Public speaking is a valuable skill to have yet many are afraid of it.According to the website Statistic Brain, 74% of the United States population have some speech anxiety. That is a huge percentage of people who are afraid to speak in public. Learning this skill will help you be an expert in your field, gain credibility, and earn income.
As a communications arts major, I did a lot of presentations. At first, it was nerve racking but over time I got accustomed to it. I have learned a couple of things about public speaking along the way. Also, recently I have read this great book entitled Pitch Perfect which delves into how to communicate effectively when speaking. With both of these things in mind, I will share 5 things that can make you an effective public speaker.
Prepare Does anyone remember the first debate between former president Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney? In this debate, Barack Obama lost this debate. Why did he lose this debate? He did not prepare for the debate. Even if you are a natural born speaker, you have to prepare what you will say. Have you ever had a lecture in school or went to church one weekend and the speaker just did not make any sense? They probably were not prepared. How do you prepare to speak? You should have an outline of what you plan to say beforehand.
Practice This is very important. Just like preparation, a public speaker should practice what will they say. Rehearsing your content is very key to successful public speaking. Once you have prepared your content, make sure to go over it as many times as you can. Practice in front of a mirror. Record yourself. Perhaps you can rehearse in front of a friend who can give you feedback.
Know Your Audience. This is one extra step in preparation. Your content should be relevant to who you are speaking too. For example, if you are on a panel for college students then you should keep in mind what a college student thinks about and adjust your content to their needs. You would not speak to a group of elementary school students the same way you would speak to investment bankers. You should also know the type of vocabulary they use be it certain slang or corporate jargon. Again this ties into preparation.
Relax. The thought of an audience having their eyes on you can make you nervous. This should not stop you from speaking. What do you do? Well going back to the other items on this list, being prepared and rehearsing does help in calming nerves. What is very interesting and my own opinion, it is very normal to be nervous. If you are not nervous then you are more likely to bomb because you are not taking your speaking serious enough to feel the nerves. What do you do to relax? Speak slowly. Breathe before you actually speak.
Engage. When you know your audience, it is easier to engage with your audience. What do I mean by engaging? This can mean opening up questions after you speak. This means eye contact. You want to rehearse your content so well that you can give eye contact to your audience. Your content should provide illustrations in the form of anecdotes. These stories will keep the audience engaged and ready to listen to what you have to say. Engagement is very key to successful public speaking.
With these 5 items, I hope that you can be a better public speaker. From my experience the more you speak in public the more it will come naturally. My final suggestion is to take up speaking opportunities as much as you can whether formal or informal. It will build you up and you will be armed with a new marketable and profitable skill.
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