Whether we’re talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time.
We can do this well or we can do this badly, and the outcome strongly affects the way that people think about us. This is why public speaking causes so much anxiety and concern.
The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well. This article explains how!
The Importance of Public Speaking
Even if you don’t need to make regular presentation in front of a group, there are plenty of situations where good public speaking skills can help you advance your career and create opportunities.
For example, you might have to talk about your organization at a conference, make a speech after accepting an award, or teach a class to new recruits. Speaking to an audience also includes online presentations or talks; for instance, when training a virtual team, or when speaking to a group of customers in an online meeting.
Good public speaking skills are important in other areas of your life, as well. You might be asked to make a speech at a friend’s wedding, give a eulogy for a loved one, or inspire a group of volunteers at a charity event.
In short, being a good public speaker can enhance your reputation, boost your self-confidence, and open up countless opportunities.
However, while good skills can open doors, poor ones can close them. For example, your boss might decide against promoting you after sitting through a badly-delivered presentation. You might lose a valuable new contract by failing to connect with a prospect during a sales pitch. Or you could make a poor impression with your new team, because you trip over your words and don’t look people in the eye.
Make sure that you learn how to speak well!
Strategies for Becoming a Better Speaker
The good news is that speaking in public is a learnable skill. As such, you can use the following strategies to become a better speaker and presenter.
First, make sure that you plan your communication appropriately. Use tools like the Rhetorical Triangle, Monroe’s motivated sequence, and the 7cs of communication to think about how you’ll structure what you’re going to say.
When you do this, think about how important a book’s first paragraph is; if it doesn’t grab you, you’re likely going to put it down. The same principle goes for your speech: from the beginning, you need to intrigue your audience.
For example, you could start with an interesting statistic, headline, or fact that pertains to what you’re talking about and resonates with your audience. You can also use story telling as a powerful opener; our Expert Interviews with Annette SImmons andPaul Smith offer some useful tips on doing this.
Planning also helps you to think on your feet. This is especially important for unpredictable question and answer sessions or last-minute communications.
Remember that not all occasions when you need to speak in public will be scheduled. You can make good impromptu speeches by having ideas and mini-speeches pre-prepared. It also helps to have a good, thorough understanding of what’s going on in your organization and industry.
There’s a good reason that we say, “Practice makes perfect!” You simply cannot be a confident, compelling speaker without practice.
To get practice, seek opportunities to speak in front of others. For example, Taostmaster is a club geared specifically towards aspiring speakers, and you can get plenty of practice at Toastmasters sessions. You could also put yourself in situations that require public speaking, such as by cross-training a group from another department, or by volunteering to speak at team meetings.