How to be a better public speaker
“Oops there goes gravity.” Sweaty palms, weak knees and heavy arms: Eminem’s song ‘Lose Yourself’ describes the kind of stage fright all of us have felt at some point in our careers, usually when required to perform in front of the board or a business seminar.
The simple truth is that effective speakers are more credible as managers and experts. Leaders who want to gain the respect of their followers need to be able to communicate clearly and in a compelling way.
There is no shortage of advice of how to improve and hone the skills of public speaking, some of it more useful than others. More than 2000 years ago, the great Athenian orator, Demosthenes, practiced speaking with pebbles in his mouth.
Trust me, it doesn’t work.
According to Cicero, another oratorical giant of the classical world, the three aims of public speaking are “docere, delectare et movere.” In other words, speakers have to prove their thesis, keep the audience entertained and move them emotionally.
Cicero says the emotional component is essential in order to bring listeners round to your point of view. Speaking of the power of persuasion, in the recent US elections, we all witnessed emotion triumphing over objectivity.
A message delivered with passion is infectious. If you love your topic and can communicate your passion, you are more likely to inspire and impress your audience.
Tell Europe Media can provide the coaching you need to become a more compelling and forceful speaker. In the meantime, here are three things you can do straight away to improve your performance next time.
1. ALWAYS PREPARE
Nobody ever gave a great speech or presentation without practising it first. As Mark Twain once said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
Practise timekeeping - the ability to make all of your key points in the allocated time – because it’s crucial. If you manage to get your message across in the allotted time, you’ll always appear more polished.
Don’t worry about leaving something out: less really is more. If something you haven’t said is relevant and genuinely important, then panel sessions, audience questions or networking will provide better opportunities to say it.
2. OPEN STRONGLY
You only have the audience’s full attention very briefly at the beginning of your presentation, even more so if you are one of several speakers. Public speaking is the opposite of telling a joke: you need to open with your punchline.
Attention spans are shrinking and we all need good reasons to listen. Above all, in order to follow, audiences need to have an idea of where you are leading them.
The golden rule is to start by laying out your objectives.
3. TELL IT LIKE A STORY
In “Talk like TED,” Carmine Gallo presents scientific evidence that stories plant emotions and ideas into a listener’s brain. Wordy bullet points and rambling speeches both switch listeners off for different reasons.
Wordy PowerPoint slides basically encourage the audience to read instead of listening. They are no longer engaged and more likely to grow tired, after all they can read the slides for themselves when they go home.
Rambling speeches don’t work because stories require structure. Don’t keep the audience wondering, until the end, about the point of your comments because you will lose them before you ever get there.