These public speaking tips can make your next speech your best yet
Public speaking is a vital part of business, but it also can be a source of anxiety… don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be! Here are some techniques for calming your nerves and injecting liveliness into your speech.
Practice, practice, practice
Nerves are normal. And while those sweaty palms and pounding pulse might seem like they will limit your speaking ability, they also are an indication of a surge of adrenaline that can make you more alert and prime you for a brilliant performance.
To put your adrenaline to work for you, make sure you know your material. Practice, practice, and practice some more. Go over your notes repeatedly, rehearse your speech repeatedly, and do it on tape or in front of a mirror or both. Be secure and assured in what you want to say.
Speak to your audience
Nothing can doom a speaker faster than not knowing his or her audience. When you’re preparing your presentation, make sure your audience is always top of mind. Learn as much as possible about you audience and then craft your message to address their knowledge, their culture, their motivators.
Get organized, stay organized
Before crafting your presentation, organize your thoughts, and sketch out the structure of your speech. Start with your topic and purpose, find your central theme and key points. Then make sure to include ideas that will grab and hold your audience’s attention and get them hooked in the first minute or less of your talk.
Watch your audience and adapt
If your talk is organized and you’re well prepared, that adrenaline that made you feel nervous can help you stay alert to your audience’s reaction to your talk. Be flexible and adapt. If you see you’re losing their interest, move on. Canned speeches are boring, don’t fall into the trap of sticking so closely to your notes that your audience doesn’t stick with you.
Just as you can’t hide a canned speech, you can’t hide your own discomfort, either. One of the easiest ways to avoid coming off as awkward and uncomfortable is to be yourself. If you’re prepared, you know the subject matter, so the best thing you can do is speak about it in your own voice. Treat your audience like a group of friends and let your personality shine just as it would when chatting over coffee or cocktails.
Share stories, use humor
Inject anecdotes and jokes into your talk. Tell a story and it will resonate with your audience. They will feel like they know you a bit better and will be more interested in what you have to say.
Don’t read from a script
Rather than writing down every word you plan to say, work from an outline. This allows your personality to shine and avoids your talk from feeling canned or stilted. It also allows you to make eye contact and connect with the audience.
Just as you want to grab your audience’s attention early in your speech, you want to leave them on a high note. Make sure you wrap up with a strong, memorable statement.
Go light on the AV
Don’t rely on a PowerPoint or slideshow to do the work for you. Audio-visual props can be great accessories to a speech, but they don’t replace a good speaker. Use them for clarity or illustration, but do not allow them to become the focus of your talk.
No matter what remember to have fun. If public speaking feels like torture to you, it will feel like that your audience as well. If you prepare, practice and know your audience, all that’s left is to go out there and have some fun. Embrace the experience and your audience is more apt to embrace you.
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