09 Oct How to be a Better and More Confident Public Speaker
The thought of public speaking can be very daunting! Very few of us really relish the prospect, but in today’s business world, despite all the technology around us, it is just as necessary a skill as ever. Take a few tips from the experts on how to do it better, and you will approach your next public speech as an opportunity rather than an obstacle:
“If you don’t know what you want to achieve in your presentation, your audience never will” (Harvey Diamond)
Focus, focus and focus again. Make sure you know what the message is that you want to get out there. Also, never skimp on preparation time- nothing boosts confidence more than knowing about your subject. It is said that you need an hour of preparation time for each minute of presentation time!
How to Start
“During the first few minutes of your presentation, your job is to assure the audience members that you are not going to waste their time and attention.” ( Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger)
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make your first sentence punchy and dramatic. If you’re nervous, it will be the hardest line you deliver, so practise it well. Bear in mind your audience will be eager to see how they’ll be spending the next 30 minutes and will make a judgment based on that initial statement. Give them the answer they are hoping for: learning something new or challenging that will be of use to them personally.
Throw Subtlety out of the Window
Never be obtuse or get caught up in detail (unless it’s a technical presentation). Get to the point early on in your speech or you risk your audience drifting off. They shouldn’t have to work out what your argument or sales pitch is- it needs to be glaringly obvious. Repeat important points throughout your speech. Remember that although this topic may be old hat to you, your audience may be dealing with something new, so they need it broken down into simple-to-understand points, with emphasis on the benefits- in other words, ‘what they get out of it’, and exactly why they should do as you suggest.
Take it Slow
“The most precious things in a speech are the pauses” (Sir Ralph Richardson)
One of the most common mistakes for the nervous is to hurry through as if desperate to get to the end. This is where it may help to video yourself beforehand or get someone to listen to you. Pauses are your best friend as they allow the audience to digest your message. They are rarely as long as you think they are!
Keep it Brief
“No audience ever complained about a presentation or speech being too short” (Stephen Keague, author of The Little Red Handbook of Public Speaking and Presenting ).
Maybe a slight exaggeration, but it is so much better to leave your audience wanting more, than risk boring them with too much detail. Review your speech to check every single sentence is contributing to your argument or is necessary to support your sales pitch.
“It’s much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic. Figure out what’s important to you about your message and speak from the heart.” ( Nicholas Boothman, author of Convince Them in 90 Seconds or Less: Make Instant Connections That Pay Off in Business and in Life).
It’s easy when writing a speech to make it too detached from what you really believe. Don’t be afraid to use real-life examples of what you’re talking about. Use your own history and experiences as much as you can. If it fits into your speech, try to explain how you personally came to be involved in your company, or product, and what your motivations were.
Involve Your Audience
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how your made them feel” (Carl W. Beuchner)
Try getting your audience to repeat back a key part of your speech. It helps the message to sink in and if done with humour can work really well. If that is too much for you, at least ask for questions from the audience (and not just at the end when they have switched off), or ask them for examples of what you are talking about. An involved audience will enjoy and engage with what you are saying much better than one that is being ‘spoken to’. And finally, remember: Make your audience laugh and you are halfway there!
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