How To Improve Your Public Speaking

Today I am bringing together three contributors who have provided their 5TopTips on Public Speaking, a presentation or talk. They are JillSimpson of DEVA Training, Eugene Clark from People Growth and Erick Rainey of Rainworks

If you are new to public speaking a few nerves before you do your presentation can be useful to keep you focused but do not let your nerves get the better of you. The best way to overcome the anxiety is to prepare in advance. Do not leave it to the last minute, you are doing yourself and your audience a disservice. Being well prepared will boost your confidence, calm your nerves and make your talk far more enjoyable for both you and your audience.

It’s all in the preparation
Your preparation should be like an iceberg. You only see a tiny part of the iceberg, the rest is hidden below sea level, and what you say in your talk is like that tiny part while your preparation is that huge unseen part. For every minute you speak you should think about setting aside 30 minutes to an hour for your preparation. Do your research, structure your talk, prepare any slides and practice. Use your colleagues or family to practice on and ask their advice on to judge what works and what does not. If nothing else this will help you get a handle on the length of your talk; it is easy to prepare too much material and end up failing to satisfy your audience’s expectations because you have to arbitrarily drop sections of your material. If you cannot practice out aloud in front of others record your rehearsal on your webcam or the camera on your phone, when you watch it back you will see what to leave in and what to drop.

It’s about your audience
Consider your audience. What is it they want to hear, this can be very different from what you want to say. What do you know about your audience? Use that information to judge what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. If your content is relevant to your audience they will hang on your every word. Communicate your message from an angle that will really interest your audience. The language you use should be relevant to who you are speaking to. If you are talking to a non-expert audience it is more important than ever not to use industry-speak and buzz words, if you do you will fail to communicate effectively.

What’s your purpose
Think about the purpose of your talk and have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve. What is it you are trying to do to your audience: entertain them, persuade them or inform them? Are you selling a product, building awareness of your expertise, or trying to impress your peers? If you aren’t clear about your message from the outset, your audience certainly will not be.

Have structure
Give your talk structure. Like a good story it should have a beginning, middle and end. Most important is to have a strong introduction and a clear conclusion. If you think about movies they always open really powerfully and conclude in a strong fashion. Your speech should do exactly the same thing. Also a good way to think about your talk is the journalist’s perennial way of telling a news story. Tell the audience what you are going to say. Say it. Then tell them what you said. I do not mean repeat the same thing three times, instead it should be like this. A) Attractive, interesting or intriguing headline for your specific audience. B) The meat, detail or explanation that your audience needs or desires. C) A summary of what you said or of what your audience wanted to hear. However make sure A and C are powerfully memorable so that your audience continues to think about your message after you have finished your talk.

Have a call to action
If your intention is to have your audience do something as a result of your talk give them a clear call to action. Do not just stop speaking and hope the audience will do what you want, tem them precisely what they should do. They may be willing to do something with the information you have given them but unless you lead them they will not know what to do next. For instance, you could just say, visit my website or if you have made a video of your talk and put it on YouTube you might say, “if you have found this video interesting subscribe to my YouTube for more videos”.

Less is more. Since you are the expert you will have a library of knowledge about your niche but be selective with what you share and keep it simple. A memorable five minute talk is far better than twenty minutes of boring detail. Make sure every point you make is relevant for your audience so that you fascinate them with what you are saying. Remember not to give too much away; leave them wanting more. If you are promoting something, such as a book or your service, give your audience sufficient information to intrigue them to the point where they want to know more.

Be natural
Be yourself. Your audience has come to see you not dozens of PowerPoint slides or the back of your head as you fumble at your laptop. Find your voice and your personality as you present material that you know to be engaging and relevant to your audience. Do not rush, in fact speak more slowly than in a normal conversation, and pause to allow the audience to take in what you’ve said or to stress an important point. Remember to smile and share your enthusiasm for your subject. If you show it and show that you are enjoying sharing your knowledge your audience will appreciate it and learn more because of it.

Make a connection
Make sure you make eye contact with your audience. So often people skim or scan the audience but never take time to lock in and connect with people. If you do that you will build massive rapport very quickly and win the audience over to your side.

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