Public speaking is often presented as something you can or can’t do.
That’s just not true.
Whilst there are many available resources to help people harness this skill, there are pieces of advice that are regularly left out and pushed aside.
If you want to know the best-kept secrets to becoming a public speaking mogul, then look no further!
If you are a total newbie to the world of public speaking, here’s a recap of the basic tips and tricks to help you with your start.
Preparation is important when beginning most things in life, which is true for any speech, performance or presentation.
Begin by researching the whole topic (as opposed to just bits), which will help with any impromptu questions.
Make sure that you have familiarised yourself with your slides or key cards, so you know where to look for specific information.
Finally, prepare for your environment to help avoid technical issues, lateness or being caught off guard.
The way you talk can massively impact how your speech is received.
Imagine if Elle Wood’s valedictorian speech was mumbled and expressionless… the audience would’ve completely withdrawn and lost all sense of passion!
To avoid this, remember The 5 Speech Ps:
Projection: There’s no point in spending all this time preparing if no one can hear you! But don’t scream into an abyss either, be mindful of the people sat in the front.
Pace: Pace can be tricky to navigate. Nerves may tempt you to talk quickly or freeze up and slow down but focusing on your breathing should help this. To make your speech more engaging try varying your pace.
Pitch: The same can be said for pitch. Variation is key but avoid using upward inflexions at the end of sentences, as they can make you seem unsure.
Pronunciation: Mumbling can make your speech more boring than watching paint dry. Your words and syllables need to be clear.
Pause: The power of pausing allows the audience to process what you’re telling them. A pause can also give you time to prepare for your next point, which is better than those pesky filler words, like “urmmmm”
Pauses influence impact.
I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times, but just in case you haven’t: How you stand affects how you feel.
FSU professor Erik Peper said: "You have a choice. It's about using an empowered position to optimize your focus”. This is because in a study of posture and confidence slouching reduced lung capacity by 30%.
Standing up tall allows more efficient airflow, calmed nerves, and an overall improved focus.
While many suggest standing a little more than shoulder-width apart, that might not be comfortable for you. If you keep your body posture open and welcoming, you don’t need to sweat about whether your palms are facing outward!
4. Eye contact
It’s hard knowing where to look and what to do with your hands.
The best pointer is to do what feels natural to you. Scanning the room in a “W” shape allows you to connect with everyone in the room.
If the audience is smaller, you should make eye contact with different people to avoid seeming less confident.
THE GOOD STUFF
Now we’ve covered the basics, here are some extra golden nuggets to help you become the next Tony Robbins.
You have a purpose:
Wherever you’re speaking and whatever about, remember there’s at least one person who wants you to be there, even if that person is you. You’ve been invited into that space because the purpose of sharing your message/lesson is important. When experiencing any nervousness or anxiety, try and remind yourself of that purpose to bring you back to the task at hand.
You know your sh*t:
You’ve prepared, you got this! The reason you’re the speaker and not Karen241 off Facebook is because unlike Karen you know your shit. And hopefully, your most credited source isn’t a spam text from WhatsApp. So whatever imposter syndrome you might be feeling, tell it to “BOG OFF” Tracey Beaker style.
You’re the best:
Don’t change or hide your personality to appease an audience but instead embrace it. If you’re generally a dry, sarcastic type, let that drive your speech with relatable phrases and dry humour. If you’re someone who loves reading why not structure your slides like a book? By incorporating yourself and your passions into what you’re saying, you naturally become more believable and easier to connect with.
Practice helps make perfect but repeatedly doing the same thing won’t necessarily give you better results, this is because: “Rote repetition — simply repeating a task — will not by itself improve performance”. (Campitelli & Gobet, 2011). But "activities purposely designed to improve performance" will. (Gobet & Campitelli, 2007, p. 160).
So, what does that mean?
Repeatedly using a Capri Sun to fuel your car, won’t eventually make it drive. After any public speaking opportunity, think about what went well and what you could improve for the next one. Next time you say yes to being a speaker apply this new learning to constantly evolve your delivery and keep it exciting. Some helpful questions you could ask yourself are:
1. Did the audience stay engaged? If not, where did you feel a disconnection? Was it at the beginning, middle or end? This can help to develop your hook, structure, or tone.
2. Was I confident the whole way through? There could be a gap in preparation or a specific technique you could implement when answering questions. For example, during the Q&A slot, you could implement a Pause, Review, Answer, Relate technique. First, pause, then review the question, answer it to the best of your ability, finally, relate it to something you covered, or to a resource for further information.
3. Did I achieve what I wanted to? If yes, great you’re on track, just continue doing what you’re doing. If no, Why? Did you customise the content for the audience? Could you create an alternative strategy?
From royal dinners to local health summits, I’ve had my fair share of public speaking experiences. No matter how much I prepare, note my speech and posture, correct my eye contact, or remind myself of the three golden nuggets; I always get a little nervous.
It’s completely normal to have some anxiety before addressing a group of people. But that shouldn’t stop you. The biggest tip for public speaking is to recognise those nerves and do it anyway.
The more you say yes to new opportunities the better and more comfortable you’ll be in your delivery. And don’t forget to apply your new learning each time!