Public speaking might come natural to some people but many struggle with it. Here are 5 tips you can follow to improve your skills and impress the audience!
At some point in your career or as you startup your business then chances are you will have to enter into the world of public speaking. Ironically enough we speak in public pretty much every day with some of us not even recognizing we are doing it. For example, how many team meetings have you been called upon to give a presentation or speak to a point? How many times do you get engaged and hold the lead in a conversation at the pub or on the social scene? You see, public speaking isn’t just about standing up at a conference or pitching to a group of investors it’s very much about the every day.
I have spoken at literally hundreds of conferences, annual general meetings, forums and what not over the years and these are the basic fundamentals I have learnt that can be of real benefit to you – and no, they are not that hard at all!
#1 Speaking With A Loud Voice
There is a simple fact when speaking in public – the louder you speak the more easily you will be heard but it’s not just about speaking loudly to be heard, it’s about the authority and confidence your voice exudes when doing so. For example, never speak so loudly that you are shouting at people – instead, find the right level for both the room you are in or the audience you speaking to. Never attempt to speak loudly into a microphone because it should always be tailored to the right pitch for the room. The worst thing you can do is speak with a monotone voice that basically puts people to sleep!
#2 Always Make Eye Contact
There is a trick to engaging your audience when speaking in public – make eye contact! When speaking to or in a group of people always move your eyes around the room because it will make people feel as if you are talking directly to them – by making eye contact we engage more people into the conversation or the content of a presentation. But, don’t just focus on one person as if you are only talking with them / to them – always spread the eyes around!
#3 Ditch Your Notes
A good public speaker is someone who is able to present without notes and it is something we should all strive for. By not using notes we come across as being much more knowledgeable about the subject matter and in the eyes of the audience, and depending on the topic, you could leave them thinking you are a guru, thought leader or expert in the field. One of the ways you can do this is by using PowerPoint or infographics to reinforce points and use them as replacement notes to prompt you. But, be wary, PowerPoints and infographics are not there for you to just read the text word by word and line by line! Be prepared and understand your topic well and the notes will just fall away.
#4 Begin Strongly And End Confidently
Whenever I speak in public I open with similar lines. More often than not I will use the following “people won’t always remember what you said but they will remember what you did”. The reason I like to open with that remark is to set the scene for a presentation or speech that will, along the way, identify a range of outcomes or actions that the audience can take forward. On other occasions I will put up an inspiring quote or a photo to get the audience engaged. At the end I always do a summary of the main points to either reinforce the message(s) or to give people enough take away knowledge or insights that they feel as if they have had value in attending and listening.
#5 Dress For The Part
Firstly, never over dress when speaking in public and never under dress. By that I mean if it’s a weekend event then dress casually. If it is a business week event then dress in business attire and if it is community event dress smartly. I was at a community event recently where the subject was unemployment and poverty in the community. The speaker turned up in a very expensive looking suit which led many to question as to whether or not the speaker really understood what was going on. In that case I would have dressed casually but not shabbily. On another occasion a speaker turned up to speak at a financial services conference as though he had just walked out of a closet with anything on. Always dress for the moment because if you don’t the one thing that will happen is that when you take to the stage one of the first things in your mind may be “I should have worn a tie” which then can impact your confidence and your entire performance.