Did you know that Public Speaking is that one act that puts many brave men to sweat? Strange but true, majority of us are nervous when we have to get up and speak out in front of people. Some are so much so that psychiatrists have called this fear a serious issue naming it the glossophobia.
However, public speaking is just the opposite – it is easy and once you get the hang of it, it will be fun.
Speaking clearly and confidently is the key to success in the corporate world. But if you look closer, there are some things you must know and there are some mistakes you must never make. Experience is a good teacher but the right guidance will help you from feeling embarrassed.
Here is a mini course that everyone needs to know and understand about public speaking. Here are practical tips that will make things very easy for you.
What is Public Speaking?
Public Speaking is a big term – it starts from a statesman speaking to thousands; an employee presenting a corporate Power Points to a student speaking about his project in front of his peers and professors.
Very simply put, Public Speaking starts with you speaking and others listening. Upon further analysis, it is a different story.
Speaking publicly can be a challenging job or a cakewalk – depending upon your perspective. No matter how scared or bad you feel, you can always change that feeling into such powerful confidence that you will eventually start to enjoy it.
Let us admit, we all become nervous from a mild to strong scale when we are asked to address publicly. The amount of anxiety might depend upon your type and size audience, your preparation of the presentation and your expertise on the subject.
But the most common reason to feel anxious while speaking to an audience is the thought that you may say something wrong or babble and would end up in either boring them or embarrassing yourself.
Whatever your reason may be – there are ways you can avoid anxiety and speak successfully. There are ways and tools to help you.
There are hundreds of people speaking publicly and inspiring others. There are thousands of presentations being given in corporate meetings and sometimes it becomes the most important factor for success. In school and college, presentation matters a lot too.
It has been observed that in offices or colleges, people are hardly interested to know how hard you have worked or how much data you have gathered. It is up to you then how well you present and communicate it to them.
Let us understand this thing called Public Speaking better and help you in attracting success.
Importance of Public Speaking?
The primary importance of public speaking is communication. That’s all.
You are a person who has some information. You have read it, analysed it and you are supposed to transmit that information into a given set of people.
The set of people at the other end are supposed to listen and receive the information that you communicate. That information is supposed to be used by them because there are here exactly for that purpose. The purpose can be simply to increase one’s knowledge about a subject, to decide on a strategy, to evaluate or in some cases to be simply to hear one speak.
But why do we have to speak among so many when we could have simply sent our PowerPoint files and sales figures? What is the importance of speaking in public?
Depending upon the scenario, the need depends. But there is one common need throughout – to connect.
Though most of us hardly realize this, but our success in any field depends on how we connect to others. How one speaks, how one behaves and how one is able to communicate with others. It doesn’t matter what you do – right communication is so vital. Go to any management professional and they will tell you how much importance proper communication holds in their office.
The goal of communication is to help you connect. That’s a human need. It is in our nature to spontaneously connect. But when we start to judge our abilities, worry creeps in.
Remember, you will stand in front of a group of people and say what you have to. But you also have to put yourself in their shoes and see from their perspective.
You have to ask these questions to for your speech :
# Who and how big is your audience?
# Why are they here and what are they expecting?
# Do you want to be technical or do you want to explain in plain words?
# What will they take back home after your speech?
# How can you connect well with them?
How to engage the audience?
You don’t have to be the greatest speaker to engage your audience. There are easy, smart ways to do this. All you need is a little homework.
Let us first analyze the Audience.
In a Corporate or any kind of professional presentation- the audience would be your seniors, your colleagues and maybe visiting professionals from other organizations.
In a college or school speech – they would be your friends, schoolmates, professors.
In a semi-formal situation- audience can be mainly known people with some strangers.
Connecting with known people is easy; strangers are difficult because you don’t know their point of views. But the advantage you have is that, during your speech – you are the master.
It is you who is in charge for the next few minutes. You must exude that confidence and this should be primarily non-verbally and very little verbally.
For those who are not familiar with non-verbal communication – you will be surprised to know that we all communicate almost 90% non-verbally. That means a huge chance of your chances of success depends on it. It’s a big subject, but here are some tips to get you started.
Non-verbal communication and public speaking techniques
Non verbal communication is the way you communicate beyond words, through your body language. Which means during publicly speaking it matters –
# How you stand there
Stand with your shoulders relaxed and try to look calm. Don’t overdo and don’t be over energetic that will create a disturbance. Your presence must bring a concentrated attention but it should also be calm.
If you have to use a laptop, make sure it’s on and ready with the page open. If there is a projector connected, please open your file where the audience is supposed to see. Browsing through your desktop and searching through your file on a projector is a total no-no. It shows you are not prepared.
Keep all your presentation files in one folder in your desktop before your speech and presentation. In that way, it will be more organized.
If you are carrying too many things on to the podium, avoid it. You should ideally have only one or two cleanly carried pages. If you have to distribute files physically, try to do it before you begin the speech. Distributing between your speeches may disturb the rhythm.
