Becoming a Confident – Compelling Speaker
Becoming a confident, compelling public speaker isn’t something that happens overnight. It requires practice, hard work, and a little bit of know-how. This article will tell you what you need to do to give the conference keynote speech by the end of the year, you will learn techniques to become a Better Public Speaker…
1. Be prepared.
The best way to quell your nerves and to sound like an expert is to thoroughly prepare for your presentation. Consider the following:
- Who or what are you talking about? You should have a thorough knowledge of the topic, but you should also have thought about it from every side—how will people react? What objections might they have? You don’t need to respond to every objection, but being prepared in case someone asks a question will help put you at ease.
- What possibilities exist for distraction? Will there be technical problems or distractions in the environment (e.g., loud noise)? If so, how will you handle them? Having possible solutions already thought out will help keep things running smoothly even when something goes wrong.
- Who is your audience? How do they think and speak? By understanding their needs, you can tailor your speech so that it resonates with them.
2. Know your audience.
You already know your speech, but do you know your audience? As a public speaker, you’re likely going to have to face a room full of people who don’t necessarily share your views or experiences. You may have some ideas about the kind of people they are—age, occupation, interests—but the more you can find out about them before the speech begins, the better. The questions below can help guide this process.
How much does my audience know about my topic?
What is their level of knowledge? Their attitudes and beliefs? What are their expectations for this talk? What might their demographics be like (age, gender, ethnicity)? What are their interests and hobbies?
3. Talk to the people in the back row.
The first step to becoming an effective or even good public speaker is looking at your audience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen speakers make the mistake of looking down at their notes or staring up at the ceiling while they talk. This has a negative impact on your speech because it conveys two things:
- You don’t care about the people in front of you.
- You’re not confident in what you are saying.
4. Start strong
- Start with a bang.
- Start with a joke.
- Start with a story.
- Start with a statistic.
- Start with a question.
- Start with a quotation.
- Start with an analogy.
- Start with a definition.
- start with a dilemma.
- start with a surprising statement
6. Defeat your inner critic.
You can identify your inner critic when you hear yourself saying things like “I shouldn’t” or “I can’t” or “I’m not good enough.” An example of this could be, “I shouldn’t have to give a speech. I’m not good at public speaking.” Recognizing these phrases is the first step in overcoming their negative effects on your self-esteem and ability to speak confidently in front of others.
Here are some ways to manage your inner critic:
- Acknowledge that you have one. The first step to defeating your inner critic is acknowledging that it’s there. Research shows that suppressing negative thoughts can make them worse in the long run. It’s important to recognize those critical thoughts when they come up and accept that they exist before moving on.
- Think about why you’re being hard on yourself. Once you’ve acknowledged that your inner critic is present, ask yourself why it’s giving you so much grief? Is it because you feel like you haven’t mastered a skill yet? Is it because you’re preparing for an important moment in your life, like graduation or marriage? Or maybe it’s something more complex, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression? These are all valid reasons, but knowing what’s behind the criticism makes it easier to address appropriately.
7. Practice. And then practice some more.
- Rehearse out loud. You may find that reading your speech through a few times allows you to get the flow right, but in order to truly test your delivery, you need to practice speaking out loud. Practicing in front of a mirror will help you get a sense of how you’re coming across physically while giving yourself the opportunity to evaluate and improve on your body language, facial expressions and gestures.
- Practice without looking at your notes. At some point, it’s time to ditch the written script for good, so practicing without looking at your notes is essential. If you can deliver an entire speech from memory, great—just be careful not to let it sound too memorized. If delivering from memory isn’t possible because there are too many facts or figures in the speech or if technical terms are going over your head, consider using note cards instead—it’s more professional than relying on a written script and less distracting than using cue cards (the large index cards used by celebrities during televised awards shows).
- Record yourself on video and watch the playback. Watching yourself give a speech may feel awkward at first—after all, no one likes seeing themselves on video—but it will allow you to see things that can only be experienced firsthand: tone of voice, pace of delivery and overall presence come into play as never before when watching recorded playback of yourself delivering a speech or presentation.
8. Don’t memorize every word.
In general, you should know what you want to say. You should try not to memorize it. Memorizing a speech makes it sound like you are reading off a page or speaking from an overly rehearsed script. If you practice your speech often enough, however, you will be prepared for the content and structure of your message. On top of that preparation, you will probably also have some notes to keep handy as reminders in case you forget something here or there—that happens sometimes! Better Public Speaking requires you to know your stuff
9. Avoid filler words and phrases.
Practice eliminating filler words. Filler words include: um, uh, er, like, you know, so, ok, right. Avoid using “and,” “but” and “or.”
Don’t use filler phrases. These include: basically, literally, absolutely and actually. Don’t say totally or obviously or pretty or quite or kind of.
10. Take advantage of technology.
The advantage of technology is that it’s easy to use, and there are many tools on the market. Some are free or low cost, others can get costly quickly. Just be sure to take advantage of what is available and adapt it to your needs and budget.
To start your speech preparation, you can use Audacity or Garage Band (both free) to make a recording of your speech. Then play it back and listen for how you sound; remember you are not just trying to memorize the words, but what they sound like when they come out of your mouth. Drilling your presentation will also give you an idea about the pacing of the speech: too fast? too slow? These apps are Mac specific; if using a PC check out [Audacity](https://www.audacityteam.org/about/).
From there, check out apps such as Google docs, Evernote or Dropbox for storing information and ideas that might help build your story later on during the presentation process (Dropbox is particularly helpful in sharing info across devices);
Public speaking is as much about mindset as it is about technique, so make sure you’re in a good headspace before you step up to the podium.
As you prepare for your presentation, get in the right headspace so that your mindset can be as strong as your technique.
- Use a physical or mental relaxation technique. If you get nervous before presentations, take time to relax your body and mind before you go on stage. Focus on calming breaths, or try to release tension from each part of the body one at a time.
- Think positively about yourself and the presentation. Instead of focusing on how nervous you are, remind yourself that you’re prepared and well-rehearsed. You’re confident in yourself and believe in what you’re saying; this helps keep nervousness at bay while giving you an air of authority while speaking.
- Believe in yourself and don’t let setbacks defeat you. There’s bound to be an unexpected issue during any public speaking event—whether it’s a technology failure or an audience member who’s not responsive—but don’t let those things throw off your game too much! Take a few deep breaths, think positively about what’s happening or will happen next, and move forward with confidence.
Whether you are a professional or an amateur, a young person or someone of an older generation, a graduate or a student, there is something that we all can take away from this article, better public speaking is not just about what you say, but how and why you say it. Good communication skills are not only critical to success and making the right impression. They are central to enjoying life on your own terms—whether it’s for work, school, family, or other areas in your life, you can become Better at Public Speaking