Common Sense Tips for Public Speaking
I remember my Public Speaking professor, John Holgate, saying that a good Public Speaker is someone who knows himself very well and can therefore give a very good performance of being himself!
Think about that for a moment. What is public speaking but a formalised one-sided conversation. The key word here is ‘Performance’ because that is an essential element of the speaker’s preparation.
The audience is assembled. Whatever the occasion, they have come to hear what you have to say. This applies to a school hall, a conference room or a rally of thousands of people. They are all there as INDIVIDUALS to listen to you.
Find a moment of relaxation, both mental and physical. Control your body with the correct breathing and then walk with ease and confidence to your required position.
Smile at your audience as you take your place if you can, as this will make them relax and be in a more receptive mood. If you are being introduced pay attention to that person. Keep your eyes up to show alertness and respond appropriately.
Wait for any opening applause or background noise to die down and wait a few more seconds – there is no rush. You can command the room in that pause.
The opening words need real focus as they will allow the audience to ‘tune in’ to your voice. Physically, stand still at the start to allow the audience to concentrate on your words alone. Remain there for a few minutes. Get the listeners absorbed in what you are saying before they have a chance to be distracted by your movements.
So how much should you move? As with many things in life, the answer involves common sense! Moving within limits can be a good thing. It shifts the audience’s focus and can make you feel more comfortable but don’t overdo it. Striding back and forth without purpose is just distracting and can make it hard for people to focus on your voice.
It always makes sense to make your changes of position coincide with natural breaks in the presentation and a new move can re-engage your audience for a new idea.
Relaxation is key but not easy. If you start with a relaxed body and your muscles free of tension then the natural rhythm of your speech should happen without consideration. Facial expression and hand gestures will come naturally too.
Never practice gestures as you will look theatrical. Fussy hands which do their own thing appear nervous, irrelevant and ill-at-ease.
A good speaker looks at the audience, not at his or her feet, the clock on the wall or the ceiling. Try to look about two thirds of the way down the room. Of course you cannot fix your eyes on the same place. You should shift the gaze into different areas, letting each group of people feel noticed.
So do you need to adhere to a specific ‘type’ of delivery when Public Speaking? Well no, because faults in one person are fascinating features in someone else. You may find that certain of your own peculiarities endear you to an audience and if they do you are very lucky. Use them to good advantage.
Always remember that effortless speaking demands effort but what you will find is that once you have made that effort you will also find it enjoyable.
So to summarise – try to be yourself. Strike a confident note at the start. Wait for the audience’s attention before opening with energy. Move about if motivated to do so. Speak naturally using the emotion of the moment. Hands and faces express most truthfully when ignored – just feel it and show it.
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