So you’re due to give a presentation, and even the most seasoned presenter will tell you, preparation is key. But in this blog we explore the public speaking tips and tricks from the pros that really work. Practicing these could help to boost your career.
“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” –Dale Carnegie
Why Do I Need To Be A Good Speaker?
Did you realise you work in sales? Well you do, we all do. We may sell a product, a service, consultancy, experience or ourselves. If you’re making money, ie: you’re working, then you’re selling. And great salespeople are great speakers!
Speaking skills come in handy in many situations;
Most people are poor speakers, some are terrible, as you’ll likely know from many sub-par office meeting performances in the past. It’s relatively easy to improve your speaking skills, putting you ahead of the game, and we’ll show you how with our public speaking tips blog.
Public Speaking Tips
Contrary to popular belief, the secret to successful public speaking is not the speaking part itself. It doesn’t matter how good your speech is, if you’ve not perfected your body language, tone of speech, speed of speech and confidence then your message won’t come across.
Let’s start with body language. If you’re presenting, try to make sure you can deliver your speech while standing whenever possible. You must be seen, be able to see everyone and your body should be free to help you communicate. Standing with a strong, confident posture makes you look authoritative. Practice taking steps around your presentation area, ensure your comfortable and ensure that you’re not tempted to fidget.
Your hand gestures are also very important. Think of a public speaker you really admire, you might realise they’re talking with their hands but you’d never noticed it before. Science Of People studied hand gestures of TED Talk presenters and found a strong correlation; the least popular talks had an average of 272 hand gestures while the post popular had 465! Here are 7 hand gestures you probably use in every day speaking, but forget to use when presenting.
Another key consideration is eye contact – it sounds simple, but making effective eye contact – especially when you’re nervous – can be difficult when speaking in public. Not only will making eye contact make your audience feel more at ease, it will keep you focussed too. If you let your eyes wander you can become distracted easily and lose your way. Focussing your eye contact on each person in turn can transform your presentation into a conversation without words, as you’ll receive subtle communications back via the listerer’s gaze and behaviour.
Now onto the actual speaking. There’s more to effective speech than simply being heard. One of the most important things you can practice is your speaking rate. You can work out your speaking rate quite simply, record yourself and count the average number of words per minute. Conversational speech is usually around 120 – 160 wpm (words per minute). The most effective way to handle your speaking rate is to speak at conversational speed but know when to slow your wpm down – slower speech helps the audience to take in more complex information. It’s all too easy to let your wpm creep up, especially if you’re nervous and trying to remember the 300 things you want to say. Record yourself and practice speaking slower throughout the more difficult to comprehend areas of your speech.
As well as practicing slowing your speech, you might also want to think about pauses. Pauses are a very effective way to connect with your audience, to give them a moment to take in what’s just been said and form their own opinions. Consider short or long pauses wherever you have punctuation in your sentences. There are, in fact, nine types of pause you can use in your public speaking – read more on this article.
And finally, timing. It’s likely you know you have a set time limit, perhaps it’s 10 minutes in an interview or 30 minutes in a presentation. Remember to practice, include your slower rate of speech, your pauses and your gestures to get a full picture of how long your speech will actually take in real time. And, generally, under-speaking is preferred to over-speaking. Aim to take up 90% of the time you have allocated because nobody likes to be cut off before their conclusion.
Record, review and improve
If possible, probably not during a job interview, try to record your public speaking to review it later. Count your words per minute, analyse your hand gestures and work on improving your performance.
Watch Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, World Champion Public Speaker – yes there is such a thing – and see if you can spot all of the public speaking tips listed in this blog.
Improving your speaking skills can have a huge impact on your career making you more memorable, better understood and improving your leadership prospects.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog, why not take a look at our follow-up blog, “Presentation skills to excel your career”, which focuses on the written and visual aspects of presenting.