Not many people relish the thought of speaking in public. Sure, there are some people out there who have mastered the stage and who seem to be able to captivate an audience with ease. But for most of us, public speaking is a terrifying experience. Thankfully, it doesn’t come around too often.
Whether you have to speak to a room full of co-workers or an auditorium full of strangers, these public speaking tips can enable even the most timid of speakers to go on stage and give a speech that would make Caesar himself proud! Ok, maybe not. But they should get you through the most common public speaking events in life. If you really work on it, you can give a speech that blows the house down.
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Believe it or not, all the difficult work involved in public speaking happens off the stage. The actual speech or talk that you give will be the result of your careful preparation. If you take the time to prepare properly, you will find that it goes off without a hitch. However, if you neglect the basics, or just spend your entire prep time trembling in the corner and debating whether to call in a fake bomb threat or not, of course, your speech will be a disaster (and no, you shouldn’t call in fake bomb threats).
First of all, make sure that you get to work on your presentation or speech while time is on your side. Don’t wait until the event is upon you before doing any serious work towards it. You need time to work out what you want to say and how to say it. You will also want to run through your speech several times to ensure that you know it off by heart.
If you are going to be using cue cards as prompts, design these as far in advance as you can and run through your speech with them, so you’re sure that they work for you. Try and perform your speech in front of an audience as you are preparing it. Remember, writing and talking are two different things. A good orator does more than simply reading or even memorizing written words. Make it sound as natural as possible.
Control the Space
Obviously, when you are giving a speech, the way that you talk is very important. However, it’s important to remember that when we talk to one another we use more than just our words to convey meaning. As well as using vocabulary and tone of voice to express ourselves in different ways we also use gestures, posture, and other body language for added effect.
The posture that you hold throughout your speech, as well as the way that you move around the stage or gesture with your hands, will tell your audience a lot about how confident you are. If you aren’t confident, fake it! You’d be surprised just how much difference our physical stance can make to how we feel. There is good evidence that our physical posture has a psychological effect.
Keep your posture rigid and make sure that you make eye contact with your audience. Avoid staring at them, but don’t make a point of averting your eyes either. You should also avoid fiddling with anything, try to keep your hands still unless they are gesturing for emphasis.
Find the Right Tone
The tone of voice that you use when giving a talk will have a significant impact on how they receive it. If you are giving a presentation with the goal of convincing someone to do something, you want to strike an authoritative tone that commands respect.
Equally, if you are speaking at a more laid-back event, talk to the room as if you were talking to close friends (in some cases, you will be).
Practice the 5 P’s
You don’t need to be a trained actor to speak clearly and concisely. However, you can learn a thing or two from Patrick Stewart’s 5 Ps. Stewart uses these to improve the clarity of his speech as an actor, but you can also easily apply them to public speaking.
Project your voice across the entirety of the space you have. Make sure that your voice fills the room you are speaking in so that everyone can hear. Just make sure you aren’t deafening your front row.
As you talk, try your best to maintain a steady and constant pace. It might be tempting to speak as fast as possible so you can get it all over with, but this will make you harder to understand and will reduce the impact of your words.
Pitch isn’t something most of us think about when we talk. We all naturally change our pitch to suit whatever it is we’re talking about. If you are going to be talking for a long time, you need to avoid being monotonous. Some people are naturally more expressive than others. If you are usually monotonous, try and mix it up. Just don’t make it seem unnatural.
Ensure that you clearly pronounce every word in your speech. This is an important part of ensuring that you are heard properly. Practice your speech beforehand so that you are comfortable with every single word.
If you keep talking in one incredibly long unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic without pausing in between, you will lose your audience very quickly. Pauses of different lengths can be used to improve clarity, to clearly separate different ideas or for added effect. Experiment with the timing and position of your pauses to find what works best.
Speaking in public doesn’t have to be a nightmare. If you take the time to properly prepare, giving a speech is a great opportunity to build on your own self-confidence and to refine your public speaking capabilities for the future. The first few times that you have to speak in public will no doubt be difficult. However, once you have found your feet with it, speaking in public will be another challenge that you have conquered.