Friday, March 22, 2013

Better Public Speaking

Becoming a Confident, Compelling Speaker

Whether we're talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time.

We can do this well or we can do this badly, and the outcome strongly affects the way that people think about us. This is why public speaking causes so much anxiety and concern.

The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well. This article explains how!

The Importance of Public Speaking

Even if you don't need to make regular presentations in front of a group, there are plenty of situations where good public speaking skills can help you advance your career and create opportunities.

For example, you might have to talk about your organization at a conference, make a speech after accepting an award, or teach a class to new recruits. Public speaking also includes online presentations or talks; for instance, when training a virtual team, or when speaking to a group of customers in an online meeting.

Good public speaking skills are important in other areas of your life, as well. You might be asked to make a speech at a friend's wedding, give a eulogy for a loved one, or inspire a group of volunteers at a charity event.

In short, being a good public speaker can enhance your reputation, boost your self-confidence, and open up countless opportunities.

However, while good public speaking skills can open doors, poor speaking skills can close them. For example, your boss might decide against promoting you after sitting through a poorly-delivered presentation. You might lose a valuable new contract by failing to connect with a prospect during a sales pitch. Or you could make a poor impression with your new team, because you trip over your words and don't look people in the eye.

Make sure that you learn how to speak well!

Strategies for Becoming a Better Speaker

What's great about public speaking is that it's a learnable skill. As such, you can use the following strategies to become a better speaker and presenter.

Plan Appropriately

First, make sure that you plan your communication appropriately. Use tools like the Rhetorical Triangle, Monroe's Motivated Sequence, and the 7Cs of Communication to think about how you'll structure what you're going to say.

When you do this, think about how important a book's first paragraph is; if it doesn't grab you, you're likely going to put it down. The same principle goes for your speech: from the beginning, you need to intrigue your audience.

For example, you could start with an interesting statistic, headline, or fact that pertains to what you're talking about and resonates with your audience. You can also use story telling as a powerful opener; our Expert Interviews with Annette Simmons and Paul Smith offer some useful tips on doing this.

Planning also helps you to think on your feet. This is especially important for unpredictable question and answer sessions or last-minute communications.