Public speaking is a massive challenge. For many people, it’s the single most difficult and most terrifying thing they are ever asked to do.
You might be preparing for a business presentation or a tough job interview. Even worse, perhaps, you have to make a speech. You have to speak to a group and it’s something you just can’t get out of. So how will you deal with it?
Whatever the task, there are three basic things you must include in your planning.
I have covered these three areas – and much more – in a new book I’m working on: Public Speaking …Who, Me?
The three crucial areas of public speaking you can’t ignore
Matter – what you say
You are an expert in your field. You are probably confident that you know your subject matter extremely well. That’s a great start.
The book offers advice about choosing content. Content exists for two reasons: to achieve your purpose and to engage your audience .
Public Speaking… Who, Me? shows you how to:
- Emphasise the most effective material for your specific target audience
- Include the right level of detail
- Make effective appeals to the intellect and the emotions (send out calls to the head and the heart).
Method – how you organise your material
The book also has plenty of information and useful hints about ways to organise and structure the content of your presentation for the best effect.
It includes the effective use of visual aids.
Manner – how you use your voice and your body
If your presentation and delivery don’t allow you to project the authority and confidence that you feel, what you have to offer will fail to hit the mark.
Public Speaking … Who, Me? covers the use of the voice (tone, volume, pace, etc) and the body (stance, gesture, expression, etc).
Three useful tips
Here are just three tips related to Manner. They are outlined briefly here, and fully detailed in the book.
1. The eyes have it
Avoid darting your eyes quickly around the room. It gives the impression of nervousness and indecision.
Instead, keep your gaze steady. When you change focus, do it slowly. These techniques signal that you are in control.
Avoid any position where you are looking in the direction of the sun, or very bright lighting.
Instead, whether in a one-to-one interview, before an audience, or any time you are on camera, try to blink less often.
2. Take a deep breath
Avoid breathing from the upper body. It can make you sound breathless, nervous, or even panicked. Your chest and shoulders shouldn’t move when you breathe.
Instead, to sound confident and controlled, breathe from the diaphragm. Practise by placing your hand just above your navel and taking note of the rise and fall of the diaphragm.
Avoid rushing from one sentence to the next until you simply have to stop for breath. This is the classic signal of uncertainty or nervousness. Neither inspires confidence.
Instead, pause briefly after each sentence (the pause is useful for effect, too). Breathe in lightly, through the nose, before beginning the next sentence.
3. ‘Handy’ hints for public speaking
Avoid unnecessary hand gestures. If they are merely ‘hand waving’ they detract from your message (and can be extremely annoying). Pointing can be interpreted as aggressive. Hand clasping can appear as anxiety (or fake sincerity). Too many gestures, of any kind, will make you seem theatrical or, worse, vague.
Instead, make a few meaningful gestures that are designed to complement your words, emphasise the tone of your speaking, and engage your audience, encouraging them to focus on your message.
Watch your hands, but pay attention to your shoulders, as well. Many speakers unconsciously hold one higher than the other, or sit with hunched shoulders during interviews.
Tip: Try filming your presentation or interview. Treat it as a ‘rehearsal’. Be super-critical of your words, expressions, gestures and movements. Make the necessary corrections, then film it again.
For more tips on improving your spoken language, look at Pronunciation Pitfalls.
Public Speaking … Who, Me?
Believe it or not, anyone can learn the skills.
I have helped many professionals to improve their public speaking performances.
Public Speaking … Who, Me? should be available soon. If you would like to order a copy or if you would like personalised advice before you make your next important presentation, please contact me.