How to Improve your Public Speaking

It’s not unusual to be daunted by the thought of public speaking but there are a few key ingredients for success.

Passion, a considered message and an awareness of your audience will make your public speaking sparkle.

Public speaking in a corporate event

Seeking advice from the professionals, we’ve collated some excellent tips.

What the professionals say on improving your public speaking

Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation, teaching public speaking and leadership skills, offers five tips.

They are:

  • Be prepared and rehearse – this will alleviate some of your nerves and help ensure you cover everything you want to
  • Start your speech with a powerful opening to grab attention – engaging the audience from the very start will make a great first impression and help them to realise you have something interesting and relevant to impart
  • Try to adopt a conversational tone rather than just reading notes – no-one likes to listen to a robot and whilst rehearsing and practising is important, being willing to accept a little fluctuation and variation in the words you choose will bring your speech to life
  • Be kind to yourself and try not to get frustrated by a mistake – sometimes a stumble or mistake can even work in your favour, breaking the tension and helping the audience to will you on
  • Speak with passion – really believe in what you’re saying and your message. This may be the most important point of all. If you know your subject and believe in your message, much of the rest of public speaking will fall into place.

Speaking with passion will enhance your message

Speaking with passion, is a point that is strongly echoed in advice in TED talk curator Chris Anderson’s secret guide to public speaking video.

In it, he said, your number one task as a speaker is to build an idea in the minds of your audience.

He added: “Ideas really matter. If communicated properly they are capable of changing forever how someone thinks about the world and shaping their actions both now and well into the future. Ideas are the most powerful force shaping human culture.”

He advises that, before speaking, you need to first scrutinise whether your idea is of real value to the audience and worth sharing.

He says you should:

  • limit your talk to one major idea and make it a central theme that everything you say links back to
  • ensure you spark the curiosity of your audience by outlining why something doesn’t make sense, which your idea addresses
  • build your idea with familiar concepts such as relevant analogies the audience can relate to.

Businesswoman doing public speaking

Give detailed consideration to your audience

Consideration of audience is also underlined in a guide from speaker bureau and celebrity booking agents NMP Live, which offers an interestingly different perspective.

The guide ‘how to choose the best motivational speaker for your event’ focuses on how an effective speaker will have a highly relevant message.

That need not mean the speaker is from the same industry or culture as the audience. In fact, a message is often more powerful if the speaker is from a different ‘world’ because they (or you as the speaker) are more likely to offer a new and interesting perspective. Rather, it is about ensuring you know enough about the audience to know what message you can deliver to them that will really be new, useful and inspirational.

The guide says: “As with any type of communication, the key questions are: Who are you talking to and what message are you trying to convey?”

Proper consideration of that is the very first and most vital step toward a great public speaking performance.

A final word from a communication expert

Majorie North, who runs a private practice specialising in public speaking offers a number of useful points in a post for Harvard Extension School, but one in particular is a great final takeaway.

North reminds speakers that including anecdotes brings messages and speeches to life, being aware of your non-verbal communication also speaks volumes and helps avoid distraction, plus, concluding with a strong statement is powerful. However it is her comments about not presuming failure or seeking perfection that are best.

She reminds us that nerves are normal and just because we feel them it does not mean our public speaking will fail. She also states that “good communication is never perfect and nobody expects you to be” – there’s a lesson for life in there, not just for public speaking!

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