Here are 6 easy ways to get better at public speaking.
If you’ve got a speech or presentation coming up soon, incorporating one or more of these methods will give you a massive edge.
Open with a question
If the first thing you do is ask a question a few things happen:
1. You get the audience’s attention
Ever noticed when someone asks a question everyone pays attention? The rising intonation as you say the question forces people to listen and consider what you just said.
2. You look confident and credible
By starting with a question the audience feels you know the topic well and will speak clearly about it. This in turn makes you appear confident from the get-go. You also establish your speech is not just going to be a lecture which builds your credibility.
3. You buy yourself some time
Having a question prepared in advance reduces the stress about opening your speech. It also buys you a few seconds as you ask the question, wait for an answer, and maybe interact a little with responses from the audience.
Here’s an example question to start a sales presentation: “Can anyone guess what our sales forecasts are for the coming year?”
Talk while you walk
It’s your turn to speak. You walk in silence to the front of the room. You reach the front, center and wait for the nod from your boss to start your speech. You start with, “Good morning. My name is…”
You’ve barely uttered a sentence and the audience is already ready to scamper from the room like fleeing hostages. And it’s because you’re telling them with your demeanor and your first words, “I’m the same as every other crap speaker you’ve seen.”
Next time you do a speech, stand up and start talking to the audience as you make your way to the front of the room (or as you walk out on to the stage). You come across as more confident and will be much more engaging.
Make eye contact with everyone
As you deliver your speech consciously move your eye contact from person to person.
When you’re a bit nervous it’s normal to focus on the back of the room, look down, or to make eye contact constantly with that one person who is nodding at you reassuringly. All of these things damage your confidence and credibility on stage.
Try to manage your eye contact the same way you would if you were talking to a group of friends.
Read the room
One of the important aspects of eye contact is reading the room.
This is looking for clues about how the audience feels about your speech so you can respond in real time.
For example, if they are struggling to understand something you’ll probably be able to tell. It’s then time to slow down, perhaps repeat information in a different way, maybe ask questions to test understanding.
Don’t pad your speech
Time limits are annoying.
Your boss might want you to speak for 15 minutes, but the audience wants you to speak as efficiently as possible.
If you’ve got a speech that takes 10 minutes your inclination might be to keep your boss happy and try to pad the speech for an extra 5 minutes. Don’t make this mistake! The audience won’t appreciate the extra 5 minutes and it’s their impressions of your speech your boss will remember.
One more reason not to pad your speech is that during practice time you have optimum conditions. No interruptions. No one to ask questions. No one with quizzical looks that encourage you to reiterate material. So when you practice, 10 minutes takes 10 minutes, but when you’re live that 10 minute presentation will easily stretch to 15 or 20 minutes without you even noticing.
Pause before you answer questions
Don’t answer any questions until you’ve paused and considered the question.
Make sure you clearly understand what is being asked. If you are not sure that you’ve understood the question, seek clarification before trying to answer. Once the question is clear, give a clear and direct answer. Confirm the questioner is satisfied with your answer before moving on.
I’d love to hear what you think. Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to reply.