Although it may be one of your biggest fears – it’s up there with death on peoples’ top five list of fears – public speaking is most likely going to be a part of your life at some point, so trying to avoid it and wheedle your way out of every opportunity to speak in front of more than two people just isn’t an option, or not a good one in any case. Instead, wouldn’t you rather be able to make public speaking into one of your skills – something to proudly show off on a CV, and wow your co-workers with during presentations? Spreading your ideas is easiest when you’re talking to people in person so that they can see your passion and interest firsthand, so making every single speech impactful with these four tips can help to shape your image and spread whatever message you need to get across.
1. Be Unselfish
“While one way of psyching yourself up before the ‘big speech’ might be to convince yourself that you’re an expert and everyone listening to you is just an idiot in their underwear (a commonly suggested thought process), this is terrible in practice.” Joe Worrell, a speaker at Writemyx.com and Nextcoursework.com, advises. “Your audience will feel alienated and be able to instantly notice your high and mighty status, whether that be through your body language or any complex terms which you use but don’t explain. To be as down-to-earth and accessible as possible, make sure that you speak in layman’s terms or explain complex concepts and terminology, and match your attitude and tone to the audience and situation.” A speech that works wonders for high school students, for example, won’t be accepted that easily by your co-workers and could be seen as condescending, while the vice versa situation may leave the students bored and confused. Don’t just think about yourself – consider your audience while planning any speech.
2. Use Powerpoint Properly
Media can be a brilliant asset to any speech or presentation – when used correctly. If it’s overused or relied on, your audience will become disinterested, and often assume that you have no actual passion for your topic. Someone reading off a computer screen in a monotone isn’t usually that convincing, but if you stand out in front of the media and only use it as a prompt, you’ll look a lot more passionate and knowledgeable. Also, your audience members won’t know every single line of your script if it isn’t on your powerpoint, so you’ll be able to keep the element of surprise and ‘planned spontaneity’ which make speeches so humanizing and relatable.
3. Mix Stories & Stats
Anecdotes can make an audience sympathize or empathize with you and understand your viewpoint. Statistics convince an audience and make them believe what you’re saying. “Both accurate stats and personal stories need to be used in equal measures to keep an audience engaged and convinced,” Natasha Hyde, a writer at Britstudent.com and Australia2write.com, says, “so don’t flood your speeches with stats and make them sound like one long financial report, but also don’t make them sound too much like old wives’ tales that you’d share with the family. Finding that balance, along with original content to keep the speech moving and flowing well, is the secret to crafting amazing speeches that will win over your audiences.”
There’s a simple rule you should always keep in mind while speaking publicly: if you’re bored, then so is the audience. You shouldn’t be making a speech about something that you’re not passionate about, and, if you are, you can expect it to be boring and lackluster – for certain business aspects of work, like presentations and meetings, this may be the norm. Still, if you’re speaking to an audience that you care about, with a message that you care about, then you’ll need to do more than read out notes and flick through a powerpoint. Throw yourself into your content and perform. Hand gestures and proper inflections in speech are useful markers for passionate speaking, but the best way to tell is to ask yourself if you want to be up in front of your audience, speaking to them. The answer might be a very, very quiet ‘yes,’ squashed by all your fears and doubts, but if it’s a definite ‘no,’ then passion might not be possible for you to grasp, and your speeches will suffer as a result.
eSpeakers guest blogger, Katrina Hatchett blogs about lifestyle at Academic Brits, and also enjoys working for Origin Writings as a valued member of the writing team. She is also involved in numerous business projects since one of her passions in life is identifying project problems and their solutions, which aren’t always that simple. Still, they do give her the satisfaction of problem-solving time and time again. Her main goal is to improve the effectiveness of everyone’s communication around the world, and one of the small ways by which she contributes to this goal is by writing for the Ph.D. Kingdom blog.