7 Public Speaking Fundamentals You Must Master
Does the thought of getting on stage to give a speech or presentation frighten you? Do you feel nervous whenever you’re contacted to appear in front of an audience? Don’t overthink it; a lot of people feel the same way too.
If you don’t make a living as a public speaker, getting on stage to give a speech for the first time can be a challenging exercise.
A lot of people have a fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia, which can affect them no matter how confident they are. But, you can’t run away from speaking engagements forever.
With the right tips and techniques, you can overcome any hesitation and become a master at public speaking.
Mastering these seven rules and fundamentals is the key to developing the right approach to speaking engagements and presentations.
SEVEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE GIVING A PUBLIC SPEECH
1. Know What You Are Talking About
Have you ever engaged in an argument with little or no idea about what you are arguing about? The possibility of making a more convincing sales pitch comes from having adequate knowledge about the product.
It’s a similar thing with public speaking. A common saying goes, “confidence comes with knowledge.”
Having great knowledge about the topic, you will speak about makes speaking publicly a seamless exercise.
Detailed research and proper study into the topic before the speech will improve your confidence in speech delivery. Ensure that all the basics are covered, and your audience won’t have any need to ask questions but still prepare a list of possible questions so you can answer them beforehand.
Often, questions will be asked after your speech. If you are unable to answer the questions, it will reduce your credibility before your audience, so in order to keep that good impression, you have to be prepared.
Ask questions from experts in the field and get a friend or colleague to ask you potential questions based on your presentation.
Also, be well-grounded in your topic vocabulary. For example, if you are to deliver a speech about “benefits of social media,” it will be wise enough to know all trending social media channels, trends, terminologies, etc.
Having a good flow by mentioning common terms in that topic will improve audience acceptance, and that will make you seem a lot more qualified.
2. Develop an Emotional Connection With Your Audience/Know Your Audience
One of the first things to do before making any speech is to study and know your audience. This is important to determine the mode and tone of delivery for your speech. Your speech should be tailored to your audience type. For example, a speech delivered to college students should differ from that delivered to health professionals, even if the topic is similar.
Telling relatable stories to your audience creates a great connection. A good public speaker must know their audience, stories and instances must be relatable to your audience.
When speaking to young minds, stories about current trends in social media and sports will go a long way in engaging the audience.
Political jokes may come in handy when speaking to an older audience. Snippets of stories chipped in a different point keep the speech interesting and engaging. However, try not to go overboard and be too personal with the stories.
Some public speaking sessions can be interactive, where you gauge your audience’s level of knowledge about the topic. Questions may also be asked and answered by members of the audience to improve the participation of your audience.
In the delivery of your content, try to connect on a personal level with your audience. If possible, you should keep a cheerful facial expression while maintaining eye contact with members of your audience.
Looking at members of the audience in the eyes gives you a sense of control, which in turn improves confidence. Avoid keeping your face down because it portrays an uncertain demeanor.
3. Deliver Valuable and Engaging Content
Your speech should leave a positive impact on your audience. Lessons must be taken after the speech. Beyond inspiration or motivation, your speech must be relatable to real-life events and persuasive. The delivery of your speech matters, but you have to deliver valuable content, or it is all empty gestures.
Be clear in the delivery of your message; avoid the use of big words that your audience will find it hard to understand. Also, dumping so much data that your audience will find it hard to process while listening may end up distracting your audience.
Provide only relevant information and examples relating to your topic. Going off your story or off-track will make you lose your audience. Nevertheless, give the necessary background information that your speech will be built on. Never assume your audience has some information.
Use familiar units of measurements within your presentation slides or while speaking. For example, if your audience is American, and you need to state an example in monetary value, you should do that in dollars, not in pounds. Keep your audience in mind and make sure you never lose them.
Keep in mind that your delivery also plays a role in how well your audience receives your information. Make sure you are respectful and polite with how you deliver your speech. Do not make fun of any member of the audience.
You may get the attention you want, but it will not be in a good way. Charlie Kaufman said: “constantly talking isn’t necessarily communication,” it is important to make pauses in-between your speech to allow your audience to assimilate your points.
4. Get Rid of Self-Doubt
Can you possibly sell something you do not believe in? Public speaking could be seen as a sales pitch speech. Your audience members are your customers. You must believe in your speech.
Regular practice and getting feedback from others on your performance from previous presentations would help determine your areas of strength and areas where improvement is needed.
Your body language, tone, voice pitch should radiate confidence and enthusiasm. Frequent use of filler words such as “ah” and “um” make your speech sound informal and portray a lack of mastery of script. The perfect salesman never misses a pitch opportunity.
Get over the “what ifs” that linger in mind before a presentation…” what if my audience disagrees with my views,” “what if I forget my key points.” These doubts will often reduce your level of confidence and leave a less than satisfactory impression on your audience.
Remember, the perfect salesman sees victory before his pitch; maintain an attitude like this. Making statements like: “I was just told about this presentation two days back,” “I am not in the best position to deliver this speech,” constitutes apologies and excuses, you should avoid them.
5. Create a Good First Impression
The 7/11 rule explains that people make 11 decisions in the first 7 seconds of contact. Research shows that you need at least 7 seconds to make a good first impression. By extension, the first few seconds of your presentation mean a lot. Your audience will most likely run an audio-visual assessment on you as you proceed, which may affect how receptive they are to your speech. Do well to look presentable. Dress neatly and respectably.
Again, depending on your audience, dress to fit your audience, for a professional presentation, you will need to wear a well-ironed shirt, suit with polished shoes. In contrast, for an informal presentation, a causal outfit may be fine. Getting a friend to help assess what you will wear could help you.
