Some people are natural public speakers. It’s as though they came out of the womb mid-anecdote. Others are not so good.
If, when faced with a room full of people, you’re more likely to induce last night’s dinner than believable, passionate speech – you are one of these others.
But, luckily, there are some things you can do to maximise your confidence and make yourself believe – along with your audience – that you know what you’re talking about.
First and foremost, be yourself. If you try to be someone you’re not – a comedian, for example – the audience will see right through you and struggle to connect. You have to own the material. Even if someone else has helped you prepare, it’s important that the content is yours (here’s an example from Australian politics that will either make you want to laugh or cry: Transport minister used lines from speech from Michael Douglas movie). Where appropriate, use language that you would use amongst friends, or throw in a personal story or anecdote.
Know your audience. Obviously you’re not going to give the same speech to a group of primary school students as you would to a group of business men and women. What is your audience passionate about? What is their attention span? What sort of language do they use? How do they dress?
Don’t treat it as a one night stand – try to have a meaningful relationship with your audience. It’s about engaging (but don’t worry, you don’t have to get engaged straight away!). Make eye contact and use your hands – use your entire body! If the space permits, why not walk the room?
Things happen. Be flexible. Your audience could have just been told that half of them will get the sack after lunch. Be prepared to change the length and flow of your presentation based on changing circumstances. It’s about taking and following the audience’s cues. Watch people’s body language. If they’re clapping and nodding their heads in agreement, keep doing what you’re doing. If they’re half asleep on their neighbour’s shoulder or jeering at you, try doing something different.
Most people get asked to speak at events, or they are chosen over their peers to speak in meetings and work functions, because they are good at what they do. They’re probably passionate about it too. Let this show!
And finally, be careful with humour. The joke you told last Friday night at the pub might not go down well elsewhere. Sometimes it’s just not worth the risk.
When done well, public speaking can be a great marketing tool for putting you in front of new audiences who might be potential customers or referrers. It also builds credibility for and your business.
Do you have a role model who is a fantastic public speaker? What makes them so good? Do you have any other public speaking tips?