Value added skills are cherished and often in scarce supply. Most of these skills are thought of in technical terms, such as IT knowledge or niche training. However, practical skills such as personal communication may be overlooked.
Public speaking ranks among the most feared yet valuable skills. This makes the ROI for improving your presentation skills very high.
With a few basic tips and practice, you can distinguish yourself from a crowded field.
Here are some tips to consider:
Rehearse and Nail Your Intro:
Confidence is a trait that builds on itself. A strong start quickly makes you comfortable. Your opening also establishes credibility with the audience.
Taking the time to rehearse and master your intro is crucial to confidence. New pubic speakers should direct a large share of their focus to this section of the speech.
Business professionals use their intro to make a first and lasting impression. Recently, Elliott Broidy used a compelling intro at The Manhattan Film Festival to earn further success for his film, ‘Sugar’.
In accepting the ‘Film Heals Award’, he opened with “Sugar is helping change hearts and minds about youth homelessness.” The comment made buzz on social media and helped ‘Sugar’ earn added film screenings.
Can you see how this grabs attention compared to opening with the generic “Thank you to so and so”?
Your introduction also establishes guidelines. This is your chance to set the tone. An example would include: “Please hold all questions to the end”. By doing so, you proactively eliminate many interruptions or surprises.
Do you know where you will be speaking? If so, pay a visit to the room beforehand.
Some to questions to ask are:
Where will you be standing? What are the seating arrangements? How many people will be attending? Your comfort level will increase with each answer.
Don’t expect to know everything, but confirm logistics and use good judgment for proper attire. Whether formal or business casual, wear clothes that make you feel great on speech day. You should try and practice in the same room, if possible. Otherwise, try and replicate the setting.
Practice Your Speech in Different Settings:
It is important to prepare for different situations. The room temperature, seating and acoustics on speech day may be very different from your rehearsals.
Below are some options:
- Practice in different rooms.
- Turn on the TV or radio to simulate background noise.
- Don’t always practice in front of the same people.
- Field questions during the speech to practice interruptions.
Effective Speaking Tips:
Engage the Audience with Questions:
Our attention spans are limited, regardless of the subject. You can capture audience attention with questions and other techniques at crucial points of the speech.
Some strategies include:
Rifle Shot Question:
Much like a literal rifle shot, asking someone a question forces everybody to stiffen up and pay attention. This is even easier if you know someone in the audience. Ask an easy question with no wrong answer.
For instance, you may simply ask someone, “That makes sense, right?” Our human nature causes us to be ready in case we are called upon next. Rifle shot questions will command more attention from your audience.
If it’s a sales presentation, consider offering some company swag or $5 gift cards in exchange for responses. Simply hold up the prize and ask your question. You may be surprised how enthusiasm skyrockets when free coffee is at stake.
Being stationary creates monotony and causes minds to wander. Consider coming out from behind the podium, which often acts as a literal and figurative barrier. After building confidence with a strong intro, move to another area or even walk between aisles from time to time. (depending on the setup)
Establish Eye Contact with All Sections of the Room:
Divide the room into 3 sections. During the speech, alternate eye contact with different sections of your audience. This is far more effective than a fixed gaze at all times.
So, there are a few ideas to improve public speaking skills. You should identify the specifics of what makes you uneasy and practice accordingly.
Public speaking has broad benefits. You will enjoy improved self-confidence and open up career opportunities. Do you feel more prepared to speak publicly?
Marc Walambe has over 13 years of business advisory experience. He writes and consults about an array of corporate finance topics.
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