"To speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks." ~ Ben Jonson
Are you preparing for a speech or presentation? Is this one of the first opportunities you have had to speak publicly? If so, I know how it feels to be nervous and unsure of yourself. A while back I asked if you were better off in a casket when it comes to public speaking. That post dealt primarily with the fear of public speaking that nearly everyone has experienced. This time around we'll be dealing with the presentation itself.
5 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking
- Outline your thoughts. Although many are more than capable of speaking publicly without notes, it never hurts to be prepared. Even if you think you know everything you want to say, I still recommend some sort of notes. Part of your preparation process should include an outline that clearly points you in the direction you want to go. Don't be afraid to use your notes while speaking. That doesn't mean you should read them word for word, or continuously look down at them. It just means have them available to help guide your thoughts while you speak. An outline works best for this. If you choose to speak without notes you should realize you run the risk of repeating yourself, rambling, and eventually losing the attention of your audience.
- It's not about you. No one really wants to hear you speak. Except maybe your mother. Rarely is someone there just because of you. Unless you're the President or a celebrity (why are you reading my blog?), most people care about something more. Most care about the substance of your presentation. What you are talking about is far more important than you. Try to remember your audience is there because of your message. Nothing is worse than a pontificating speaker.
- Beware of your talent. Notice I didn't say be aware of your talent. I said beware of your talent. This is somewhat related to the previous tip. Maybe your confidence is through the roof when you are in front of people. Maybe it's easy for you to give speeches. Maybe you are an excellent orator. Maybe you have a steel trap for a brain so all of your notes are in your head. Maybe you're quick on your feet. Then you need to beware. What you are saying is far more important than how. That's not to say your presentation doesn't matter, but I've heard some excellent speakers before who have said very little. Try not to fall in love with your own voice. If you do, the audience will notice and they will eventually be tuning you out.
- Connect with your audience. This is extremely important. Learn to connect with your audience. Whether your audience is a small group or thousands of people, it's important to make an attempt to connect with your listeners. There are numerous ways you could do this. One way is to tell a story. Whether it is funny or touching, allowing your audience to understand that you are human too helps to keep them connected with you. Personal stories that tie in to your subject are best, but there are some great stories throughout history that can connect you with your audience as well.
- Manage your time. Benjamin Franklin said it better than I, "Half wits talk much, but say little." Be brief. Be on point. Be seated. Don't go on and on my friend, like the song that never ends. The best speakers are the ones who can say what they have to say and sit down quickly. Why? Because their speech is finished before their audience is finished listening. Blame it on attention spans growing shorter, people being too busy in their lives, or whatever the case may be. That still doesn't change the fact that you should be able to make your point in a short period of time.