Public speaking is something a lot of people find a little daunting. It makes us feel vulnerable. However, as an entrepreneur, you’re most likely going to encounter moments where you will need to talk to an audience. Whether it’s a pitch or a seminar you need to prepare for, with these ten tips to improve your public speaking skills, you’ll never have to worry about making a fool of yourself again.
Practice Makes… Less Nervous
I used to dread having to give a presentation or pitch an idea. It made me super nervous… But as a concept developer and someone who studied communication, there’s a lot of public speaking involved in what I do. So, I challenged myself to speak in front of an audience more often, just to practice. I taught guest lectures, gave speeches, pitched ideas on several occasions and almost always volunteered to give the final presentation to the clients we worked with during our studies (because no group project member is usually too excited to do that part). Now, I don’t mind speaking in front of people anymore and I even enjoy it. Giving a TED Talk is officially on my bucket list!
Would you like to get better at public speaking?
Here are our ten tips for improving your public speaking skills:
Beat the nerves by being well-prepared
Overcome your nervousness by preparing and practicing a lot. Get comfortable with the material by learning it by heart and asking your friends or family if you can practice on them.
Get comfortable getting into your on-stage persona. Practice speaking slowly and deliberately, changing your tone and pitch naturally and your non-verbal communication. Stand with a relaxed upright posture.
In order to get your message across without boring your audience, use humor and stories. By doing this you add a personal touch to your speech and audiences generally like that.
Be authentic with your audience. Show them the real you. Talk in your normal speaking voice and say what you want to say, not what someone else would like you to say. Find a way to get your message across in a way that matches your personality. Don’t overdo it if you’re not usually an excited or bubbly person and don’t reign it in if you are. Your audience will trust you more if they can tell you’re being real.
Create a framework
Think about the purpose of your speech. What is the key message? What are the main points? What’s the most logical order so that everyone will be able to follow you? Create an outline for your speech by writing it all down.
Start and finish strong
Start with a relevant anecdote, with a shocking statistic or by asking your audience a question to grab their attention right off the bat. End your speech by summarizing your message and with a statement your audience will remember.
Make your speech about your audience
The people in your audience are listening to you because they’re hoping to gain something from it. Be it information, inspiration or entertainment. So, focus your speech on them and make sure that you’re providing your audience with what they came for. Do a little research on who your audience is and what speaks to them. Knowing your audience will also help you find the right tone.
Try not to read
Not unless you absolutely have to. If you start reading, you have no eye contact with your audience, which breaks the connection you have with them and people will soon start to lose focus. Write down keywords on cards in advance to refresh your memory when needed.
Use your hands, but don’t make nervous gestures
What do I do with my hands? It’s a thought that crept into my mind so many times when I was speaking. You become overly aware of your hands and you have no idea where to put them. The best thing you can do with your hands is to make small gestures that help put emphasis on things you say for instance. If you’re not doing anything with your hands, place your hands at your side or casually clasped in front of you. Your non-verbal communication is a big part of your message, so try practicing what to do with your hands beforehand too.
Use audiovisual aids, but don’t overdo it
It can be very useful to show images, a short video or graphics during your speech to enhance your message. However, don’t overuse them as it will take the attention away from you. Also make sure to not use a lot of text on a slide as people can’t read it and listen to your story at the same time.
Build rapport with your audience
Building rapport is about building an relationship with your audience. You can build rapport by getting to know your audience beforehand, making eye-contact during your speech, by smiling, not using humor or language that might offend your audience and by dressing appropriately (preferably a little more formal than your audience, as it will increase your credibility and authority).
Also watch for your audience’s non-verbal feedback: are they looking at you, smiling and nodding? Then you’re doing great. If they seem distracted: looking away, fidgeting or looking confused. You need to change what you’re doing.
I hope you found these tips to improve your public speaking skills useful and you feel like you can easily take on the next time you need to speak in front of an audience! Good luck!