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English For IT

How Not To Fail as a Public Speaker

You don’t have to be an extrovert to excel at (=be great at) public speaking. Here’s why.

Public speaking is all about the audience.

It really doesn’t matter how outgoing and charismatic you think you are, as long as you can answer the following three questions:

#1 Is your audience likely to find the topic interesting and relevant?

Ideally, you should be speaking on topics you really care about yourself. Passion is contagious. If you’re interested in a certain topic, you’ll be able to spark interest in others.

#2 Will the audience be able to understand you?

If you’re giving a lecture on chemistry to a group of middle schoolers and a class of chemistry majors, you will have to use different wording and presentation strategies even though the topic is the same in both cases.

It’s important to gauge(=evaluate) your audience to know how much jargon(=terms used by professionals in a certain field) you can use (if at all), what information you need to include, and what’s best to leave out (=exclude).

#3 What problem are you going to solve for your audience?

For example, if you’re running a workshop — what insights and knowledge do you want your audience to take away? If you’re pitching a startup — are you crystal clear about what issue you’re solving, what makes you different from your competition, and why investors should fund your business?

Now that you’re on track for acing your presentation, here are 7 tips to keep in mind every time to speak in public.

  1. Use talking points

Some people try to learn their entire script by heart and then recite it from memory word per word. This is not the best approach. Public speaking is about communicating and engaging with your audience, and it is simply not possible to do that when you’re reciting from a script.

Instead, identify a list of key talking points throughout your presentation and rehearse them. You might find that you want to use particular phrases or sentences at certain points in your speech and that’s cool! The main idea is to keep it flexible enough so that it sounds like you’re talking to a friend rather than reading off a piece of paper.

Here is an example of a script using a talking points approach.

1 — About Us

Our business is bringing intelligent automation into the healthcare industry.

2 — Problem

Every week, over 5 000 people fail to receive emergency medical care due to obsolete communication processes and medical personnel being overwhelmed with patients.

3 — Solution

We automate away beaurocracy by providing quick access to the patients’ data through an online medical card.

2. Prepare your transitions

Transitions are often neglected. This is a shame because good verbal transitions between slides (or talking points) can really tie your speech together while awkward or non-existent transitions can make your speech sound sloppy and disjointed.

Take a few minutes to jot down different transitions you can use to move from one topic to the next. For example:

As you can see (on this slide)…

Now,…

Speaking of (our business model)…

Let me now talk about…

Now, I’d like us to focus on…

Moving on

At this point you might have a question (How are they planning to manage that risk?). Let me address that

3. Engage with your audience

The rule of thumb is to speak to an audience of strangers as if you were talking to a good friend. Non-verbal engagement is very important.

Pro-tip: Pick one person from your audience and look them in the eye. You don’t need to stare — 5 seconds of direct eye contact is enough. Try to pick a different person every time. If you’re speaking at an online event where you can’t see people’s faces, just glance into your camera instead.

4. Don’t be nervous, be candid

Even the world’s best public speakers make mistakes. Of course, they do. But instead of panicking, they acknowledge that the mistake happened and move on.

There’s a good lesson to be learned from that.

Don’t be afraid to mess up. Just do your best to prepare and leave the rest to chance.

Being candid means being confident, relaxed, and open which are exactly the qualities that win people’s trust.

If you can’t help being nervous before giving a speech, use the fake it till you make it approach.

Just tell yourself you’re not nervous and everything will be fine, and next time you might find that you’re not feeling nearly as nervous!

5. Slow down

Here’s another reason why nervousness is bad. When you’re nervous you speak a lot faster than usual. Rushing through your presentation is just about the worst thing you can do.

To make sure, you’re not going too fast, use highlights and pauses.

Pro-tip: go through your script and bold the words you need to highlight using your intonation. Putting emphasis on these words will force you to speak slower.

Another thing you can do is mark 1–2 second pauses in your scripts by starting a new paragraph.

For example:

“Over the past 3 months, over 10 000 people have downloaded our mobile app.

(pause)

What’s more, over 80% still use the app 2 weeks after the download. This shows that our brand messaging and app content really aligns with the users’ expectations.”

6. Get ready for FAQs

Anticipating (=expecting, predicting) audience questions is essential and shouldn’t be neglected. Try to put yourself into your audience’s shoes and predict which questions they are likely to ask. If there are no questions from the audience, you can pick a few questions you’ve prepared and answer them. This might prompt your audience to get more active and start asking questions.

7. Record yourself

Do a mock presentation and record your video and/or audio. Then watch and listen back to it. This is one of the best ways to understand what you do well and what you need to work on or adjust.

When you watch yourself on a recording, notice the following:

1. Is your presentation engaging and easy to follow?

2. Do you pronounce words clearly?

3. Do you make use of highlights and pauses?

4. Do you have any verbal ticks (maybe there’s a word you’re saying too many times)?

5. Are there too many umms and ahhs in your speech?

6.Does your presentation feel like a conversation or does it feel like you’re reading from a script?

If you want to find out more tips on how not to fail as a public speaker, feel free to check out our course.

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English For IT

English For IT

English and soft skills for tech professionals: www.english4it.online