Whoever said public speaking is only for politicians and leaders? In the World of Work, acquiring the art of public speaking is just as important a skill. Be it a farewell speech, an award acceptance speech or speaking at a board meeting or an international conference. In all these areas, your public speaking skills will be put to test. If that scares you to death, well you are not alone. Fear of public speaking is a widespread phenomenon – the average person ranks it even above fear of death. There is even a word for it – Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking or of speaking in general. But let’s be more positive, public speaking is a skill that can be easily acquired through following some tried and tested techniques and avoiding some common pitfalls. If an audience is there to listen to you, you owe it to them to be well prepared in what you have to say and it is your responsibility to keep them interested and have their attention. We have put together these five tips on public speaking that will help any beginner to be a fearless speaker:
1. Tips on Public Speaking – Make Eye Contact
Making eye contact is the first and foremost step to be able to speak confidently in public. Avoiding eye contact will have your audience drift away and leave them uninterested. It also reflects nervousness on your behalf. Making eye contact with your audience is a sure way to make them feel involved and adds to your confidence when you are able to see that your audience is truly interested in what you have to say.
2. Tips on Public Speaking – Avoid Fillers
Make a conscious effort to avoid using syllables and words like “umm”, “like”, “basically”, “actually” which you use to help complete your sentences. They take away from the gravity of what you want to articulate and speak of your unpreparedness in addressing the public. Instead use silence and pauses. Rather than lose the listeners, a well-placed pause can give your audience a chance to process what you’ve already said and get them hooked on what you’ll say next.
3. Tips on Public Speaking – Carry a Memo of what you want to say
Make a small card with some of the main pointers of your speech so that you do not miss out on the important things you have to say. Use the card only for prompting yourself and at all cost avoiding “reading” out. Keep the memo handy only for the purpose of reference, all the while maintaining eye contact and interacting with your audience.
4. Tips on Public Speaking – Emphasize on both What you say, as well as How you say it
A lot of people take pride in saying it matters little what you have to say, as long as you focus on how you are saying it. On the contrary, we would say that both are equally important – the content of your speech as well as your delivery of the same. The best way to sound like you know what you are talking about is to know what you are talking about :). And if you are unsure about the content and just HAVE to speak, then check out these tips from lifehacker on How to Sound Like You Know What You’re Talking About (Even When You Don’t).
5. Tips on Public Speaking – Mind your Body Language
Very often, in order to compensate the confidence missing in our speech, we put that forcefulness into exaggerated body language. It could be actions like excessive movement of limbs to try and get across our point. Actions like fiddling with one’s hair, clothes, or accessories in an absent-minded fashion are signs of nervousness. None of us do this on purpose, it is at a subconscious level. However, recognizing it and trying to rectify the same will help you evolve into an articulate and confident speaker.
Be precise and structured when you stand up to speak. Understand that you have only a few minutes to put across your point, and you have to do so effectively. It is absolutely acceptable if you make mistakes while speaking, but do not let tiny glitches prevent you from completing what you have to say. Before your big day, practice in front of a mirror or a friend, record your speech and play it back to yourself and work on it till you are happy with the results. We all start somewhere, and we all learn with experience. So the next time you are asked to make a speech, don’t duck under the table – stand up and rock the speech!