Unique ways to improve on your confidence & public speaking skills?
To many of us, public speaking can be a daunting and stomach turning prospect. It is also something that many of us will have to perform at least once in our lives. Whether it be giving a PowerPoint presentation during our studies, or delivering a speech or lecture as part of our job, public speaking is an activity that can give even the most talkative person a few butterflies in the stomach.
Some will be more adept at it than others and everyone who speaks in public will leave an impression on their audience. Whether that impression is positive or negative depends entirely on the speaker.
Have you ever watched someone public speaking, perhaps a teacher at school or a superior during a team meeting, and wondered how they manage to do it? Do you wish that you yourself could speak with such precision and confidence, but don’t know where to start?
Good public speaking skills can earn you higher grades or help you to obtain that promotion at work. They can boost your confidence and open new doors for you. There’s no telling when you may be called upon to stand in front of an audience and deliver a well-thought out speech. A friend’s wedding, for example or a eulogy at a funeral. And here’s the secret: with time, practice and confidence, ANYONE can do it.
Always remember to PLAN
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to plan what you are going to say. Leaving it all to chance and improvisation is a recipe for disaster. Give special consideration as to how you intend to begin as holding your audience’s attention from the start is highly desirable. Depending on the context you could open with a witty remark, a key fact or figure or even a short story. If you know you will be speaking for some time, make notes of each subject and break them down further into sub-divisions so you will familiarise yourself with the contents of your talk. If you plan well you will be able to think on your feet, which you will find really useful if confronted with awkward questions or last-minute additions and subtractions to your plan.
Above all, make sure you have a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the subject you will cover. Standing up and practically reciting bullet points will not impress your audience and will expose your lack of understanding and failure to adequately prepare.
Practice Makes Perfect
It may seem like an old cliché but the more you practice, the more familiar you will become with the material you will present, the order in which you will present it and the conclusion you will round it off with. Audiences love to see speakers who know what they are talking about and feel compelled to listen.
If your talk consists of a prepared speech or presentation, set to work on it as soon as you know you will be speaking. The sooner you finish planning, the
more time you can allocate to practicing. If you feel daunted by speaking in front of people, invite some friends or colleagues to sit and listen to you and offer constructive feedback. The more practice you can get in front of a test audience, the less anxious you will feel when the time comes to deliver your talk for real.
When you stand up and speak to your audience, engage with them. Don’t just read from your notes and never look at your listeners, as this denotes a nervous speaker who is lacking in confidence.
Look your audience directly in the eye and, where appropriate, ask leading questions to make them think and invite them to participate by taking questions from them. When you speak, make sure your voice is slow, loud and clear. Mumbling speakers frustrate audiences as they can miss vital pieces of information. In a similar vein, fast speakers may trip themselves up or utter something they don’t intend to.
Don’t hesitate to make small pauses and compose yourself from time to time. This also gives your listeners ample time to digest the points you have made so far.
Remember Your Posture
Body language is a key indicator of how you are feeling. If you stand up straight, project your voice clearly, remember to make eye contact and smile while you talk, you will be suitably equipped to hold your audience’s attention. You may be tempted to speak from a podium.
Try to avoid this if at all possible, as while podiums can hold your notes, they also create a barrier between the speaker and the audience. Try to walk around and use suitable gestures to emphasise your points.
It’s no good constantly fearing the worst and dismissing yourself as not being good enough, as the worst will inevitably happen. Try to have confidence in yourself, visualise yourself delivering the best possible talk you can, picture the audience sitting enraptured, anxiously waiting to hear what you have to say next. Imagine how you will feel after you have finished, especially if you have done the best you can.
Also, think about your audience and remember that they are your priority. Your role is to help or inform them and you have the necessary knowledge and skills to make that happen.
Consider your talk as a one-to-one conversation, even if your audience is a considerable number of people, and focus on one face at a time when you look directly at your listeners. If you are going to be delivering talks on a regular basis, try to film your first ones and watch them back.
Pay close attention to the areas where you think you can improve and, with a positive mindset, set to work on honing your skills and increasing your confidence.
Speaking well in public brings numerous benefits. It can increase interest and awareness in a cause, assist you in gaining a job or promotion and provide education for others. The more you do it, the more confident you will grow.
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