Tips to improve public speaking so as to boost your career value
Not everyone is naturally gifted in public speaking. Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, and the other Ted Talk speakers that you see on YouTube? They put in lots of hard work behind the scenes before it comes as natural to them.
However, eloquence can be improved over time with lots of practice. The ability to to communicate clearly and concisely will go a long way in your day-to-day life and in your career.
When I first started studying in university in 2012, I found it difficult to speak up and express myself. When it comes to presentations, I will experience the jitters and that feeling sucks.
I found out that I was uncomfortable with having so many pairs of eyes staring at me and was also consciously wondering how people will think about me.
Over time, I realized that even the best public speakers will feel nervous before a big presentation and that is normal! It all boils down to how much effort you put into practice. I’m happy to say that after 4 years, I won the best speaker award for one of school’s case competition.
So how do one improve their public speaking you may ask?
I’ve listed some of the tips which helped me to overcome my fear of public speaking.
A. Know your audience and purpose
Firstly, know who your audience are. Are they classmates of yours? Or are they working professionals?
Once you determine your audience, imagine that you are them. What would you like to hear from a presentation? What are some of the dos and don’ts that you wish to see? Then apply it to your own presentation.
For example, if you think that wordy presentations will cause people to lose their interest and focus over time, reduce the number of words. Nobody likes reading lengthy presentations.
After you have determined who your audience are, find out what your purpose is. Is the purpose of your presentation to introduce a new product to them? A new idea? An update of an existing company’s financials?
Is it meant to be informative? Or are you trying to instil a call-to-action?
This will determine the structure of your presentation. I recommend to keep it short and simple as most people will lose their focus at 15-20 minutes.
B. Make a strong introduction and conclusion
Most people’s mind go blank when they first see many pairs of eyes staring at them. Days of hard work just gone to waste like that. But the simple trick here is to visualize different scenarios of your introduction, and get comfortable with looking at people in the eye.
I’ve realized that almost all of the times where I have given a smooth and strong introduction, the rest of the presentation will go smoothly. Hence, memorize your introduction so that you gain the momentum for the rest of your presentation.
People are more likely drawn to you in the opening minutes of your presentation, and will more likely to pay attention.
Conclude with an impactful statement or message. This will make your speech memorable.
C. Know that the presentation is about your audience, and not about you
Know that your audience is more interested in the content of your presentation versus you yourself as a person. With that in mind, you can comfortably present at ease. Think about what your audience would like to hear. If you can’t even understand a sentence yourself, how do you expect your audience to understand them?
Use simple English with short words, sentences and paragraphs to express your message. Support them with slides and visual images since people are more likely to remember them.
Take a look at Steve Job’s presentation below. He uses few words and images to guide his presentation. Most would agree that he is one of the best presenters in the world.
Source: Business Insider
D. Reduce any clutter in your presentation that does not serve it’s purpose
I recommend that if any particular slide, sentence, statistic or anecdote doesn’t serve any purpose, remove it. You don’t have to add unnecessary things just to lengthen the time of your presentation.
The most powerful stories are the short ones anyway.
If your presentation is heavy on data, try to simplify it so that the man on the street can understand it. Also, give your opinions and interpretations on what this piece of data mean to you. People are more interested to know your thoughts on it rather than the actual piece of data itself.
E. Lastly, practise, practise, practise
Improving your public speaking does not happen over night. Practise over and over again and refine it each time.
I recommend writing a script so that you can expect what you will be saying. Contrary to popular belief where you should just present on-the-go, having a script keeps you grounded and prevents you from having a mind block.
Record yourself so that you will know how you perform. Also, always speak slowly with intonation.
Lastly, watch videos of people who think can be good role model for you and learn the best practices from them.
I believe whether you are an entrepreneur, business owner, or even in the corporate world, you are only worth as much as your ideas. Hence, make the effort to improve this skill which can help you to deliver more powerful messages to people.
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