How to develop a verbal presence fit for public speaking
According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.
Like all great jokes, this celebrated stand up routine from Jerry Seinfeld reveals a fascinating truth about the human condition. If, in some bizarre scenario, I was forced to make a choice right now between being knocked down by a bus or performing a five minute speech in front of a thousand people, I’d probably have to take a moment or two before I offered up a response. Public speaking, after all seems to encapsulate every nail-biting fear we ever had about how we look and sound and brings to light our deepest anxieties about being judged by others.
We’re all familiar with the feeling of dread that hits right before stepping up to the podium at the front of a room full of your peers. Many people are under the impression that they will never be any good at public speaking, but this is not the case. By employing some common tricks, and getting some vital experience in public speaking, you will be well prepared to deliver your speech or report in front of anybody.
1. Be Confident
Anxiety when speaking is the number one cause of a sub-par performance in front of your peers. Many speakers lack confidence because they simply don’t believe that they can be good at speaking in front of others. While the only cure for this type of anxiety is practice, making sure to have a handle on the material before you begin can go a long way to taking away those pre-speech jitters.
Learning the whole thing word for word often isn’t a good idea (you’ll panic if you forget a bit), but learning the opening sentence or two is a great way to set your pace and get into the flow of the material.
2. Tips on Voice and Pacing
The worst thing you can do when speaking in public is to talk too quickly. This not only overwhelms your audience, but will lead to more mistakes on your part resulting from tripping over your own words. One of the best tips for this is to record yourself speaking in front of others, and listen to it again afterwards. You’ll know if you are talking too quickly.
If you’re a naturally fast speaker, place a small piece of paper in front of you with a reminder to slow down when speaking. Follow these simple tips, and after a few attempts you will naturally become more relaxed, and so begin to speak in a slow and proper manner.
It may sound like a cliché, but using some mannerisms and public speaking devices within your presentation really can work wonders to boost understanding and keep the audience focusing on what you are saying. Some people struggle with annoying mannerisms while speaking, but if you can channel them into emphasizing the information you are bringing to your audience then it will vastly improve your public speaking skills. Over-emphasizing key words throughout your speech can be a great way to make the audience remember just what you were talking about, for example.
Also, remember that repetition isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many famous speakers use repetitive devices to make sure people get the most important messages. It’s important to know where to draw the line, but, again, this comes with practice. When listening to a recording of yourself speaking, you will be able to tell straight away if you have a problem with excessively um overusing certain er vocal mannerisms.
4. Confidence Inspires Trust
Nobody wants to hear someone explaining a new product or business strategy if that person can’t stop shaking and never makes eye contact. Having confidence when speaking about a subject spurs your audience into listening what you have to say, and by extension, trusting the conclusions you come to when describing a particular subject. Confidence in yourself induces others to have confidence in you.
The most important tip for any public speaking task is to enjoy the experience. If you begin to love public speaking, you will become naturally more confident and relaxed, and the audience will love you in return. Remember never to give up after a bad experience, though. Instead, leap at every opportunity to show off your new found public speaking skills.
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