9 Steps to Public Speaking Success
It is inevitable that at times during our careers or personal lives; we will be required to provide a presentation or public speech to a group of people. Perhaps the group is a group of peers; perhaps the audience will be senior or top-level management; perhaps the group will be comprised of people who wish to learn something from you. This is an opportunity that can boost or hinder your career path. When the day comes to provide a public presentation, will you know what to do to create and present an effective speech? Will you put the audience to sleep? Or will you be able to hold the attention of most of the audience? While you may wish you had listened more during that speech coach's presentation last year, you still have to get ready to hold the interest of an audience for a specific period of time. Professional speech coaches will always stress that preparation is the key to success in public speaking.
Speech Coach's Tip 1: Know your audience: Before you begin to prepare your material to present, you need to know what group of people will most likely comprise your target audience. It is important to speak at the level of understanding of that particular audience. If you are speaking about aerospace to grade school children, you would want to be certain you will be speaking at the level they can understand clearly and find interesting. If you are speaking to rocket scientists about aerospace, a completely different and much more technical speech would be required. One way to be certain to put an audience to sleep is to talk over their heads or far below their level of knowledge. All good speaking coaches will agree that targeting your audience and their knowledge level is crucial. You may well know exactly what group you will be speaking to and their level of understanding of the topic. If you do not have this information, seek it out by talking to the person or group who invited your to speak or talking to members of a group likely to be similar to those who will attend your speech.
Speech Coach's Tip 2: Know Your Subject: Speech coaches sometimes state that anyone can speak to any group on any subject and hold their interest 'for a short time. This is true, but only to a point. Hopefully, you were asked to present this speech because you are an expert in the field. However, that may not always be the case. You must know the subject you are speaking on to the level of detail that will prepare you to answer questions from the group. Research, read, search the internet, talk to experts, or whatever is required to gather the information so that you know your topic well. Remember, you will need to be able to offer specific facts or anecdotes if you are to create a lasting impression with your speech, so make sure to take at least mental notes of real-life examples to pepper throughout your speech.
Speech Coach's Tip 3: The Rule of Three: People in general can focus on three things and remember them well. Speech coaches recommend that a speaker identify the three major things they wish the audience to remember from the presentation you provide. Identify what three things you want to emphasize to your audience. Speaking coaches also recommend that no more than three examples or 'proofs' of each point be made as sub-points. This will provide a basis for your outline of the speech. You will also want to repeat the three major points three times in your speech: during the introduction, while covering each point, and in the closing statements.
Speech Coach's Tip 4: Prepare Your Material: At this point, most speech coaches recommend sitting down and fleshing out the material you will be presenting 'the body of the speech or the three points you identified as your main points. Don't worry about opening or closing the speech at this point, just get your three points defined and formatted so that you can convey excitement and knowledge about your topics.
Speech Coach's Tip 5: Compelling Opening Statements: Now that you have bodies for your speech, professional speaking coaches recommend reviewing your material and developing a compelling and interesting opening comments section. You must give the audience a reason to listen. Make them want to know what you have to tell them. Humor can be used 'provided you are a person who can deliver humor naturally and intelligently to the target audience 'but it is not necessary. In the opening, you should include the three points you will be covering in the body of the speech.
Speech Coach's Tip 6: Closing Statements: You should close the speech with a brief review of the three major points contained in the speech. These should be brief, but, remembering the Rule of Threes, will allow you to reinforce your main points.
Speech Coach's Tip 7: Read and Re-Read Your Material: After you have prepared your speech, read the material until you know it well. Speech coaches recommend that you not attempt to memorize word-for-word, but that you know the material so well in your head that you can discuss the subject even if you lost all your notes! By having this material in your brain, you are prepared to delivery the knowledge to other people. I once attended a lecture series with a man who would enter the room, sit on top of his stack of notes, and then recite them word for word for the next three hours. The notes and speech were not even in his native language. You may never be the most dynamic speaker in the world, but you have full control over whether you are perceived as being informed and prepared.
Speech Coach's Tip 8: Audience Involvement: Speech coaches often stress that you must involve an audience to hold their attention. Depending on your audience, this can be accomplished in several ways. For a formal audience where you can't break the audience into groups or other physical involvement, ask questions of the audience such as 'What would you do if this occurred?' Another technique is to ask for a show of hands of how many people have been in similar situations or had the same questions you are answering in your speech. Tell the audience, 'Now, please write this down because it is crucial knowledge for your success.' If the group is small and informal, you may be able to involve the audience by asking groups of several people to write a question or comment to be collected and reviewed at the end of the presentation. Any technique you can think of that will involve the audience and get them to participate will work much better than ending with, 'Are there any questions?' That ending almost never, according to the best speech coaches, results in a response from any attendees.
Speech Coach's Tip 9: Present with Confidence: When the time comes to present your speech, take a few minutes to practice deep breathing to calm yourself. Remember that body language is very important and you must be animated while speaking. Talk the speech rather than read it. These people came to hear you, not read your work! Make eye contact with the audience, moving that eye contact from person to person. Move your hands and if room allows, walk about the stage. Smile where appropriate, show facial expressions of concern where appropriate. Animate your body and your face to remain interesting and dynamic. If you make a mistake and have to correct yourself, laugh at yourself. Accept that you are human and this one speech is not the end of the world. Use short, clear sentences spoken in a clear, calm voice. Pause at main points 'there is no need to rush because you are prepared and KNOW you are prepared.
By following these nine tips, you will be able to develop a speech for any group on any subject on which you have some knowledge. Enjoy the moment and do not allow stage fright to hold you back. During your time on stage presenting your well-prepared material, you will shine in the spotlight!
About the author:
By Jake Mayer Lapis Teahouse - My own background includes an extensive grounding in philosophy and eastern religion (I have a B.A. in comparative religion, and a Master's Degree in Oriental Medicine). I am available for public speaking, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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