Public speaking... it's just talking loudly, right? And anyone can do that. Yet, the answer here is 'yes' and 'no' - here's why!
What Are Public Speaking Skills?
Public speaking, put plainly, is any form of addressing a crowd using verbal communication.
It could be reciting a piece of your History lesson in front of your classmates, being a toastmaster or delivering a speech at a wedding, making a new proposal in a sales meeting at work, or you could be inspiring a group of fellow activists on a subject you're all passionate about. Regardless of why you're speaking publicly, it's how you get your message across that is the key to giving the greatest speech. This is why there is no room for presentation anxiety when giving presentations.
This act of oral communication in front of a crowd requires quite a lot of preparation for those who suffer with nervousness whereas, for others, it comes somewhat naturally. That said, different environments and audiences can play a big part in how you react under pressure so even the most confident speakers can crumble under extreme pressure and get a taste of what stage fright can be like.
There are a few principal elements of public speaking, like
- who is the message aimed at?
- what is the message being conveyed?
- what are the audience's interests?
- how will the message be delivered?
- how will the speech be closed?
Why Is It Important To Develop Public Speaking Skills?
Public speaking isn't just for those in high-flying jobs, taking over businesses and pushing sales. Not at all! All of us will have to, at some point in our lives, give a rehearsed or an impromptu speech for one reason or another and being equipped to do so will help you to get your message across without falling into the pitfalls of public speaking anxiety.
Speaking with persuasion is important, but why else is it important to develop effective communication skills?
- For growth: We've all been there (some more than others) - you're at a friend's party and you don't know anyone and you struggle with your conversational skills and wind up feeling embarrassed, counting down the minutes until it's okay for you to leave and wondering how many more trips to the bathroom you can make without people suspecting you have a medical problem! If you can relate in some way to this scenario then we bet you'd be open to knowing you can develop yourself into being a better conversationalist and to feel comfortable speaking publicly. Getting used to standing up and speaking in front of others will boost your confidence. And it only gets easier with every speaking situation! Focusing on this area can really do wonders for your family life too, helping you to fulfil your role as a leader around the home.
- To demonstrate knowledge: Public speaking is one great way to show off your knowledge. A vast majority of people will avoid standing up to do a speech but, in doing so, you are demonstrating things that you have learnt and that others can learn from, positioning yourself as an expert in your field. Take every opportunity to showcase your expertise, we say!
- To learn: As you prepare for your upcoming speech, reading widely around the subject, little may you realise just how much additional stuff you are absorbing on the subject. What's more, when the brain rehearses text over and over, the information gets locked in and this will be something that you can turn to in the future should you ever need it.
And there are numerous more reasons, of course. You just can't avoid it - public speaking is necessary to move forward in many situations, both at work and socially.
Furthermore, when it comes to your career in business or management, you'll probably find that you need to fight to be heard. Therefore, being a confident speaker can help you progress in the workplace by
- making you stand out
- making people listen to you/ take you seriously
- making important sales pitches and deals
- enabling you to be more open with colleagues and managers
How Can I Develop My Public Speaking Skills?
Here are some tips and tricks for getting better at speaking to the masses.
- Prepare Well To Diminish Nerves: Feeling nervous is normal. The best way to overcome this feeling, however, is to be as prepared as you can be. If you have re-read and rehearse your notes a hundred times, then you have no need for a fear of public speaking!
- Know Your Audience: Get to know who it is you are addressing because the speech is about them and not you. Find out as much as you can about the crowd so that you can choose your vocabulary wisely to engage the audience, work out how much information you feed them and decide how to organise the speech (with kids, for example, you'll need to keep injecting fun activities in between chunks of detail if you want to keep them hooked throughout!).
- Go With The Flow: While you should know your audience and should, therefore, have an idea of how they will respond to your speech, it's wise to try to feel their response and work with the feedback and vibes they give. If it means forgetting your cue cards and going off on a tangent because that is how the speech evolves, then go with the flow if you are confident to do so!
- Let Your Personality Shine Through: Be yourself, during your speech, as otherwise, you will be too focused on trying to maintain your alter ego or persona. You will have better credibility if your personality shines through while you address the crowd and your audience feels it can trust you.
- Use Light Humour As An Ice-Breaker: Making the odd joke here and there, especially at the beginning of a speech can be a great way to captivate the audience however steer clear of any dry humour as you don't want to wind up upsetting people.
- Don't Read Word For Word: Even though you may have written down an excellent speech, don't read it word for word. Or, if you really have to because you struggle to retain a script, then make sure that you make eye contact with the crowd regularly.
- Use Your Body Language: The way you hold yourself and the way you present yourself on stage can be just as important as how you deliver your speech vocally. Use hand gestures and, more importantly, use your face to get your message across more powerfully. You need presence if you want to influence your audience.
- Start Well, End Well: Ending a speech well is almost as important as to start it off on the right foot. What's more, people will usually remember the beginning and end more, since they are more likely to drift during the middle of your speech. Make sure you conclude with a strong summary and give them food for thought.
Online Resources To Help You Develop Public Speaking Skills
In this digital age, it's no wonder that people are turning to the Internet to educate them and nurture them through their learning journey. And because what we can find on the web is seemingly endless, it's no surprise that there are more than just a few ways of getting better at public speaking and pretty much anything, for that matter, using online resources!
How fantastic is it being able to learn from people all over the world, sharing in their knowledge, successes, experiences and opinions? It offers such a rich learning environment that you simply could not replicate anywhere in the 'real world'.
With websites, video tutorials, blogs, online quizzes, digital textbooks, podcasts, audiobooks and many more online resources available at the touch of a button, there's certainly a way for you to obtain some advanced presentation skills!
Below are just a few websites that might be of interest to you as a budding keynote speaker, some of which are educational or not for profit.
"Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Headquartered in Englewood, Colo., the organization's membership exceeds 358,000 in more than 16,800 clubs in 143 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators, and leaders.
"Public Words will help you get there. We’re a boutique family-owned consulting firm. We were started in 1997 by Dr. Nick Morgan to help people tell their stories in more powerful ways. We work with individuals and organization one by one, on highly customized, unique projects that are tailored to your specific needs.
Ummo is an app available to iPhone users which tracks your speech and picks up on all your Umms and Uhhs, as well as keeping on top of your pace, clarity and the power of the words you choose. A feature of this app is the ability to tell it which keywords or phrases you want to track in particular for the purpose of reducing repetition.