Perhaps you were attending a conference for work. Maybe you paid money for tickets to hear someone share knowledge on a subject you were interested in. Either way, you went to great lengths to hear someone speak – and proceeded to sit through a speech that you thought just wouldn’t end. Poor public speaking skills are really a shame, for both the speaker and the audience. The speaker misses out because people are less likely to respect him or her as an expert because of poor delivery and presentation. The audience misses out because they are less likely to pay full attention to someone who doesn’t own the stage. They then lose out on valuable points that the speaker wanted to get across. It’s important to improve your speech and presentation skills if you want a career in the speaking circuit.
Fortunately – while becoming a commanding public speaker takes time and practice – small public speaking problems are easy to fix, and with ample rehearsals, even the most boring speaker can turn things around for themselves on stage. Below are a few key things that you can do to improve your public speaking skills in one week or less.
Know Where You’re At
Before you begin, sit down with a person, or a few people who have heard you speak before. Make sure these are people you can trust to tell you the cold hard truth. Ask for some feedback on your stage presence and manner of speaking. Do you shuffle your feet? Mumble? Write down everything they have to say.
You’ll find that the same issues come up over and over. Never fear – this article covers some common mistakes that public speakers make, and easy ways to address them.
To Improve Your Public Speaking Skills, Memorize Key Ideas, Not Scripts
Have you noticed that when you read something aloud, your voice lacks the tonal inflection and emotion it has when you’re speaking normally? When you’re talking to a friend, your gestures become more natural, as well.
That’s why it’s important to memorize key points and concepts, and to speak off the cuff, instead of memorizing the whole speech, or worse, reading from notes, which can cause you to sound stilted. When you’re speaking to an audience, instead of reading to them, you’re free to engage the crowd and make eye contact, which will hold their attention.
Avoid Pacing the Stage
Nobody says you have to anchor your feet in front of the podium, and indeed, a little bit of movement will keep the audience on their toes. But circling the stage or prowling around will make your audience dizzy. It will also make you look nervous, whether or not you really are.
Improve Your Public Speaking Skills by Engaging with Your Audience
What keeps your attention better – someone who is reading a lengthy diatribe to you, or someone with whom you’re having a conversation? It’s a rhetorical question – of course, the conversation, or a dialogue, will hold your attention better. The same goes for when you’re up there on the stage.
When you’re speaking, don’t read or preach to the crowd. Ask them questions. In the end, ask if there are any questions, and invite the audience to share their experiences with your topic. If they know that they have a chance to speak on the subject, most people will pay better attention.
Watch Your Speed
Maybe you’re trying to squeeze 10 years of history into 15 minutes. Perhaps you’ve been allotted less time than you hoped. Or it’s possible that you are just nervous, and have a tendency to talk fast. While speaking quickly can add energy, watch the tempo of your speech.
Get a friend or an objective listener to hear part of your speech and tell you if you’re rushing. Recording it works well, too. Remember, speaking at a comfortable pace allows the audience to get the most from your message, and you’ll feel more relaxed, too.
The way you speak reflects greatly on you, as a person and as an expert. If you appear relaxed, comfortable with yourself and your material, you’ll look more professional and credible – and that’s something every speaker should strive for.
Improve Your Public Speaking Skills in Just a Single Day!
The tips above are fantastic ways to improve your public speaking skills. However, one of the things that we have found after coaching tens of thousands of people is that a coach can help you progress much faster. That is why we offer the one-day Fearless Presentations ® class in cities all over the world. Classes are small (typically fewer than 10 people,) so every participant gets one-on-one coaching from the instructor. If you want faster results, come to one of the classes!