Ask anyone to list the top five things they are most afraid of, and chances are public speaking is on their list. For many talking in public may be the number one thing that scares them the most. Speaking to an audience can be difficult for many people. Many imagine the worst possible scenarios: forgetting what to say, boring the audience, sounding foolish, fainting and any number of embarrassing outcomes. Many find the anticipation of giving a speech to be worse than actually giving the speech.
Professionals such as politicians, lawyers, actors and business people make public speaking seem so effortless, like they are talking to a room full of old friends. They are witty, intriguing and keep the audience engaged till the very end. Some of these professionals are born with a natural gift for speaking in front of an audience. The majority of them, however, like most people have gone through some sort of training, or have given so many presentations that they have fine-tuned their skills.
The following are effective speaking tips meant to give you the skills and tools to build your confidence when addressing any audience-big or small.
Do you ever get nervous talking to your close friends about your favorite hobby or recent vacation? Of course not. When you are passionate about something or knowledgeable on a topic, you are eager to share that information. You are at ease because your attention is focused on sharing what you know. The same is true when you are giving a speech. Give a speech on something you are passionate about. Thoroughly research your topic and become an expert on everything there is to know. If you are confident about knowing the topic, you will radiate the same enthusiasm as when you are talking among friends.
Perhaps the most important part of your speech is the opening introduction. The proverbial saying, "you never get a second chance to make a good first impression," strongly applies when delivering a successful speech. You have only a few minutes to grab your audience's attention before they decide if they will be tuning in or turning out of your speech. Engage the audience early on by sharing an intriguing fact, amazing statistic, or funny line.
Try to connect with the audience on a personal level. Sharing a relevant story or experience brings meaning to your message and makes you more relatable and human. The audience will walk away remembering an intriguing personal story more than just a bunch of facts.
Making eye contact with your audience is extremely important. It lets them feel like you are talking directly to them and that they are included in the discussion. Eye contact shows your audience you are open, trustworthy and confident about what you are saying. For a small group, making eye contact with everyone is easy. For larger audiences, divide the room into sections and select a few people to make eye contact with from each section.
One of the quickest ways to lose your audience's attention is to read directly from your notes. Reading your notes sends the message that you are not prepared or are not confident enough about the material to speak freely. Looking at your notes rather than at your audience also eliminates the possibility of connecting with your audience members through eye contact. There are times, however, when you will need to refer to your notes. Glancing at your notes when reading statistics, numbers or percentages, or giving an exact quote, is perfectly acceptable.
Every speech needs structure. You need to plan in advance what your opening remarks will be, what points you will be discussing, and how you will conclude your speech. Never try to wing a speech or improvise. Doing so will only make you look scattered and unprepared and you risk losing your audience's attention. Creating an outline also ensures that you do not ramble too long.
If possible, move away from the podium or lectern. Standing behind a podium is frequently the norm when giving a speech; however, it puts a physical and emotional barrier between you and your audience. Walking around in the front area of the room keeps your audience focused on you.
If you try to memorize your entire speech, you will turn your focus on remembering each word, rather than focusing on your message. Reciting a memorized speech can sound robotic and not genuine. Instead of memorizing your speech, write out the main points you want to make. Practice discussing each topic aloud as if you were talking to a friend.
Researchers have found that body language accounts for half of how we communicate. Using body language such as hand and arm gestures and appropriate facial expressions during a speech helps to reinforce your verbal message. Rather than just standing motionless, body language also animates your speech.
Similar to body language, visual aids such as PowerPoint presentations, illustrations, photos and props help to keep the audience engaged and focused on what you are saying. Visual aids help the audience "see" what you are saying. Avoid using materials that are too technical or are difficult for everyone to see.
Practice your speech often-out loud. Be sure to run through the entire speech and practice using all your visual materials. It is also helpful to give your speech in the outfit you plan on wearing. This way, the day of the speech you know how everything looks, sounds and feels. If possible, practice in front of friends and family. They can give you feedback on what sounds good and what needs improving.
Public speaking can cause anxiety for many people. Following effective speaking tips, however, can eliminate unnecessary angst and give you the confidence of a professional speaker.