All of us have to speak in public at least once in our lifetime. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a speech given in a team meeting or before a large audience. Whatever the case, big or small, learning how to become a better public speaker is invaluable.
This can either be done perfectly well or horribly, and the outcome of your speech dramatically influences the way people see us. For this reason, several individuals develop a lot of concern and anxiety when asked to do any sort of public speaking. However, there’s some hope. With detailed and in-depth preparation and some practice, you can conquer every fear, anxiety, and nervousness and do well when giving a speech.
Why you should master public speaking
Although you may not need to make presentations in front of a group or large audiences regularly, there are several situations where your excellent public speaking skills can come in handy in your career and open you up to new opportunities. For instance, you may be required to give a speech after receiving an award or speak about your company or organization at a conference or meeting or teach new recruits in your company.
Public speaking isn’t just limited to physical presentations but also online talks or presentations. For example, when training a virtual team or speaking to customers or partners during an online meeting. Excellent public speaking skills aren’t just crucial in official settings but also in other areas of your life. It could come in handy when you need to give a eulogy, make a speech at a wedding or any family celebration, or give inspirational speeches at charity events.
In a nutshell, acquiring excellent public speaking skills come with several advantages. It can boost your reputation, improve your self-confidence, and open you and your business to endless opportunities.
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Just as excellent public speaking skills can open one to several opportunities, poor skills can ruin opportunities. For instance, you can lose a promotion after giving a badly-given presentation, or you can lose a significant contract as a result of a poorly done sales pitch, and so on.
Learning how to speak publicly well is highly essential and should be taken seriously.
Becoming a better public speaker
If you are worried about how you can become a better public speaker, there’s good news. Public speaking is entirely learnable. The tips given below can be used to help you become a better public speaker.
Make proper plans
When preparing to make a public speech, regardless of what type, you must make appropriate plans. This includes methods on the kind of communication tools you intend to use. Some of these tools include the 7C’s of communication, the Rhetorical Triangle, and Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. These tools help you to structure your speech and also guide you on how to say it.
When making plans, put into consideration how important the beginning of your speech is. Like a book with a boring first paragraph or introduction, a speech with a boring introduction is less likely to grab your audience’s attention. You need to get your audience’s interest within the first few minutes of your speech. There are several ways you can do this, either by starting your speech with a captivating statistic, fact, or headline that falls in line with your speech and is also relatable with your audience.
Making use of storytelling as your opener can also work just as well. Planning also keeps you on your toes and helps you handle unpredictable and unexpected question during question and answer sessions or last-minute speeches or communications.
Note that not every public speech you give will be part of your schedule. To avoid being taken unawares, you can prepare ideas or mini-speeches ahead of time. This would help you deliver great impromptu public speeches and allow you to have an excellent and in-depth understanding of the happenings in your company or organization.
Practice definitely makes perfect
The maxim “practice makes perfect” isn’t just a platitude. It’s a reality that finds true expression when put into work. Nobody becomes a confident and engaging speaker without any practice. The most important thing when it comes to how to become a better public speaker is practice.
To practice, you can search for opportunities to speak in gatherings, regardless of the size. For instance, you can attempt putting yourself in situations that would require you to engage in public speaking like volunteering to speak at company team meetings or getting involved in cross-training groups from other departments. If you are chosen, appointed, or invited to deliver a presentation or give a speech, prepare it as early as possible. Doing this will provide you with more time to practice.
Practice your speech or presentation as many times as you like. You can do this, making houses of the resources you would use at the event or meeting. While practicing, you can also tweak words or sentences until you achieve a smooth and easy flow. If you can and/or, if appropriate, you can also practice by running your speech or presentation in front of a small audience (dummy run). This would help reduce jittering and help you become comfortable with your speech, presentation, or material. Your audience can also contribute by giving sincere feedback on your performance and the material too.
Engage your audience
If you want to become a better public speaker, you must try to engage your audience as much as possible. This would reduce the feeling of isolation as a speaker and carry everyone along while passing your message. If allowed or deemed appropriate, you can also ask some leading questions. This could be targeted at individuals or groups to encourage engagements and interactions.
Please note that, as a speaker, certain words or sentences can reduce your power. For example, take a look at some statements: “I just want to say that I think we can achieve this” or “I just have a feeling that this plan is our best shot.” Words such as “just” and “I think” can limit and reduce your authority. You should avoid them as much as you can. The term “actually” doesn’t sit well, as it sends a message of surprise, obscurity, and even submissiveness. You should also pay close attention to how you speak. When you feel nervous, you are likely to talk quickly. Doing this would increase the risk of tripping over your words or saying something off.
