Public speaking has always been an important part of the business. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a salesperson, or a member of the mailroom, speaking confidently to a room full of people can prove invaluable to helping your career or your business.
Good public speaking skill is considered an art form. Mastering an art form takes tons of practice. Getting the opportunity to speak in front of small, informal groups will aid you greatly when the opportunity arises to speak in front of larger, more formal groups. In addition to taking steps to improve your confidence, there are other things you can do for yourself and your audience that will make you a more effective speaker. Follow these steps to become the highlight of any conference, training session, or board meeting.
1. Learn from Others
One of the best ways to improve your public speaking skills is to watch and learn from others. Watch famous public speakers like Tony Robbins or Steve Jobs, and note their posture, gestures, facial expressions, and use of audio-visual materials. While it’s helpful to observe others, remember to develop your unique speaking style.
You have undoubtedly been witness to many different public presentations in your lifetime. From religious gatherings to homeowner’s association meetings, there are opportunities to observe and participate in public speaking all around you. Often the best way to get better at something is to find a person you admire and emulate their style. In fact, with a little research, you may even find some resources that break down their presentations and show you why they are effective. What characteristics do you want to adopt? Which do you feel won’t work for you and your style?
While it’s useful to watch others pick up tips and tricks, keep in mind that your public speaking style should also be unique to you. The goal is not to copy someone’s gesture for gesture, but to find the techniques that work for you and can be naturally adapted to your style.
2. Move Around
Avoid standing behind a podium and move around the stage or in front of the room while delivering your speech. This will keep your energy up and transfer to the audience, encouraging engagement.
Luckily, it is mostly considered passé to stand behind a podium when delivering a speech in modern society. And this is really for the best. Standing in one place while delivering your presentation can bore both your audience and yourself. If possible, throughout your address, move around the stage or in the front of the room. You don’t want to move so much that it becomes a distraction, but you do want to keep the blood pumping and your energy up. This energy will transfer to the crowd and encourage a higher level of engagement among your audience.
3. Get to Know Your Audience
Meet and greet as many attendees as possible before your presentation. This will help you feel more at ease and establish a rapport with your audience.
Become familiar with your audience and gain a few allies by meeting as many attendees as possible. Even just a few handshakes and shared pleasantries will help you to feel a bit more at ease with the audience when you’re addressing them later. You may even be able to designate one as a “friendly face” and use that person as a touchpoint throughout the presentation, especially if you start to feel nervous.
4. Repeat Key Messages
Repeat key points throughout your presentation to help your audience remember and understand your message. Structure your presentation to tell your audience what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then repeat what you told them at the conclusion.
To help your audience better understand and remember your presentation, use clear repetitive markers throughout. Most public speakers will tell you that the best way to structure a presentation is to tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, what you just told them, and then repeat what you told them at the conclusion. While it may seem as if this is talking in circles, it is sound advice for public speaking because it gives the audience three opportunities to hear your message and digest your point of view.
Remember that many people learn and retain information differently. While auditory learners may have an easier time absorbing a complete oral presentation, visual and experiential learners will find it easier to follow through with this repetition.
5. Keep it Simple
Simplify your message by using clear visuals and avoiding big, complicated words that may confuse your audience. Break down complex concepts into easy-to-digest bites, and think like an audience member when preparing your presentation.
Just as you want to repeat your message, you also want to keep your message simple. You don’t want to dumb it down and risk being condescending to your audience, but you do want to keep your visuals and key points easy to understand. Avoid using big or overly complicated words that might confuse people. Break down big concepts into easy-to-digest bites. When preparing your presentation, think like an audience member.
Even better, show your presentation to a friend, colleague or family member who may not be familiar with the subject matter, and ask them to summarize it for you. Note the questions they ask, the moments they are confused, and if they were able to interpret your overall message. This type of information is invaluable when putting the final touches on your presentation.
6. Tell a Story
Use relevant anecdotes to convey difficult concepts and make your presentation easier to understand. This will also help establish familiarity with your audience and keep them engaged.
Telling people a story is often the best way to convey and teach difficult concepts. Any child can recite countless fables and fairy tales, and for good reason; each of these stories has something to teach kids about the world around them and ways to handle difficult situations. By placing the message into a story or a series of stories with characters, action, and a plot, it’s easier to remember and recite. In the same vein, do not crowd a presentation with numbers and statistics. Instead, put them in context so the human brain can understand them.
Adopt this technique for your presentations. Use relevant anecdotes liberally throughout your talk. Not only will it be easier for people to understand your point, but it will breed a level of familiarity among you and your audience, which will encourage them to stay engaged. It also helps to ensure that your message endures long past your presentation.
Lastly, remember that it’s completely normal to be scared of public speaking and related skills. Getting up in front of people to present a point or teach a lesson is intimidating. However, by adopting the tips above and remembering to practice as much as you can, you can turn fear into accomplishment.