How to become better at public speaking

These tips will help you tackle your nerves and hone your skills so that you deliver a well-crafted speech that resonates with your audience.

For many people public speaking is a terrifying prospect. It doesn’t help that it’s a skill increasingly required in most jobs. Whether you’re making a presentation, landing a client, speaking up at a large meeting, or making a pitch, there’s getting away from public speaking. Here are some tips to help you improve your skills.

Rehearsals are key
While the subject matter of your speech is important, how you say it is equally important. It isn’t enough to just know the text well. Rehearse every aspect of your speech, whether it’s your expressions, your voice pitch, stance, hand movements, or the order of the slides, if you’re making a presentation. Pay attention to all elements. Even finalise on the clothes you’re going to wear. Practise your speech in front of family or friends and encourage them to be frank in their feedback. If that’s too intimidating, start by practising in front of a full-length mirror. Keep an eye on your body language, it communicates as much as your words do. Also, watching yourself in the mirror regularly might help you loose some of your self-consciousness.

It is important to be articulate and clear when speaking in public. We all tend to slip up and stall with ‘um’ and ‘so’. These are to be avoided because they give the impression that you aren’t prepared. This is where practise is key. No amount of practise is enough. Prepare note cards highlighting the key elements of your speech and keep them handy when giving the speech. This is especially the case if your speech has statistics, lists, or quotes. The note cards will function as a handy reminder.

Keep it simple
One way to ensure you make an impact (and remember your speech) is to keep the language conversational. Steer clear of complex vocabulary. You might think it makes you seem intelligent and smart, but people are likely to notice that you’re overcompensating and be put off. Also you’re more likely to forget these words. So be candid and use conversational language that helps you connect with your audience; give them something they can relate to. It will help you build a relationship with the audience and make them more receptive to your thoughts.

Focus on your audience
Looking out at a sea of people and giving a speech can be daunting. So the trick is to stop thinking about yourself and focus on specific individuals in the audience. Pick out friendly faces in audience, make eye contact, and focus on them as you talk. By shifting your focus you will be less self-conscious and more at ease when talking, giving yourself the opportunity to make the most of the situation.

Watch a few TED Talks
TED Talks are a great way to gather knowledge and hone your skills. There are a whole host of them on mastering public speaking. Notable among them are Chris Anderson’s “TED’s Secret to Great Public Speaking”, Nancy Duarte’s “The Secret Structure of Great Talks”, Megan Washington’s “Why I Live in Mortal Dread of Public Speaking”, and Gordon Kangas’ “Giving Presentations Worth Listening To”. Apart from their content, TED Talks also provide a great opportunity for you to observe and learn how hold the audience’s attention.

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