There’s really no fear of failure if you’re prepared to succeed. As a public speaker, you can deliver presentations that wow your audience and even get better each time. With the right skill set, you can speak in front of any size room – of any level of experience or industry – and connect with them on an emotional level. Your message will have their full attention and they’ll be happy to help your business or organization succeed. This is what public speaking success looks like.
Understand the audience.
When we speak, we feel as though we’re delivering a message to a group of people. In reality, you’re presenting your message to an individual in the audience with his or her own expectations and preferences. To be successful, you’ve got to understand the interests and needs of your audience—and tailor your presentation accordingly.
For example, if you’re addressing a large, mixed-age audience that includes everyday citizens as well as professionals working in your industry, you’ll want to provide information that addresses both levels of interest. If you can’t meet all their needs without overcomplicating your speech or making it too long-winded, target the listening level that best suits the majority of the people in the room.
Know your material.
- Understand your material. This is the most important step, and it’s often where speakers fail. Know it cold. The two biggest ways to tell if someone doesn’t understand their own material are: unprepared answers to audience questions, and reading directly from the presentation slides. If you know your material, you can answer questions about it even if they are impromptu, and you won’t have to read from your slides because you will already have an outline in your head that includes all of the information.
- Practice with confidence. You may not feel like an expert on this subject matter—but if you did, you wouldn’t be speaking about it! Your audience wants to learn from someone who understands their subject well enough to teach others about it or lead them through unfamiliar territory. If you can demonstrate a depth of knowledge for something your audience is interested in learning about, they will consider that speaker a “subject matter expert” (SME). Trust that what you have to say has value; so long as each member of your audience walks away with new insights or actions they can take within their own lives, they will view you as an SME and consider themselves better off than before they attended your talk.
There’s one question that I hear a lot when people are sharing how they’re improving their public speaking skills: “Should I record myself practicing?” The answer? Yes. Recording yourself will not only help you see what the problems with your delivery are, but it can help you fix those problems and drastically improve your presentation by seeing where and how you can make improvements.
In fact, recording yourself helps a lot of people. When I was first getting started in speaking, I would practice in front of family members or friends to get feedback on my performance. But even though these listeners were friendly, critical observers, this had the opposite effect from what I wanted. People don’t have time to tell you what makes you good or bad or even what words should be improved upon when they’re trying to multitask while watching the day’s news or doing their laundry—and they don’t want to stay glued to the screen for 30 min at a time! So be realistic about whether your audience is going to want to sit through 10-minutes of audio playback (or worse yet, 20 minutes of video) as compared with watching an actual presentation taped on your phone while having dinner with your family during an evening out on Saturday night.
Present with confidence.
“Easily the most important aspect of public speaking is confidence,” says Michael Solt, an associate professor of communication at DePauw University who teaches a popular course on public speaking. “You can’t fake it—but you can fake your ideas, which is the opposite of getting up in front of an audience and presenting yourself as your authentic self.”
Not only does a lack of bodily confidence make you appear nervous—you might also be thinking about how to make yourself look better than you are by wearing nicer clothes or makeup or hair that makes you feel more confident than you actually are.
Solt says he sees many of his students struggle with communication confidence early on in their careers because they don’t have enough experience to know what kind of energy and body language to use when talking in front of others. “A lot of people think about their presentation as a skill and something like golf where there is a perfect swing or technique for every situation and that there is no such thing as good information/bad information, just different ways to frame things,” he says.
Engage with your audience.
Your body language tells a lot about you. If you fidget, do not make eye contact with your audience, or appear uncomfortable, your audience members will pick up on that and think that you are unsure of yourself and your topic. Maintain good posture at all times, engage in movement within the stage area to keep yourself from getting stiff, and use eye contact to maintain contact with various parts of your audience. Take care to avoid over-movement; this can be distracting to the audience.
Use props as needed to help illustrate points of your presentation. If possible, try to limit their use so that they do not become a distraction from what you are saying. Do not use too many props; this can dilute their value as reinforcement for what you are saying rather than being distracting “fluff” added for the sake of it.
Speak as if you are having a conversation with the audience. It’s easy to lose your personality when you feel like you have to “perform.” But remember, the performance is simply an extension of who you already are.
Speak with natural gestures. Gestures are an extension of normal human movement and are expected in a public setting. However, don’t do anything that feels unnatural or forced. You want to appear relaxed and spontaneous (even when you don’t feel it). If your gestures become distracting or too exaggerated, tone them down until they fit more naturally with what feels right for you.
Speak from your heart and be real! Don’t try to impress with big words or complicated concepts; speak from your heart and share what inspires, excites or motivates you!
With these tips, you will be able to give a great presentation!
Are you new to public speaking?
Are you nervous?
Do you need help with your presentation?
Have no fear! With the tips provided below, you’ll be able to give a great presentation.
- Find out who is being addressed before going in front of an audience. It is important to know very specifically who is there and what they want from you. If someone in particular has requested that you speak to them, find out what kind of information they are looking for beforehand so that it doesn’t seem like you are reading off the top of your head when it comes time for your talk. Practice in front of a mirror or ask a friend to listen for any specific feedback about how it is going. This will help you gain confidence and practice made easy!
A powerful presentation is always a vital component of your business development strategy. Use the tips above to craft a dynamic presentation and you’ll captivate audiences and elevate your reputation. A strong, appealing public speaking presence will surely help you succeed in business, whether it’s pitching an idea to potential investors, giving a presentation at work, or simply speaking with confidence in social settings. In closing, we’d like to congratulate you on finishing this article. You should pat yourself on the back for making it through (even if you skimmed parts) and feel proud that your hard work has paid off. Our time is precious and should be spent wisely on things that we have control over. Reading should be one of those things that you make time for. So here is sometimes well spent for you, reading all about the best way to be better at what you do. The answer? Do What You Are Good At!
What is the biggest public speaking fear you have?
I love it when people come together and share opinions, great blog, keep it up.