How to Become a Better Public Speaker

Almost any job will require a certain amount of public speaking skills. From making business presentations to dealing with retail customers, talking in public with people is a part of almost everyone’s daily business life. Many people have a fear of public speaking, or feel they are unprepared for speaking with the general public. Luckily, there are a few guidelines to fall back on when preparing to talk to a group of people, large or small. Consider the following 4 W’s (and one H) when preparing for a speech or presentation:

Who Are You Speaking To?

The audience of your speech or presentation will have a huge impact on the content and delivery of your speech. If you’re speaking to a group of teenagers, for instance, you will use different language than if you are making a business proposal to financial backers. What are your group’s interests, their prejudices, and their values? Try and figure out what the group has in terms of common interests, and also in common interest with you and your business. Remember that every group is unique — you don’t want your presentation to seem generic or “shotgunned” at any random group of people.

An example of how your audience can impact your speech — if this is a rather casual presentation, you should include plenty of humor. This will open up the group to your presentation, and break down their inhibitions. On the other hand, if you are speaking formally, you may want to limit your humorous content, and concentrate instead on the material at hand.

What Do You Want To Communicate as a Public Speaker?

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As you sit down to prepare your speech, you should already know the message you’re trying to deliver. One way of becoming a better public speaker is simply to know what it is you’re speaking about — the ins and outs of the topic you’re covering. Ask yourself what would determine a “successful” speech — how will you know if and when you have communicated the message you have in mind? Preparing an outline, a bulleted list of points you want to cover, will go far in assisting you to stay on topic, but you don’t want to seem as though you’re reading off a cue card. Be sure you have a solid introduction — memorize your introductory paragraph so you seem casual — make a few solid “body points”, and end with a memorized conclusion. It is most likely that the audience will pay more attention to the introduction and conclusion than to anything else, so make sure to include your main speech points in both the beginning and end. By knowing exactly what it is you want to communicate, you’ll seem like a confident and well versed public speaker.

How Can You Best Deliver a Message When Public Speaking?

The language you use in your speech is important, as are the nonverbal cues you give through body language. Try to determine the best language (both verbal and body) to put your point across. Choose your words with your audience in mind, as discussed earlier, and try to maintain control of your nonverbal cues. Take deep breaths, drink plenty of fluids, eat a healthy meal before your speech — these may seem like basic points, but can impact your body language more than you think. Many people look at a speaker’s body movements more than they listen to the speaker’s words. Control of both types of communicaiton is crucial to a successful public presentation. If time and place allow, and if the topic is appropriate, consider and prepare audio or visual aids. These should be clear, easy to read and understand, and you should have the ability to present them without too many hang ups. I have seen presentations where the slide projector broke, the laptop that controlled the Powerpoint presentation wasn’t focused, or the handmade poster looked sloppy, and the audience immediately tuned out the speaker. Remember that simple is best, and maintain control of your speech through language choice and body control.

When?

Believe it or not, the time that you deliver your speech can be as important as the delivery itself. Our brains are tired in the morning — so you my want to include a joke or something lighthearted at the beginnning of a morning speech to wake up your audience’s brain. After lunch or another meal, our brains are also rather sluggish. Consider the time of your speech and write accordingly. Speeches given at night are opportunities for the inclusion of humor or “blue material” — as these are generally ‘adult’ events, and the audience may be prepared for slightly off color material. Again, considering the audience before you make this choice.

Why?

There is a difference between “hearers” and “listeners” — to convert your audience from simply hearing your words to listening and taking your words to hear, you need to convince them why they should listen to you. If you don’t know why they should listen to you, then how can you expect them to know? There’s an old saying — “Fake it until you make it”. If you feel you lack the confidence to convince your audience that you are an expert in your field, act as if you’re the world’s foremost expert. Hold your head high, square your shoulders, and prepare awesome speech material. Becoming a better public speaker can simply be a matter of pretending to be one. Confidence, like in the dating game, goes a long way in the world of business.

These are just guidelines — your ability to give a solid public speech rests in your lap. It is a good idea to practice your speech as much as possible, and even if it feels silly, to do so in front of a mirror. You want to appear polished and practiced, but not robotic. Being a good public speaker can mean the difference between getting a job and being passed over. Developing public speaking skills is important enough to give the above suggestions some serious thought. Remember the four Ws (and one H) and good luck on your next speech.