August 04, 2015
Public speaking is something most of us have to do at some point or another, whether it be making a speech at a wedding, speaking to a room of employees or making a declaration of love akin to the end of a Hollywood film. But many of us get nervous when we hear the words ‘public’ and ‘speaking’. So are there any tips out there to help you become a better public speaker? Yes, yes there are.
This is often an afterthought when you’re having to speak in front of a large crowd but assembling a few slides with some fun visuals is a sure fire way to become a hit in the room and ensure that the various people watching your speech walk away with your tips ringing in their ears. If you really want a concept to hit home for example, why not present a quick animation that’s not only funny but also reinforces the idea that you’re speaking about? Most speakers know not to just read directly from slides so make sure there is something else showing that your audience can engage with. Which brings us nicely to our next tip...
Visuals are all well and good when someone is listening to you speak, but how can you go the extra mile? As all teachers will tell you (and lord knows, they were good at giving a few speeches in their time...), reinforcement is most effective through doing it yourself. Repetition is a great way to instil your messages into others, so try to get your audience to speak your various mantras back to you. This approach is also good for mid-speech examples that the audience can think of to highlight your key points. So when planning what you’ll be speaking about, make sure to leave room for areas where people can get involved. The idea is not to be speaking to them but with them, no matter the event.
It’s public knowledge that nobody really likes the word ‘network’. What does it mean when someone talks about networking? Well, networking is just speaking and having a chat, not with the intent for you to gain something out of it but just building up a rapport. This can pay huge dividends when you’re due to speak to a room, because if you’ve met some of them before, they’re already warmed up to you and your speaking style. Ideally they’ll respond well to your jokes and it’s a good way to show you’re invested in your crowd by bringing up specific anecdote that you have talked about before taking to the speaker’s podium. “Speaking of which, I was chatting to Dave earlier and he spoke about...”
Many people get nervous about public speaking, which is completely natural. They force themselves to memorise as many things and passages as possible, but this is totally the wrong way to go. It’s great to know your stuff but speaking about it to a room full of people can often cause people to freeze up. The nervousness just makes it worse and before long, you’re a jittery bag of nerves and doing all you can to push some irony into the word ‘speaker’. To solve this particular problem, it’s best not to memorise entire paragraphs of things to talk about but to have a few key phrases or ideas in your head. Know your slide order and the basic message of what you are wanting to convey to your audience, then speak as you see fit. If you do get a shot of nerves then the slide will no doubt have a few key words to help you back on your way and the speech can continue as normal with your trademark humour and wit!
Remember that this is for your audience, not for you. Another trick to getting over nerves is to imagine that you are in your audience’s shoes. They are wanting to learn and you are there to help and send them on their way. They aren’t nervous about learning so why should you be nervous about teaching your key concepts and ideas? If they listen to you speak and even just take one or two things away with them, that’s the main thing. There’s rarely reason to worry too much because ultimately, a speech is just a speech. A speaker is just a speaker. And between you and us, we think you’re going to do great!
(As an added aside, if things do still go wrong when you’re speaking to a room, it’s best to put it behind you. Will this speech and any ramifications still bother you in a year? Probably not. Life goes on and one speech does not deserve all the attention you’re giving it!)
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By Henry Fosdike