How to Take Your Public Speaking Skills to the Sky Level
If you’re new to public speaking, you may feel like your public speaking abilities aren’t quite where you would like them to be. You may always feel nervous before you talk, you might make odd pauses, and you may find yourself losing your train of thought in the middle of a sentence. But don’t worry. Even professional speakers were nervous at first. It took them time to perfect their public speaking talents, and you can do so, too. All you need to do is learn a few tricks to public speaking, and you’ll find that you can take your skills to the next level pretty quickly. Here are some of these tips you can use to perfect your public speaking.
Walk Around While You Talk
Have you ever noticed that some speakers walk around the stage while they’re talking? These people may have a lot of nervous energy, so they walk around to make use of it. However, walking around can pull the focus away from what you’re saying to where you’re walking. If you don’t want your audience distracted, pick a few places on the stage. Stand in the center for much of your talk, but when you feel the need to burn off energy, take a few steps to one side or the other. That way, you’re not constantly moving around, but you can still burn off a bit of energy.
If you have a projection behind you, you may find that you can’t really do this. However, you may still be able to take a few steps back and forth every now and then. If the lights are dimmed to help the audience see your projection, chances are they won’t even notice.
Learn to Talk Slowly
Many nervous people talk very quickly. If you have this bad habit, you will need to learn to slow down while you’re speaking. Otherwise, your audience may get lost in your speech or not have time to process what you’re saying. You have to learn to breathe while you’re talking. Learn to control the speed of your speech by timing yourself. Look at how quickly you speak and then rehearse talking more slowly.
However, it’s important that you don’t talk at the exact same speed during your entire speech. Doing so is likely to bore your audience, and they may tune you out. Instead, work out where it’s important to speak quickly and where you need to pause and slow down. Speaking slowly can help emphasize important facts and other information.
Record and Rehearse Your Speech
All of the best after dinner speakers rehearse their speeches at least a few times before they give them. Take your time to walk through the speech several times so you’re familiar with what you’re saying and have gotten the pacing down. If you find yourself constantly tripping over certain words or sentences, rewrite them if you can. There’s no need to include phrases that you know will trip you up.
After you’ve practiced the speech a few times and adjusted the material and your delivery as necessary, do a trial run. If possible, do this on the stage you’ll deliver the speech on. That’s not always possible, though. When it’s not, find a large space and pretend it’s the stage. Record this trial run and then watch the tape. Look and see what nervous habits you have or if there are any parts of the speech that are unclear.
Know Your Audience
You’ll talk differently to an audience of children than you would to an audience of your peers. Know your audience and make sure your tone and speed are adjusted accordingly. Speaking to adults as if they were children is only going to annoy your audience, and many will likely tune you out very early on in your speech.
Watch for Filler Words
One thing to watch for when you’re reviewing your taped speech is the use of filler words. The most common of these words is “umm” but there are others. If you find yourself using one of these words frequently, do your best to remove it from your vocabulary. Doing so will make you sound much more confident and intelligent when speaking.
Listen to Other Speakers
Watching other professionals can help you understand the difference between good speakers and bad speakers. If you’re thoroughly enjoying someone’s speech, make notes as to why. What is the speaker doing that makes them so engaging? On the other hand, also make notes on bad speakers. What are they doing that’s making the audience tune out? Once you’ve observed several speakers, take your notes and incorporate successful practices into your own speaking habits. Record yourself using these new habits and see how much of a difference they make to your presentations.
Before you speak to a large audience, deliver your speech to a few friends or coworkers. Ask them to provide you with honest feedback that you can use to improve your speech. Make sure they know that you need to hear the negative as well as the positive. Do your best not to take anything they say as a personal attack. You need this feedback to improve your speaking skills.
Ask for Help
If you’re speaking at an event with several others professional speakers, ask for their input. They may share their own tips and tricks that you can make use of. They may even attend your speech and give you some feedback later. This can be very helpful since this feedback is coming from your peers. They know what to look for in a successful speaker.
Find a Trick to Control Your Nerves
Controlling your nerves is probably the hardest thing to do when on stage. However, there are a few different ways to handle this. The biggest trick is to simply find something to focus on that distracts you from being nervous. Some speakers find it helps to clench certain muscles before they start speaking as a way of channeling their energy away. Others may have a different type of ritual. Some may have specific parts of the audience that they focus on so they don’t take in how large the crowd is.
Whatever you do, find something that works and incorporate it into your public speaking habits. When combined with these other tricks, you’ll find that you suddenly feel much more confident and give a much more professional speech than you might otherwise have.