Everyone working in the business sector will be required, at some point, to make a presentation or deliver a speech. And the truth is that anyone can speak in front of an audience but maintaining this audience’s attention is not as simple as it may seem. How confident are you about your public speaking skills?
As a starting point, you have to remember that great public speakers are not just born this way but are trained to become more and more engaging. The main features of a good public speaker:
- Think inside of the box: No, this is not a typo. Thinking outside of the box can be appealing in most cases; however, when you have to deal with a real-life audience that is staring at you, the safest option is to stay inside the lines. If you try to make your thinking too complex, you may end up filling your speech with filling words like “um”, “oh”, “ah”, which will possibly make your audience tired and bored.
- Improvisation: Most people tend to memorize their speech by heart when they have to make a presentation. However, good public speakers prefer learning only the main points and improvising on the details while speaking. This is not a fixed skill that someone is born with. On the contrary, it takes a lot of practice and can be improved by taking yourself out there. Embrace your simple thoughts and integrate them smoothly while you deliver your speech.
Before you speak, THINK:
T – Is it True?
H – Is it Helpful?
I – Is it Inspiring?
N – Is it Necessary?
K – Is it Kind?
Public speaking: The importance of body language
Most of us hesitate to exaggerate our gestures, like being afraid to claim more space. However, facial expressions, body posture and hand gestures can significantly reinforce the message, making your speech more memorable. Mastering body language can have an effect, not only on social occasions, but also on your brain.
- Facial expressions: Our face has 43 muscles. Facial expressions are really important for communicating to the audience how we feel. How can you master your facial expressions to better communicate your message? Try exercising the 7 main emotions in front of the mirror: joy, anger, sadness, contempt, surprise, fear, and disgust. Understanding these facial expressions can help you use them better to communicate your message, as well as learn to ‘read’ other persons’ expressions.
- Eye contact: Sustaining eye contact makes you seem more credible and convincing. When sustaining eye contact with some people in the audience for 3-5 seconds, they are more likely to maintain their attention.
- Gestures: Hands can really give additional meaning to your speech, and this is what makes human communication unique among other species. People who hide their hands are commonly perceived as less open, while those who just cross their hands in front of their torso seem stressed. On the contrary, using your fingers to list three different points of your speech creates a nice sense of structure and makes what you say more easily memorable.
- Posture: The body posture shows a lot about your confidence. To make your speech more powerful, make sure to keep your straight back and shoulders back. Don’t hide your hands. Face the audience and keep your body open. Move only with purpose and avoid uncoordinated moving.
Structure of your speech: Why it is important
-Open: Start with silence. Make sure you acclaim your audience in the beginning rather than start speaking without even people being seated yet. Start with a good attention grabber, such as:
- a shocking – unexpected statement or;
- a personal story or
- a call-to-action for your audience (e.g. “Imagine that you…”)
At this point, it is better to avoid cliche introductions, such as “Hello, welcome” or “Today I am going to talk about this”.
-Middle: A clear structure is the A and Z of efficient public speaking content. For example, the “Rule of Three” is a pretty common principle that states that ideas presented in threes are more interesting and more probable to stick in people’s heads compared to other groups.
Apart from structure, interesting content is a key characteristic of an interesting speech and includes equal proportions of emotion and logic. Avoid talking only about data insights, but make sure to include also a humorous story. Accordingly, don’t say just a story but make sure you support it with actual evidence.
Once you get people laughing, they are listening and you can tell them almost anything.
-Close: A powerful ending must include the re-enforcement of your takeaway message. The most important rule here is to make sure you have time for a proper ending. Briefly summarize your key points to make sure the people will remember what you talked about. Then, underline your key message and close your speech with a Call-to-Action. Last but not least, you should thank your audience for their attention.
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