As a follow up to last month’s column I wanted to share with you more areas of public speaking that you need to master if you’re going to be a great speaker. On stage, every flaw becomes magnified many times over and people notice every nuance, so you need to make good habits second nature to you. Remember that ultimately public speaking is your way to communicating your brilliance to the world. It’s not enough to be passionate or knowledgeable about your area of expertise, you need to be able to express yourself eloquently, so your audience can touch your mind through your words. Here are four more fundamentals for you to pay attention to:
I put this one first because almost every time I hear a speech, whether it’s at a board of trade function, or a conference, it starts with a joke. You know the type you find on the internet. In my humble opinion, the worst thing you can do is start your speech with a joke. It does not mean you’ll be funny or that anyone will laugh…in fact, they might laugh at you rather than with you. Humour should be more natural and rooted in real life. So look to your life and tell them a true story – you’ll be surprised how funny you can be.
Depending on the subject matter and context of your speech or presentation, you should vary the pace (or speed) of your speaking. So for example, on the radio you would go faster – you sound better on the radio at a fast pace. If you’re giving a technical presentation to a lay audience then slow down so people can really absorb the information. If you’re doing an inspirational keynote you will need to vary the pace according to what you’re saying and move the audience’s emotions along with you.
A couple of months ago I heard an author speak at a book launch event – obviously she was a very talented writer, but I could barely hear what she was saying and that was WITH a microphone. Yes that’s right; she was barely audible even with a microphone! That’s why it’s essential to have good vocal projection. You must be able to literally throw your voice to the back of any room you’ll be speaking in.
The words you choose can make all the difference in the world when you speak. They can bring life to your words or bore people to death. So choose them wisely when writing your speech or even when you need to do impromptu speaking. Here’s a quick example:
A manager speaks to motivate her team: “I’m determined that we are going to…” vs. “We are going to be unstoppable when we…”. The second sentence is much more powerful.
We’ve gone through four more areas that I go through with my public speaking coaching clients. One important thing to remember is that everyone is different – we all have areas of strength and opportunity for improvement. So focus on what works for you and get in as much practice as possible.