Public Speaking Tips

Public speaking is one of the greatest fears of many people, but it is still a necessary part of life. We give business presentations to new clients, lectures to classrooms, and testimonials to religious groups. We all must speak to a group of people at some point in our lives. The question is, how can we most effectively get our point across, or communicate our thoughts so that others clearly understand us? It’s not as difficult as it seems – use these simple tips to help you develop stronger speaking habits and make you a better public speaker:

  1.     Don’t talk right away: Nerves can get the best of you. The feeling of complete silence when you are suppose to command the room can be unbelievably painful, which is why people start talking as they are walking up to the podium. They can’t stand to have silence. By speaking right away and rapidly, you appear nervous and awkward. When you walk to the podium, take a deep breath, and find you place, you’ll settle in and appear cool, calm, and collected. By allowing a second to clear your mind, you’ll be much more confident and in charge of the room.
  2.     Give valuable information: There are those out there who are speaking to take from their audience. They want to sell something, gain new followers, or promote something. People don’t trust those who have an agenda. The audience will disengage and tune you out. Instead, try giving your audience useful information to their life. For example, talk about a personal struggle that others can relate to, and how you overcame that problem. Be vulnerable and honest in how you approach the material; it’ll make powerful connections with your audience and they will retain it much more.
  3.     Eye contact: We’ve all heard that you need to make eye contact during speeches. Don’t look above people’s heads and scan through the audience – this can be awkward in smaller audiences and be distracting to people up front. Instead, make intentional eye contact with several members and speak to them. You will create a deeper connection with your audience by joining them into the conversation instead of speaking at them.
  4.     Slow down: Speak slower than usual. Nerves can make our hearts race, our mind a blur, and our words barrel out of our mouths. If you are speaking too quickly, your audience may not be able to follow your thoughts. Slow everything down. It’ll feel strange at first, but once you get used to saying each word deliberately, you’ll see nodding faces and acknowledging looks from your audience.
  5.     Even if you start out in a rush and jumble through a few sentences, it’s ok. If you catch yourself speaking too quickly, take a pause for a quick breath. Pick up again with your new calm and collected self and begin speaking slower. Your audience wants to hear what you have to say. They want you succeed up on stage. They will be patient and forgiving if you do make a few small mistakes. No matter how slow you speak, they will hang on your every word.
  6.     Embrace pauses. It’s a natural tendency to fill the space between our words with things like “umm” or “uhh.” Whatever repetitive verbal pause you have adapted, throw it out. It’s ok to have that silence in between the words. It’ll take some practice to completely eradicate this from your speech pattern, but it will be well worth it.
  7.     Be excited: Change the way you perceive your pounding heart and clammy hands. Tell yourself that you aren’t nervous, but rather, that you are excited! By rethinking your nerves, you will wipe out any negative thoughts of fear and worry. You are now excited to jump up on stage and get this party started!

Public speaking doesn’t have to be a fear. It helps to think of it like you’re speaking to a group of friends who want to understand you. They will be patient with you as you speak. Remember, your audience has given you one of the most precious gifts: their time. Tell them “thank you” at the end of your speech, and receive their clapping praise with grace.

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