Public speaking is necessary to about 70% of all jobs across the country. It’s one of the most important and dreaded forms of communication, and it goes hand in hand with persuasion. If you can persuade, then you can speak publicly or deliver presentations effectively. If someone has a hard time with one, they will likely have a hard time with the other.
Communication, in general, allows us to form connections because it’s the backbone of any community. That being said, it’s also one of the most difficult concepts to grasp for many people. Communication affects interactions between spouses, family members, co-workers, bosses and their employees, leaders and their voters, and interactions within bureaucratic institutions.
Like any life-skill, the skill of public speaking can be learned, honed, and developed, given proper attention and practice. Mastery of public speaking has its own set of benefits and rewards.
Have you ever met a public speaker who was shy?
Speaking publicly, while terrifying for many, can be a bit exhilarating for others. Successfully delivering a speech or business presentation can bring about a boost in self-confidence, as well as increased self-esteem. Preparing for a speech always employs research and critical thinking skills.
When practiced, skill sets like these improve and sharpen. Plus, developing your public speaking voice allows you to develop your advocacy voice. We all have that one cause we’re passionate about, and finding your voice can help you advocate for it.
There is always a fear of stepping up to that podium, or taking the stage, and falling flat on your face – either literally or metaphorically. That dream many people have, where you accidentally show up to school or work in your birthday suit, is particularly terrifying.
Even the most highly skilled public speakers can experience anxiety to that level when they speak, no matter how developed their oratory skills are, or how well prepared they are. There are so many factors that can affect the successful deliver of a speech, which is why preparation is so important.
It is important to:
Whether you’re delivering a political speech, a business presentation, or a book review, planning what you’re going to say is always the best place to start. Remember, though, that the message you intend to deliver, and what’s heard by your audience are two different things. It’s your job, as the speaker, to connect them, and bring coherency.
Start your planning by pinning down and finely tuning the message you want to deliver. Figure out what conclusion best illustrates that point, and then work from the beginning. It sounds backwards, but trying to plan a speech from the beginning leaves more avenues where you can too easily move off point or deliver the wrong message.
Know what you’re going to say, then figure out how to say it.
Also, do your research. One of the requirements of delivering an effective speech is credibility. If you lose that by trying to push fiction, or opinion, off as fact, you will lose the respect, and attention, of your audience.
Before you begin to speak in front of the general public, take the time to practice what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to say it. The actual delivery of your words is as important as the words themselves. Try practicing your initial draft in front of a mirror, editing as you go. You can also video record yourself, and review the playback. Once you get that down, practice in front of a small control group.
Interruptions are part of any public speaking, whether those interruptions are internal or external. If you can, try practicing in front of children. It may sound silly, but when was the last time your kids sat still for more than 20 seconds. If you can go through your speech with their interruptions and stay on track, you’ll quickly become an expert at delivery.
Engage your audience. Don’t just talk at them. Speak to them and encourage them to interact with you. The first 10 seconds of your speech will dictate whether or not you have their attention. So long as you maintain your credibility, the easiest way to keep their attention is to engage them. Rather than stand behind a podium, move around the stage, and ask questions here and there that will encourage the audience to answer.
Remember you’re not delivering this speech or presentation for you. You’re delivering it to inform, persuade, or entertain your audience. It is crucial to keep them engaged.
Finally, when all is said and done, will you remember every little thing you did? No.
So, find a way to record your public speech or presentation. Ask a co-worker, friend, or family member to hold a camera for you. After you’ve had time to settle down from the excitement and adrenaline, take the time to sit down with that recording
Watch your body language. What message is it conveying?
Listen to your voice. Are you projecting your voice with authority, or hiding behind the podium?
Watch your facial expressions. When an external interruption occurs, what’s your immediate response?
Pay attention to how you performed, make notes of how you could improve, and look for more opportunities to speak publicly.
Natural or Developed?
Fortunately, some of us are born with a natural excitement for things like public speaking. Unfortunately, many of us are born with a natural fear of it. Either way, public speaking is one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace, and it will most likely affect your career in some way or other.
Fortunately for you, it’s a skill that can be learned, developed, and sharpened with proper practice and opportunity.
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