Want to excel with an in-person or virtual speech? When it comes to public speaking, here are 14 easy ways to be a memorable and successful public speaker!
Looking to promote a business? Land a job? Inspire followers? Gain visibility for yourself or your organization? The one attribute you need in all of these situations is excellent communication skills. Frequently, this means proficiency in public speaking.
It should also mean enjoying yourself more when you speak and gaining a world of confidence. We are theater practitioners who coach and train professionals in performance skills for improved communication. And we'd like to share some hands-on skills and practices with you!
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The Good News About Improved Public Speaking
The really terrific news is that you don't need to suddenly become an "excellent" speaker. Your task is always to deliver a message to people who will benefit from hearing it, and to enjoy yourself in the process. It's as simple as that.
So here are 14 easy ways to kick-start your public speaking and presentations. Some of them come straight from theatrical techniques for business training, custom-made to make you a more dynamic speaker. But don't take our word: practice them, then try them out in talks. You might just achieve a dramatic difference in your on-stage presence and impact!
14 Ways to Kick-Start Your Speeches & Presentations
- Pretend you're talking to just one person. To reach people individually, tell yourself you're not really standing in front of an audience. You're talking to one person, each in turn. The art of the conversation is what you're looking for. "Talking to one person" makes it personal.
- Make an entrance. Actors excite audiences through energy and a superb focus on the task at hand. Why shouldn't you? Your speech begins when you enter the room, not when you open your mouth. Have fun with your entrance! Learn the 5 ways to captivate audiences. And discover effective body language! Here, for instance, are the The 7 Deadly Sins of Nonverbal Communication to avoid. But overall, be positive and creative. And yes, be a little bold with your entrance.
- Discuss something you're passionate about. You don't need to be the world's foremost expert. But you should display considerable passion for your topic. Haven't you noticed how hard it is not to listen to someone who is speaking passionately?
- Save time for Q & A. In Gary's book How to Give a Speech, he call sQ & A "the forgotten avenue to audience persuasion." Anybody can deliver a presentation. But if you can respond to Q & A with style, knowledge, and grace, you will really shine. Become familiar with the 7 danger zones of Q & A so you can handle yourself. And in Q & A just as in your talk, learn the 25 Words or Phrases to Avoid in Speeches and Presentations.
- Work with a speech coach. A speech coach can help you not only in areas of weakness you know about, but with other important aspects of how an audience perceives you. It's impossible for you to experience yourself from the outside. Actors don’t work without a director. So, find a speech coach who will care about your professional development.
- Bring purposeful movement into your talks. It's a good idea to move before your next main point, not on it. Actors know, for instance, not to muddy a dramatic moment by splitting the audience's focus between what they're doing and what they're saying. Start thinking about movements that are linked with the main segments of your talks. And learn "The Body Language Rules
- Give your audience less. You've heard the phrase "less is more." There's hardly a rule in acting that has more importance. Too many speakers meander or give their audiences too much information. Be with Voltaire, who said, "The easiest way to bore someone is to tell them all you know."
- Have fun! Now there's a radical concept in public speaking! Be excited and enthusiastic, and your passion will be contagious. When listeners see you enjoying yourself, it's infectious. Whatever your topic, they'll want to learn more about it.
- Think strategically. Speakers rock the stage when they have a clear purpose in speaking, and know just how to achieve it. For instance, use a "grabber" at the start that hooks your audience, and learn the 12 foolproof ways to open a speech. Think about the shape of your presentation and where the climax should come. And deliver ideas in the order that will help listeners retain them.
- Develop your vocal expressiveness. As actors performing voice-overs, we both learned the 3 P’s: pitch, pause, and punch. Your vocal delivery can be a beautiful mountain range with lots of variety and interest on display, or a flat and featureless plateau. Here are 5 ways to improve your voice as a professional. If you speak in a monotone, audience members will be thinking about doing their laundry when they get home.
- Make it conversational. People want to be talked to not at. Too many speakers give a Speech with a capital "S" or a Presentation with a capital "P." Performances like that sound stilted and artificial. Record yourself. Do you sound like Pinocchio before or after he went from wooden to human?
- Tell stories. Who doesn't love a good story? Stories enchant people ("Once upon a time") because they're about people and their challenges. If you tend to speak hypothetically or with too many generalities, bring in stories so your talk AND your audience will come to life. Here are the 7 key components of successful presentations that will have you speaking like a champ.
- Be vulnerable. Share something about yourself. Speakers often think they can't interject themselves into their talks. Yet audiences find it hard to relate to such speakers. Let them see the real you, because the chances are good that they'll like what they experience.
- Give your audience an emotional gem. Sure, you're good on the information you want listeners to take away. But how do you want them to feel? Audiences won't remember the facts and figures you throw at them; but they'll remember their emotional response. Instead of turning on the fire hose of data, hand each listener an emotional jewel or two.
This article was originally published in 2017. It is updated here.
Gary Genard is the founder of The Genard Method of performance-based public speaking training. Jeannie Lindheim is the author of Trusting the Moment: Unlocking Your Creativity and Imagination (Satya House, 2011), which is available in the store at www.genardmethod.com.
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