Public Speaking – Part One

Published in The Kent Women in Business Magazine – Apr/July 2014

Public speaking is any occasion where you are required to talk or present in front of a group. This could be a room of 300 delegates or a presentation to your work colleagues or clients. If public speaking intimidates you, you are not alone. Here, and over the next few editions, we will look at ways of enhancing your own natural skills, helping you become the kind of speaker you would love to be.

Public Speaking Image hilsHave you watched people on stage and thought, ‘wow, they are a natural born speaker’? Well they aren’t! There is no such thing, just as there is no such thing as a natural born violinist or mathematician. The truth is that these are skills that, with time, effort and practice can be mastered. If you are capable of holding your own in a conversation then you already possess some of the skills required to make you a great speaker.

What do you think your biggest fear about speaking in public is?

You were criticised at school and told you weren’t good enough to have a speaking part in the assembly?

You are afraid of rejection, afraid that people won’t like what you have to say?

You are afraid of standing up there and forgetting what you are supposed to be saying?

Whatever may be making you feel uncomfortable can be blasted out of your mind. Fears can be conquered and in many situations you can use fear to your advantage.

Even the most seasoned presenters and speakers get nervous, but they have learned to channel the nervous energy to enhance their speaking expertise.

If you are passionate about your subject your audience will love to hear that. Passionate doesn’t mean that you have to be like Tigger running through the woods, but a genuine feeling that you are also interested in what you are saying will shine through. 7 tips to get you started:-

TIP ONE  in this series is to be yourself. Don’t try and copy what someone else does and be influenced by their style. They aren’t you and you aren’t them. Discovering your own style is extremely important and your audience is more likely to relate to you if you aren’t bogged down with thinking about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. If an audience relates to you then they are more likely to pay attention to what you are saying and then act on the call to actions you are likely to be giving them.

TIP TWO  Who is your audience? Knowing who you are to speak in front of is crucial. Imagine if you started making jokes to a room full of Scientists who are interested only in the precise details of the presentation and how that will relate to their work. EPIC FAIL. Knowing your audience will allow you to relate to them, make reference to them and make them feel important.

TIP THREE  How much preparation do you need to do? If you are presenting to your work colleagues or clients on a project you have been working on, the chances are you will know your subject extremely well. Here, it will be important how you deliver it, the style and language you use, as well as your voice and body language. If it is an in-depth presentation to an audience who aren’t familiar with the subject it’s advisable to prepare from the audience point of view. If you have to use technical jargon try and explain what it is so you don’t have to watch the audience’s eyes glaze over as you lose them to the land of day dreaming.  If you are speaking at a more relaxed event, the audience is already likely to be on your side and you will be able to have fun with it. Over-preparing can be damaging; if you lose track while delivering you may come across as flustered as you dramatically try to get back on script. Knowing your subject and being able to adapt and even involve the audience will have them eating out of the palm of your hands.

TIP FOUR  If you have delivered the talk before, try and make it appear as though it is the first time. The audience will respond better if they feel they are hearing a unique talk. Even if it is a data-loaded presentation, aim to keep it fresh and not simply reel off the words to get to the end. Inject a bit of your own personality into your tone and delivery. It will definitely help if you have a genuine connection with what you are saying.

TIP FIVE  The audience may already know the title of your talk, that should make it clear as to what they are to expect. When you get up in front of them you have roughly 30 seconds to make an impact. Keep those daydreamers awake and focused on what you are saying. When you are on the stage you are there to take your listeners through an experience, engaging them and their interest in what you have to say. Enjoy it. If you enjoy it, it is likely they will too!

TIP SIX  Your voice is your tool, as are your eyes and as is your body language. Be aware of how you use them. Adjust your tone to match the talk; use your eyes to engage the whole room; be aware of your body positioning so you appear ‘open’ and ‘relaxed’. We will look at this in more detail in the next issue as they are three extremely powerful tools that can be fine-tuned without too much effort on your part!

TIP SEVEN  Closing your talk or presentation is where you can really wow them! Leave them with something to think about, a call to action or the answer to a massive problem. Be powerful in your message, you are aiming for impact!

Public Speaking is an art and not an exact science. As with any art form, the more you practice the more competent you will become. In the next in this series we will delve in to the delivery of content and offer you insights in to how you can work towards becoming not only a competent speaker but also an engaging expert in your field.


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