# How you walk
While you walk in or walk out; or you have to take a little stride here and there during presentations – don’t hurry, don’t trip. Wear comfortable and clean shoes. While you stand up there- people would have all the time to observe you.
# How you dress
Dress as per the occassion unless you want to give them a big surprise. Nothing flashy but clean, smart and well-ironed clothes. Comb your hair cleanly and stand there like lady/gentleman. Then you have already won the first round. Also, don’t dress up too formally when it’s not needed. The point is to understand the mood of the place.
Doing a little research beforehand would give you loads of advantage. If possible see video or images of earlier event. See pictures of how the stage might look like, who are the ones who speak, what kind of speeches others give and others love. Then you will know what you are walking into.
# How you sound
Don’t speak too loudly, people might take it as aggressive behaviour. Don’t be too soft; people may think you are not so well prepared. Balance it as needed. If you are using a microphone, be aware of how your voice sounds. It should sound clear and crisp. Your voice must carry your words clearly. Speak your words clearly and don’t talk too fast or too slow.
It is also a good idea to ask for feedback from your friends and family as to how you sound.
# How your eyes rest or gaze
During your speech, how do you eye contact? It should e present but briefly. It should help you connect with one but on the same time, should not make you lose contact with others.
You should not shift your eyes unsteadily as this may be taken as a sign of nervousness. Look around your room, try to scan the audience and try to build contact.
# How your legs are postured, how you rest your hands
Don’t stand like army officer on duty as a stiff rod nor hunched weakly. Stand normally in attention but staying relaxed. Don’t play with your hands or fingers during your speech. It diverts attention away from you. Keep your hands relaxed and at ease.
Don’t guard your face while speaking or cross your arms tightly in front of you. This gesture reduces trust in observers.
Stand straight, relaxed, smartly dressed and speak like a well mannered person. You have almost won it!
Here is a video by one of world’s top public speakers that will give you a better idea on public speaking techniques.
At last, Your Speech
No matter how well your speech data is, communicate it well. Here’s how –
# Know what you have to speak; not what you know. Understand what it is that needs to be shown and heard. Prepare your speech or presentation on that. Keep it simple. In your mind or on paper, put down the main topics and how much time wuld you like to spend on that.
# Another thing to understand is that people don’t exactly love long speeches. Unless you have been told to – avoid long speeches. When you do your research see how long the good speeches have been in that scenario. Otherwise, the best duration of a speech is around 5 minutes (depending on your subject). Any less is welcome in many scenarios but depending on the subject longer speeches may be required. But try to keep it short and crisp and go into details as required or questioned.
# So after you have what to speak and for how long, also evaluate whether your audience needs it or not. Say, don’t waste time in explaining terms the audience already knows or will not be interested in knowing about. Then go through your speech topics again and revise.
# Use plain, simple language in public speaking. Use technical terms as and when needed. You need to sound smart but not to be overdone with it. You should not use colloquial language in front of a senior or a formal audience. Neither should you sound like a professor when it is not asked for. Understand what your audience wants. Good marketers know it- that’s how they place their product. Top entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs used simple and standard language for their public speaking.
So now you know how to speak, what to speak and whom to speak. Then it is time to speak your speech.
There are many ways to do this. Some write their speech down first. If you may write it fully, don’t memorized it. Never learn it by heart to repeat it out. The audience doesn’t want to hear a record, and this will not help you to connect with them. Public speaking should sound more like a conversation or at most, an interesting lecture.
You may write the points fully or in points and then put it quite well to memory the topics and its facts and descriptions. Then you would have to play it out. You can carry the numbers, facts and resources with you for reference during your public speaking presentation.
Here is an exercise that will definitely make you great at public speaking:
Do this – go to a room and close the door. Stand in front of a mirror. Look into your eyes. Think that you have the audience in front of you. Now speak.
Then you see how you move your hands when you speak, how you stand, how look present yourself. If you are fumbling, stuttering or mind has gone blank – don’t worry. It happens to all of us. Even to the best of us.
Finish till the last line. Start with the greeting and remember to end with a thank you. Do this exercise again and again. From the first word till the last.
There are also some who record their speech practice and listen to it. That is a fantastic way to check your hold in public speaking. When you hear how you sound, you know what you do not like and would want to improve.
While you go on repeating the speech practice, you will start to see a transformation within you. You will yourself turn from a mumbling low confident person to a high flying smart presenter. Your body language will automatically change and you will talk more confidently. The words you use may start to alter their pattern as the ‘public’ speech becomes a natural part of you.
So the day, you walk on for the speech in real life, people will listen to you as if you are TALKING to them instead of doing something. They will not only hear but listen to you. That’s all you want because when they listen, you will connect with them.
The communication cycle is complete. Your message has been delivered. The impression has been created. Your aim has been fulfilled.
And don’t forget to thank the audience for the applause they are giving for your wonderful speech!
To finish with, here is another helpful video with expert tips that will help you overcome fear and become a master at public speaking.