How To Successfully Speak In Public
The basic principles of public speaking are fairly simple to understand. While delivering a speech might seem like a difficult prospect, the truth is, it’s not rocket science—unless of course your speech is, in fact, about rocket science. Moderation of tone, projection of voice, and a firm knowledge of subject are the keys, and it is possible to turn a speech about even the densest of subjects into a success.
Know your audience. If you are speaking to a class of fifth graders on career day, you’ll use a very different tone than you would in speaking to the senior members of an executive board about the benefits of new customer relationship management software. Tailor your vocabulary selection, your points of interest, and your tone to engage that specific audience.
Research your subject Although this might seem obvious, many people fall into the trap of assuming they know enough about their subject to avoid researching it. This is particularly true when the subject is not technical. Don’t make this mistake. There is as much to be learned about the company for which you work as there is about biomedical science. Research will provide you with interesting facts, firm statistical figures, and a general idea of the current tone of articles about your subject—a tone you can piggyback off of when making your speech.
Practice your tone Even the driest of subjects can become interesting when your voice conveys the excitement you feel, the importance it carries, and the emotion it should excite in others.
Project your voice, but don’t shout While this isn’t as important if you have the benefit of a microphone, practice assuming that you will not have access to this technological wonder. As you rehearse, ask yourself if people in the back of the room could not only hear your words, but understand them as well. Remember, projection involves speaking clearly as well as audibly.
Make notes. This doesn’t mean that you should write the speech out word for word, but even the most professional of speakers knows that having notes to jog his memory is essential at times. You know your speech to the point where you don't need to read your speech word for word. Use note cards, a single sheet of paper with a general outline, or bold headlines at the tops of slides to help you keep your speech on the right track.
Use pauses This will slow yourself down if you are rushing, it will build anticipation, and allow the audience to reflect and take in your speech. Writing the word "Pause" your note cards will help you to remember when to actually pause.
Make eye contact with your audience A good rule of thumb is to pick a listener in the room and keep eye contact with them for 5 seconds, then move on. If it's a small enough audience, make eye contact with everyone. If it's a larger audience, be sure that you spend time making eye contact with all of the sections of the room.
Engage your audience. Use humor to help smooth awkward moments. Share the excitement you feel. Enjoy the chance you are being given to share your knowledge and demonstrate your leadership abilities.
With a a bit of practice, a bit of research, and an attitude that your speech is an opportunity to make an impression and have some fun, you’ll be well on your way to wowing your audience - whether it’s an audience of eager children or cynical executives.
A few more tip for successful public speaking
There are a number of techniques that can be employed before you deliver a speech to ensure that it goes smoothly. Some, such as arriving early to the venue are fairly obvious, while others, such as gargling with warm salt water, are a bit less traditional. All, however, offer you the chance to prepare and perfect your speech before you step out in front of the audience.
- As mentioned above, gargling with warm salt water can be of assistance. It helps to relax the throat, making it easier to speak clearly and enunciate.
- Practice your materials. A lot. This will ensure that, no matter how nervous you might be, you won’t forget what you want to say.
- Carry a few well-placed notes with subject keywords (or include them in your slide presentation) to help jog your memory if you do feel yourself starting to forget what you want to say.
- Arrive at the presentation site early. This will give you a chance to set up, relax, and review your notes before you have to go on stage. It’s always better to start off relaxed than arrive late and tense.
- When you arrive, familiarize yourself with the room. This is important as it will tell you how much room you have to move, where the audience will be positioned, and what equipment considerations you need to make. Knowing these things beforehand means you can’t be surprised when you get on stage.
- If there’s a technical aspect to your presentation, familiarize yourself with the equipment beforehand. Load your slideshow and click through it before the audience arrives to make sure everything works as you expect. Check the sound on the microphone. If there is an audiovisual technician, befriend them.
- Greet the audience as they arrive. Establishing this personal relationship means they’ll want you to succeed even more, and knowing the faces you’ll be seeing before you step out in front of the group means that you’ll be less nervous when you see them.
- It is possible to channel all that nervous energy you might have into something far more positive—enthusiasm. The chances are you’re speaking about a subject of importance to you. Take that feeling of importance and use that nervous energy to show your enthusiasm. If you’re excited about your topic, your audience will be too.
- Keep your finger underneath the part of the speech you are on so that you know where to continue from when you need to look down at your notes.
- Remember that the most important element of public speaking is the message. The fact that you’re delivering it via a speech is not that important. What does matter is that you’re communicating your ideas. Celebrate the fact that you’ve gained the importance in the eyes of your peers to have ideas worth sharing instead of worrying about how you are delivering the information.
- Humor can smooth over even the messiest of bumps. If you can laugh at yourself, the audience will laugh with you, and the chances are by the end of the presentation, they won’t remember your gaffe at all.