Most people express a certain degree of fear regarding public speaking, with only about 10% of people in the United States enjoying it. Public speaking skills are fundamental as they put your career on an upward trajectory. You will have exposure to opportunities that other people may avoid. One of the biggest problems in communication is delivery. Delivery ensures that what you say comes across as dynamic and empathetic towards your listeners.
Below are some things you can do to improve your public speaking skills.
Tips to improve public speaking skills
- Know your audience
Before crafting your message, you need to know your audience. You need to know who your message is intended for and prepare a targeted statement for them. You need to check the choice of words you can use, the level of information you can share, your speech’s organizational structure, and the expected engagement. As a rule of thumb, your message should have a broad appeal across all members of your audience.
- Use humor and tell stories
We are wired to remember stories more than challenging, concrete facts. Injecting funny stories and anecdotes in your speech captures your audience’s attention and keeps them glued to the message. Audiences all look for something they can relate to, and a story serves this effect, making the speech a personal affair.
In public speaking, delivery is everything. A good message coupled with the wrong body language can make it hard to follow the message. Among the delivery skills you need is the speed of speech. It would help if you spoke slowly but not too slowly as you will risk sending your audience to sleep. You should also not talk too fast, but rather pause between ideas to give your audience an easy understanding of the subject. Avoid filler words such as “ummh” and “ah”. They destroy your credibility and make it appear as if you are fumbling. The safest bet is to replace filler words with thoughtful pauses. You can use custom writing services of a professional speech writer to help you adequately prepare for your speech.
- Get in tune with the audience
When it comes to good public speaking, you should be in tune with your audience. It is more than standing up and talking. It would be best if you acknowledge your audience as soon as you are on stage. This way, they will relate to you as a real person. You then need to find friendly faces in the audience and pretend to speak to them exclusively. And no matter how big your audience is, make eye contact with as many people as possible.
- Use visual aids
Visual aids can immensely help your audience remember the meat of your presentation. However, your visual aid should not distract your audience from your intended message. Sometimes we include a lot of text and verbatim in our slides, causing an attention shift from the message. If it is necessary to include text, use short bullet points. Ensure your slides have graphs and features that explain your issues.
- Study of great public speakers
You can acquire exceptional public speaking skills by observing the best public speakers in your genre. Study their body language and intonation of their voice. They use gestures to magnify critical points, use their hands, and avoid unnecessary fidgeting. Good speakers also pace themselves and are very intentional in their word choices. They use humor, pauses, and anecdotes effectively to engage their audiences.
- Watch for feedback from your audience
Stay focused on your audience in your delivery. Watch for their feedback and reaction to your message, and adapt to it. Delivering a rigid and canned speech ends up confusing the audience, and eventually, they lose interest.
After your public speeches, you should also ask for feedback from your friends or colleagues. We all have some blind spots when it comes to public speaking. Most of the time, we do not know it. With the proper feedback, we can modify our speeches and reduce our flaws in delivery. We should always be open to criticism.
- Body language
In simple terms, body language is a mode of communication without using words. It is a combination of gestures, movements, and facial expressions that depict the message you are trying to deliver. You can positively fuel your presentation using body language. If you are physically capable of standing up, stand tall and avoid a crouched position. Plant your feet in one place and avoid rocking from side to side as it might lull your audience to sleep. It would help if you also were facially expressive, and your face should match the message you are delivering. Practice till you feel confident to deliver a message.
- Prepare your talking points
Before delivering your speech, prepare your talking points. Your talking points should compass all messages you intend to deliver. They will also help your audience understand the path your message is taking. Avoid reading from a script unless it is necessary. Reading breaks the interpersonal connection with your audience. The outline helps jog your memory and bring the points to remembrance. Your points should also be in chronological order to avoid going off track in the presentation.
- Get coached
Your coworkers cannot train you on how to improve your speaking skills. They can guide you and show you some of your mistakes, but eventually, it would be wise to get some coaching. Coaches point out areas that you are doing poorly and areas that you are doing well. They help you understand why you do the things you do and avoid some of these natural tendencies. They will eventually empower you to be the best public speaker possible.
Communication is never perfect, and no one has the expectations of perfection. However, through practice, you will be able to deliver an excellent speech. You cannot entirely shake off your dark spots, but you can minimize them. The fear of public speaking is a common experience to many people, but it is easy to face stage fright with the tips shared above. Let your speeches be communicative and ask questions to get active participation from your audience.