedback by recording your speech on your phone and listening to it.
Memorize Your First and Last Lines
To set your mind to the speech and let yourself reaffirm the ideas that you are going to talk about, memorize the first and the last sentences of your speech.
By memorizing the starting and the end lines of your speech, you automatically give your mind the room to speak naturally in between. Memorizing the whole speech is not going to sound normal, but remembering the starting and ending lines of the speech can set your mind to the process.
Join a Club
If you are enthusiastic about improving your public speaking skills, you should try to be a part of the real thing as much as possible. Joining a club and being a part of a public speaking community is as good as getting stage time with the audience.
You can join your local community or become a part of an online workshop. If you don’t have access to such communities, you can always make one with your friends and get much-needed feedback.
DURING THE SPEECH
Find your Zone
After a few minutes of getting on stage, try to find your zone and stay in it. Keep to yourself and think about how you are going to deliver your speech. Don’t let others distract you from your focus.
Everyone has a different stage mantra or routine that they follow to ease up before getting on stage. You can create your own routine. For instance, you can find a friend and talk to them casually about what you are going to talk about on stage, or you can practice on your own.
If practicing right before the speech is making you nervous, create some other routing that makes you comfortable. Breathe in and out and stay hydrated.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with notes
Amateur speakers tend to bury their heads in the notes and speak everything word by word. If you want to develop your speaking skills and retain the intention of your audience, you need to be able to improvise.
Notes act as your crutch, which is fine as they could be the last resort to assistance, but they also stop you from reaching your full potential
Make eye contact
Extending on the previous point, make sure to make eye contact with your audience. The best way to deliver your point across is to focus on one person at a time. Direct eye contact with one person and then another is nice to go about it.
Take a breather
Most new speakers talk endlessly without breaking their sentences, and it leads to a monotonous listening experience. You don’t have to rush through your presentation or the speech. The idea is to deliver your message as effectively as possible. So, take your time and pause every now and then to give yourself and your audience a break.
You can use the pauses strategically. For instance, after you have delivered an important message through your speech that you want your audience to think about, take a long pause. If you are delivering smaller ideas, take shorter pauses. This will help your audience take in your points easier and comprehensively.
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When you are speaking in public, your audience does not have the advantage of pausing or rewinding. This means you will have to repeat yourself, especially the central idea of your speech, every now and then.
Help your audience retain your message by repeating the take-home line at least six to eight times during the speech. The repetition makes sure everyone understands what you are talking about and why it is important so they can process the information later.
Be easy on yourself
Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone has to start from somewhere, and it is only after going through these experiences you will be able to get better. Understand that nobody is perfect, and it is our consistency and dedication that makes us better at any task.