Part 2 “Public Speaking Can Kill Us”
First make sure that you plan your communication appropriately. When you do this, think about how important a book’s first paragraph is. If it doesn’t get your attention, you’re likely not going to read this. The same principle applies for your speech from the beginning you need to intrigue your audience.
For example, you could start with an interesting statistic, headline, or fact that pertains to what you’re talking about and resonates with your audience. You can also use story telling as a powerful opener.
Planning also helps you to think on your feet. This is especially important for unpredictable questions and answers or last-minute communications. Remember that not all public speaking will be scheduled. You can make good impromptu speeches by having ideas and mini-speeches pre-prepared. It also helps to have a strong understanding of what’s going on in your organization and industry.
We all have heard, “Practice makes perfect!” You simply cannot be a confident and compelling speaker without practice. One of the best things you can do is to practice your presentation if you want to improve your presentation skills. You can practice in front of a mirror, in the shower, or in front of close friends or family members.
If you’re going to be delivering a presentation or prepared speech, create it as early as possible. The earlier you put it together, the more time you’ll have to practice. Practice it plenty of times alone using the resources you’ll rely on at the event and as you practice, tweak your words until they flow smoothly and easily. Then, if appropriate, do a test run in front of a small audience which will help you calm your jitters and make you feel more comfortable with the material. Your audience can also give you useful feedback both on your material and on your performance.
You can choose from many presentation structures. The most effective approach when you speak to a business group is to state your conclusions first, the actions required then follow with supporting information. The scientific method that many of us learned in school is the most boring and ineffective presentation structure to use with a business group.
Q & A is another presentation structure that you can use when public speaking. Q & A presentation structure feels more like you are having a conversation.
To understand something, we need images. To illustrate and emphasize your key points, use models, large white board, overheads, posters, PowerPoint, video, pie charts, bar graphs or other creative media. Images can contribute more to the success of your presentation then words. In the listeners’ minds, paint word pictures that create images. Your audience will most likely understand and remember your message.
At the heart and soul of successful communication, the presentation must tell a story. Stories are as old as our ability to communicate. It has always been our most profound, most lasting form of contact between people. There is a potential powerful story in every presentation, in every culture. The effect has been amazing and gratifying. The best public speakers are story tellers. For your presentation, use stories and anecdotes to illustrate and reinforce the main points of your presentation. Personal stories are the best tool to use because they are yours and they are easier to remember and make your presentation unique.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is reading word for word of your speech to the audience. Notes should be limited when presenting. This allows one to make good eye contact with the entire audience. Instead, make a list of important points on note cards or as you get better at public speaking try to memorize what you’re going to say. You can still refer back to your note cards when you need them. Come in before the meeting to check out the needed equipment. Set-up early so you don’t waste time trying when it’s time to present and get things done.
Engage with Your Audience-
When you speak, try to engage your audience. This makes you feel less isolated as a speaker and keeps everyone involved with your message. If appropriate, ask leading questions targeted to individuals or groups and encourage people to participate and ask questions.
Keep in mind that some words reduce your power as a speaker. For instance, think about how these sentences sound. Also, pay attention to how you’re speaking. If you’re nervous, you might talk quickly. This increases the chances that you’ll trip over your words or say something you don’t mean. Force yourself to slow down by breathing deeply. Don’t be afraid to gather your thoughts; pauses are an important part of conversation and they make you sound confident, natural, and authentic.
Positive thinking can make a huge difference to the success of your presentation because it helps you feel more confident. Use positive affirmations such as “I’m grateful I have the opportunity to help my audience” or “I’m going to do well!”
Look Your Best
Talk directly to your audience. Conversations are the best presentations that are delivered. Eye contact is a powerful element of successful presentation skills.
Before you start speaking, smile. When you smile that is your best look and it shows that you appear to be trustworthy, friendly, and confident.
If you’re unaware of it, your body language will give your audience constant, subtle clues about your inner state. If you’re nervous or if you don’t believe in what you’re saying, the audience will know it.
Pay attention to your body language by making sure to stand up straight, take deep breaths, look people in the eye, and smile. Don’t lean on one leg or use gestures that feel unnatural.
Many people prefer to speak behind a podium when giving presentations. While podiums can be useful for holding notes, they put a barrier between you and the audience. They can also become a crutch giving you a hiding place from the dozens or hundreds of eyes that are on you.
Instead of standing behind a podium, walk around and use gestures to engage the audience. This movement and energy will also come through in your voice making it more active and passionate.
Whenever possible, record your presentations and speeches. You can improve your speaking skills dramatically by watching yourself later and then working on improving in areas that didn’t go well. As you watch, notice any verbal stalls such as “um” or “like.” Look at your body language: are you swaying, leaning on the podium, or leaning heavily on one leg? Are you looking at the audience? Did you smile? Did you speak clearly at all times? Pay attention to your gestures. Do they appear natural or forced? Make sure that people can see them especially if you’re standing behind a podium. Lastly, look at how you handled interruptions, such as a sneeze or a question that you weren’t prepared for. Does your face show surprise, hesitation, or annoyance? If so practice managing interruptions so that you’re even better next time.
Public Speaking Skills:
1. Research a Topic- Good speaker’s stick to what they know. Great speakers research what they need to convey their message.
2. Focus-Help your audience grasp your message by focusing on your message. Stories, humor, or other sidebars should connect to the core idea.
3. Organize Ideas Logically- A well-organized presentation can be absorbed with minimal mental strain. Bridging is key.
4. Employ Quotations, Facts, and Statistics- Don’t include these for the sake of including them but do use them appropriately to complement your ideas.
5. Master Metaphors- Metaphors enhance the coherence of the message in a way that direct language often cannot.
6. Start Strong and Close Stronger- The body of your presentation should be strong but your audience will remember your first and last words.
7. Incorporate Humor- Knowing when to use humor is essential. So is developing the comedic timing to deliver it with greatest effect.
8. Vary Vocal Pace, Tone, and Volume- A monotone voice is like fingernails on the chalkboard.
9. Analyze Your Audience-
Deliver the message they want or need to hear.
10. Interact with the Audience-
Ask questions and care about the answers. Make your presentation a dialogue.
11. Lead a Discussion-
Not every speaking opportunity affords time for a discussion, but know how to engage the audience productively.
12.Obey Time Constraints-
Customize your presentation to fit the time allowed and respect your audience by not going over time.
13. Craft an Introduction-
Set the context and make sure the audience is ready to go whether the introduction is for you or for someone else.
14. Exhibit Confidence and Poise-
These qualities are sometimes difficult for a speaker to attain but easy for an audience to sense.
15. Handle Unexpected Issues Smoothly-
Maybe the lights will go out or maybe the projector is dead. Have a plan to handle every situation.
16. Be Coherent When Speaking off the Cuff-
Impromptu speaking before, during, or after a presentation leaves a lasting impression too. Doing it well tells the audience that you are personable and that you are an expert who knows their stuff beyond the slides and prepare speech.
17. Seek and Utilize Feedback-Understand that no presentation or presenter is perfect. Aim for continuous improvement and understand that the best way to improve is to solicit candid feedback from as many people as you can.
18. Listen Critically and Analyze Other Speakers-
Study the strengths and weaknesses of other speakers.
If you speak well in public, it can help you get a job or promotion, raise awareness for your team or organization, and educate others. The more you push yourself to speak in front of others, the better you’ll become and the more confidence you’ll have.
Finally consider joining a local Toastmasters group in your city, they offer a great deal of information and opportunities to advance your skills in speaking in front of crowds or groups.