Being able to effectively speak in public is essential for any current or aspiring leader, yet it is still daunting for nearly anyone. Based on UONGOZI Institute’s Leadership Workshop on ‘Mastering the Art of Public Speaking’, here are five quick tips for improving your skills:
- Practice, practice, practice
It might seem obvious, but if you know in advance that you will have to give a speech or statement then you should be practicing it as much as possible beforehand. Rehearsing in front of the mirror or friends will help you work out any kinks in your presentation and help you to feel more comfortable with what you would like to say. Reviewing your material will also help you to rely less on any notes you bring to your presentation, making you appear more confident and engaging to the audience.
- Know your audience
Speaking of the audience, you should make sure you are aware of who they will be prior to your speaking engagement so you can shape your presentation to the appropriate context. When it comes to public speaking, it is important to remember that it is really about the audience and what they will gain from hearing you speak. Ask yourself what you want to achieve, vs. what you are going to say, and craft your speech accordingly.
Is this a formal event where the presentation must remain serious throughout, or is it a group that would appreciate some humour? Thinking about this while preparing for your presentation will help you to win over the audience and thus gain confidence.
- Mistakes are natural
It is near impossible to make it through a speech without a single slip up, so don’t let one shake your confidence. Stopping mid-speech to apologize will only make your mistake more noticeable to the audience. Instead, you should continue on and push past a mistake since it is likely that no one will know if you missed a word or two aside from you. Being able to maintain composure even when in your head you think you’ve just ruined the whole presentation is the sign of an excellent public speaker.
- Don’t let your words or body run away from you
For some reason, when people begin speaking to an audience their speech speeds up tremendously without their even noticing. To prevent this from happening, intentionally try to speak slower than you usually would. This will help make sure that the audience can keep up with your presentation and will force you to more properly annunciate what you are saying. It is even okay to pause, if and when you need to, in order to collect your thoughts and regain the focus of the audience members.
Even though public speaking is all about the words being said, the way in which you say them can greatly impact how the audience receives them. Using hand gestures to emphasize points can be helpful for both drawing the audience in and also as an outlet for some of your nervous energy. Don’t, however let your nerves come out in your swaying back and forth or pacing. This much movement can prove distracting, so try to keep your feet planted and maintain a stance that looks natural.
- Do keep things simple, yet engaging
As much as possible, keep things short and simple. Speeches that are too lengthy run the risk of losing your audience, and the same applies to speeches containing jargon and technical terminology that your audience can’t relate to.
Keeping your audience’s attention is imperative to the success of your speech. You can achieve this by using figures of speech such as metaphors (see below) and anecdotes (telling short, preferably personal stories to illustrate a point).
Use of Metaphor:
“With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
– Martin Luther King
These simple tactics can make your speech more engaging and assist in conveying your message by using words that paint a picture for your audience.
‘’The Art of Public Speaking’ is a 2-day leadership workshop offered by UONGOZI Institute under The Commmunicative Leader module.
For further guidance, you can watch any of the following videos:
We hope you find these tips useful. Do you have any others? Please let us know in the comment section below.