How to Polish Your Speaking Skills
By Sandy Schroeder
Speaking at company meetings or giving presentations at conferences can be challenging or downright terrifying if you are new to the game. If you are just getting started, or looking for the right rhythm, keep right on going until you hit your stride.
Here are my suggestions and some tips from DumbLittleMan.
Be Passionate about Your Message
No matter how nervous you are, if you really believe in your message and want your audience to get it, that enthusiasm will make everything easier. I worked with a woman who was a terrific accountant but a very inexperienced speaker. She was very nervous until she got fired up about her message. Then she forgot to be afraid and just sailed ahead.
Start with an Audience Assessment
Think about what your audience needs. What are they looking for and what do you have to offer? Your information, experience or oversight needs to fit their needs. The closer you come to a perfect fit, the better.
Think in Word Pictures
We live in a visual age with smartphones, tablets, digital billboards and television. As you prepare your message, use visuals wherever you can and create word pictures with your descriptions.
Make the Most of Body Language
Your facial expression and gestures can emphasize your message or subtract from it. Maintain eye contact, stay positive and use the tone and volume of your voice to get your audienceâ€™s attention and keep it. Study other speakers to see how they do it.
Choose the Right Level
A conversational style with everyday terms will get your message across to most audiences. As you are speaking, watch your audience for signs of boredom or confusion. If it fits the situation, invite questions, which may tell you a lot about how your message was received.
Watch Your Speed
Inexperienced speakers tend to speed up or speak in a monotone when they are nervous. Take a deep breath and pause here and there as you speak. A brief hesitation, or a moment of complete silence, invites your audience to guess what you are going to say next.
As you give one presentation after another you will find your voice and develop devices to keep your audience engaged. Watch them for clues. Their body language will tell you a lot about the impact of your message. You may need to pick up the pace, insert a surprise, or open up the subject for questions. Do what it takes and keep learning.
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