Your voice should be audible, neither too loud nor low. Maintain a consistent flow while speaking; be neither too fast nor too slow. Control your breathing; avoid fidgeting or any actions that will show less confidence.
Keep your hand gestures to the minimum, by all means, exude confidence and be persuasive. Getting late to the venue or not being available when called up to the stage is a bad impression. Finish your presentation within the allotted time.
6. Be Organized
Your speech should be well organized, like you are telling a story. Have a mental picture of your content, divided into:
- Introduction/ ice breaker: This could be a familiar saying or story which relates to your topic. The introduction should capture the attention of your audience and create suspense.
- The Body: This delivers your points, drawing lessons from the story, and appropriately delivering your content. A very detailed body should contain facts, statistics, comparisons, and detailed information about your topic. This is where you let your audience know you prepared adequately.
- Conclusion: This should summarize your points, ask for gray areas, and seek feedback in the form of questions. You could also connect your beginning story to your conclusion.
Keeping your content organized and concise will help determine the flow and result of your speech.
Depending on your audience, you may choose to hold a piece of paper with your key points in them to help deliver an organized speech. Your knowledge of the use of presentation tools such as PowerPoint should be sharp.
Making a PowerPoint presentation greatly helps organization and delivery. However, your presentation slides should not be too wordy and try not to read directly from your slides. Having 10 to 15 slides with infographics will greatly facilitate communication.
During the speech, distracting gestures such as the excessive movement of your hands, putting hands in pocket, pointing a finger at the audience, should be avoided as much as possible. Staying put in one position and pacing through the length of the stage constitutes poor stage management. Your audience should be able to focus on you and what you’re saying, and not on your movements.
Most public speakers will prescribe rehearsing your speech in front of a mirror several times before delivery. Practice in front of your colleagues or a friend, and get them to ask you questions and assess your delivery, tone, and every other thing that matters while you practice. Watch and listen to experienced speakers so you can learn from them.
An aspect of practice involves getting feedback on your performance from your friend or colleague in the audience or better still, request for the video recording of the presentation, and score your performance.
If this action is put into regular practice, you will experience a steep improvement in your presentations.
Be open-minded in receipt of feedback, no matter how insignificant they may sound. Feedback may be on incorrect data, inappropriate jokes, a low tone during the speech, and poor posture.
Besides mastering your script, do well to have good knowledge about the room size and venue setup, especially the stage where you will speak from.
Take deep breaths just before the presentation; this helps calms the nerves and reduces stage fright. With enough practice, you won’t be as nervous on stage.
WRITING YOUR PERFECT SPEECH
Giving a perfect speech is an art form that has to be studied beforehand.
It is all too easy to get on a stage and either freeze while trying to give your speech, or give a less than average speech.
A lot of practice goes into crafting and presenting the right speech, and some helpful tips can help you do that faster.
The first thing you need to do is prepare the perfect speech. With a great speech, you have a better chance of doing well
- First, learn who your audience is and tailor your speech to their demographic. For example, if your speech is directed to health professionals, it will serve you well to not only research the correct terminology but also find out how things work in that community. Also, their age, gender, religion, and even political interests can affect how you should word your speech. Make sure you’re politically correct to avoid annoying or boring them.
- The beginning of your speech will set a precedent for how well your speech will be received by your audience, so you need it to make a strong impression. But, this doesn’t mean you should neglect the rest of the speech. You should maintain the same energy throughout the length of your speech, and end with an equally strong closing statement. Try not to end your speech with a question and answer session; rather make room for questions towards the end, and close off with a strong statement.
- Always keep the purpose of your speech in mind to avoid veering off point mid-speech. What information do you want to pass to your audience? How do you want them to feel after hearing your speech? All these should be at the forefront of your mind when writing your speech, and you can go through the finished work a few times to make any adjustments.
- The tone of your speech is also a very important part of the speech, and this determines how well your audience is impacted by your speech. When talking to a group of people, you need to employ good motivation tactics. The best form of motivation and persuasion is pathos, which uses emotion to convince people. If your speech has a strong and genuine tone, people will be more likely to listen and understand. You can control your tone with your language, expressions, and voice.
- Be conscious of time when writing your speech. If you have 10 minutes for your speech, aim to finish at least 30 seconds earlier. If your allocated time is longer, your speech should end a few minutes before to make time for questions. You can practice giving the speech until you can deliver it in record time.
- Sometimes, especially when making a long speech, you may need help remembering certain key points in your speech. Going on stage with an outline of your speech is a good idea – as long as you don’t read from it throughout. Your outline can contain some short lines that keep you on track and help you remember.
TEN THINGS TO AVOID WHEN GIVING A SPEECH
- Do not make any jokes at the expense of your audience
- Avoid having your hands in your pocket.
- Do not read directly from your slides. It is a sign that you don’t know what you’re talking about. You can take glances from them from to time, but don’t spend too much time on them
- Don’t avoid eye contact with your audience. Don’t look at the floor or above their heads when delivering your speech
- Never act with impatience or be too hasty
- Don’t pace back and forth around the stage
- Don’t try to impress by using words that are hard to understand
- Don’t rush through your speech. Use pauses in between to make it easier to understand
- Don’t make excuses for whatever you perceive as a fault from you
- Don’t speak in a monotone. Inject some enthusiasm into your voice
Public speaking is an important skill to have, especially when your career or business calls for it. It is also an effective way to market yourself and your brand, regardless of what you do.
Also, when you’re skilled at speaking publicly, you get a confidence boost that can reflect in other aspects of your life.
Your first step towards sharpening your skills in public speaking begins with mastering these seven fundamentals.
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