Speaking in front of a crowd can be nerve-racking, and can turn even the most eloquent of speakers into a stuttering, hesitant one. The good news is, becoming a good speaker is achievable with practice.
Some liken public speaking to a muscle that needs to be exercised to become stronger. Even the most seasoned speakers would have felt nervousness at some point or another. But it is with practice that you get used to standing at the podium, and gain the know-how of being an engaging and effective speaker.
So, if you think you are not a good speaker today, don’t despair. Focus on the things you can do to make yourself a better speaker, and you will soon have everyone seeing you in a new light. Here are some things you can work on to become a better speaker:
Focus on your audience
Keep in mind that you were invited to speak at an event because people think you have something valuable to say. You are there to give information, dispense advice, or guide others. By telling yourself that you’re there to offer help, you take the focus off of yourself. Instead of being self-conscious, you can approach the speech with a stronger sense of purpose.
Prior to the speech, you should attempt to find out something about your audience. What is the expected age range of your audience? Are they from any particular industry? What do they want to know? What are their concerns? This way, you can better craft your speech to relate to them, emotionally and information-wise.
Memorising a script can be a daunting affair. However, it is advisable to remember your key pointers rather than a word-for-word script. This helps you come across as more natural when you speak, and give a sense that you know what you’re talking about, rather than when you mindlessly rattle off what you memorised.
You can condense your script into a point-form outline, or use your presentation slides as a trigger to jog your memory. Note down key examples you want to include as well, so you don’t forget to mention them.
Hand-in-hand with memorising your key pointers, you need to practice. Your speech practice has to encompass all aspects of your speech. First, get your contents flowing well – get comfortable with forming the sentences and elaborating on your key pointers in a natural and cohesive manner.
Once you’ve mastered that, you can turn your focus to the non-verbal aspects of your speech – your hand gestures, posture, eye contact, and so on. It helps to practice in front of a mirror or someone you know, or video-record yourself. Check with the organisers if you can arrive at the function room rental a little earlier on the day itself to do a run-through of your speech, so that you have time to get used to the venue as well.
You might have seen some good speakers yourself, and they might be your role models when it comes to being a public speaker. However, some things are better off done your way than their way. Take, for example, their accents. A standard American or British accent might sound very refined and professional, but if you can’t pull it off, it would be better to stick to something you are more comfortable with.
Your audience can tell when you are feeling uncomfortable, overly-conscious, or faking the way you speak. The key is thus to find a compromise between being yourself and being professional. Most important of all, you want to be understood by your audience.
Walk into the training room rental venue with confidence! These few steps can take you from sounding like an inexperienced speaker to one that your audience will truly appreciate. Use these tips to hone your speaking skills, and be pleasantly surprised at the feedback you receive!