If you notice this, try to get yourself to slow down by taking deep breaths. You shouldn’t be afraid to take some pauses and gather your thoughts. During your speech, these occasional pauses are significant and make you sound more authentic, confident, and natural too. When making a presentation or even giving a speech, try not to avoid reading your notes word-for-word. Rather than doing this, you can create a list of the most critical points on a paper or cue cards. You can also memorize this list as you get better at public speaking.
Watch out for body language
Your body language is just as important as the quality of your speech. It can give your audience a clue of what your inner state is like. It can give out your nervousness or disbelief in what you are saying. Pay rapt and close attention to your body language: stand up straight, take deep breaths, look people in the eye, and smile. You should avoid leaning on one leg or use gestures that feel forced or unnatural.
Several people prefer speaking behind podiums when making their presentations or giving speeches. Although podiums could help hold your notes or system, they can be a barrier between you and your audience as the case may be. However, they can serve as a hiding place from the many eyes on you. Rather than standing behind the podium, try walking around, using gestures, and maximally utilizing your stage to engage and interact with your audience. Your movement will make your voice sound more passionate and active.
Positive thinking is vital
Positive thinking would go a long way in determining how successful your presentation or speech is. It helps you to be a lot more confident and communicate your information better. Fear also makes some negative impacts. It makes it easier for you to slip into negative self-talk and thoughts. This usually comes up right before speaking. You end up thinking horrible and self-sabotaging thoughts such as “I’ll perform badly,” “I’ll never get good at this,” and so on. Such ideas can kill your confidence and increase the risk of delivering a bad speech or presentation.
You can make use of affirmative words and also try to visualize yourself doing great. This can go a long way in improving your confidence. This comes in handy mostly before your presentation or speech. Positive visualization and affirmations help reduce nervousness and increase your chances of delivering a successful presentation and speech. Thereby making a positive difference in your audience as well.
Put up with your nerves
How many times have you watched or listened to a speaker who did very poorly? When people have to make public speeches or presentations, a lot of them imagine a bunch of terrible things happening. They imagine passing out due to nervousness, forgetting significant points, or doing so poorly that they lose their jobs. However, a lot of these things do not come to pass. They only build up a lot of tension and fear in our minds, therefore making us more nervous than we ought to be.
Several people mention public speaking as one of their biggest fears, which is usually due to the fear of failure. Public speaking is capable of triggering “fight or flight” responses. You sweat, you start having palpitations, and your breath for some reason becomes shallow and faster.
These symptoms, although annoying, can improve your performance through the pressure. If you can adjust your mindset, you can channel this nervous energy to make an advantage for yourself.
Channel your focus correctly
You should make most of your effort to quit thinking about yourself, your fear, or anxiety. Channel all your focus to your audience: your presentation or speech is about them. Always remind yourself that your speech or presentation aims to educate or offer some help to them and that the message you are trying to communicate is more important. Try to channel all focus on what your audience needs and wants instead of yours. Also, if time permits, you can use deep breathing exercises to lower your heart rate. This is most important to do before you start speaking and when learning how to become a better public speaker. Take each deep breath from your belly, hold each for some seconds before letting it out slowly.
Large audiences are obviously more intimidating than individuals, so when preparing your speech, think of it as a conversation, you intend to have with one individual. Regardless of how large your audience is, try to single out friendly faces and focus on them, one face at a time, then talk to that person like he /she is the only one you are speaking to.
Watch recordings of speeches you have done
Whenever you can, try to record your speeches and/or presentations. By doing this, you can significantly improve your public speaking skills because it gives you a chance to improve on areas that didn’t work out well.
While watching, watch out for certain words such as “like” or “um,” carefully observe your body language: are you completely leaning on one leg, swaying too much, leaning on your podium, looking away from your audience? smiling, inaudible?
Pay close attention to the gestures you make and try to determine if they look forced or natural. Ensure that your audience can see them, even if you are standing behind a podium.
Lastly, how well did you handle abrupt interruptions? Like sneezes or even questions you didn’t expect. Did your face show any surprises, annoyance, or hesitation? If yes, you need to practice more to effectively manage these interruptions smoothly when next you encounter them.
Mastering this skill is essential, and getting a coach to help you master it would definitely pay off in the long run. However, you can learn how to become a better public speaker. Utilizing these tips to upgrade your presentation game helps you effectively overcome the widespread fear of public speaking while helping you become much more effective.
Speaking well in public comes with a lot of benefits. You can get access to job opportunities, promotions at your workplace, get chances to educate others, and so on. The extent to which you are willing to push yourself to speak in small or large gatherings determines how much better you will become and helps build your confidence.