Here’s the deal. You have an important presentation to deliver. You manage to scrap up a decent talk and even receive some encouraging nods and claps at the end of it.
However, deep down inside, you know you could have done better. And that knowing is vexing you. So here you are, clicking on this article, hoping to gain insight into how you can become a better public speaker. And here we are, ready with just that.
Generally, public speaking allows you to put across the core of your thoughts to people and perhaps even influence them or motivate them. With such heavy responsibility on the shoulders, who wouldn’t want to give their best shot?
It is essential to look at a few things before getting started. First, it might help to consider why you want to better yourself at public speaking. Is it to get the best grade in your class? Is it to crack that oh-so-important deal? Is it a speech for your English class? Identifying your reason to get better will give you a good starting point to work on.
Second, it’ll help to reflect on what stops you from being a good speaker. If you want to be a better speaker, you’ve definitely identified a few areas that stop you from being one. Is it too little engagement with the audience? Do you bomb the audience with too many figures and numbers?
Whatever your reasons might be, it perhaps is time to step back and up your game. On the same note, have you heard the saying,
“Good, better, best, never let it rest,
till your good is better, and your better is best?”
20 Ways to Become a Better Public Speaker
1. Role Reversal
The focus here is on being a great public speaker. However, one way to actually become so is by being the audience instead.
For example, if you’re required to host a workshop, attend one instead. Being a part of the audience will help give you the chance to observe the speaker at a more personal level. It will help give you a more firsthand experience of mannerisms and qualities that you yourself can imbibe.
2. Breathe Intentionally
Breathing is something that obviously comes naturally to us, but breathing intentionally is where the trick is. Intentional breathing is a great way to calm your nerves. Calm breathing= clearer headspace.
A clearer headspace lets you step back and gauge the audience. With a clear headspace, there is no rush to deliver. A master speaker takes his own time to speak to the crowd. It also allows the audience to grasp the content.
3. Remembering versus Knowing
There is a world of a difference in remembering your content and knowing your content. Remembering your content heightens your chances of forgetting it, while knowing your content ensures that you never do.
Rote learning your notes makes you sound mechanical and robot-like, which is no fun for the audience. Make it a point to really know the outline of your speech or presentation. Go beyond the outline and thoroughly know what your content is. In case you forget, you can always take a pause. This brings us to…
4. Reading versus Sharing
While it’s handy to have notes with you, it’s no fun if you’re reading your entire presentation from them. The ultimate aim of a speech or presentation is to share knowledge with your audience.
Really practice your delivery in a way that seems like you’re talking with your audience and sharing information with them and keep your notes to only guide you if you get lost along the way.
5. Do not be shy to take a pause
We’re so worried about not taking a pause that when we actually need one, we’re left struggling. Know that it’s alright to take a pause. A meaningful gap conveys to the audience that you’re taking the time to allow the message to settle in with them.
Additionally, embrace silence. Throw fillers like “umm”, “like”, and “ahh” out of the window. They portray underconfidence and undermine the credibility of your message.
6. Really watch other speakers- and build your own style
By “really” watching other speakers, we mean picking up on every verbal and non-verbal cue they have to offer and trying to build your own style. This could mean watching post-match presenters, a TEDTalk, or perhaps a professor at school or college. There is a lot to learn by observing other great speakers.
7. Catch a stand-up every other weekend
Watching stand-ups is a great way to build on your own style. Stand-up comedians put in a whole lot of effort to engage with the audience and make them laugh and there’s a whole lot to learn from them.
8. Tell a story
Everyone enjoys a good story. Convert your presentation or speech into a much more lively experience for your audience by tailoring it into a story. Incorporate experiences and stories from your own life or that of others, from the present or from the past.
When you tell a story, the audience is more likely to connect with you and take home the message you’re trying to deliver.
9. Find a noisy room
It’s rather common to practice in a room that’s quiet and free of any and all disturbance. In reality, the room where you actually deliver your presentation is rarely going to be free of disturbance. From the audience talking to each other to cell phones ringing to cars blaring outside, disturbances are bound to be present.
We suggest practising in a noisy room where you can get yourself used to disturbance and can then effectively work through any distractions that may occur on d-day.
10. Slow and steady
This one’s pretty obvious too, but some of the best speakers speak at a slow and steady pace and have control over how they’re speaking. Speaking too fast often is a sign of anxiety, and anxiety often shows that you’re not confident in yourself- something that we don’t want.
Speaking slowly does not equate to being monotonous. In fact, the audience has an easier time following what you’re saying and they aren’t being bombed by information overload either. You’re letting every word pass through the audience and make their effect.
Here are a few videos by us that you could check out to help slow down while speaking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ot0QgfMipwE, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxiaj4qIwJE
11. Say yes to newer experiences
As much as you might dread public speaking, saying yes to newer opportunities to speak can do you wonders because experience, after all, is the best teacher.
The more you speak and the more experience you gain, the more your confidence levels increase. Confidence is your best friend when it comes to becoming a becoming a better speaker and that’s a no-brainer.
12. Embrace hand gestures and be mindful of your body language
Hand gestures are a great way of putting your point across. They really help emphasise what you’re saying and basically are a powerful tool to public speaking. Make it a point to not overdo it though.
Additionally, the audience is more adept at understanding your physical body language over your words. Body language conveys a lot about your mood and emotion and also is a great indicator of subtle nuances, which the crowd is sure to catch on to.
While body language is not something that can be practised to the T, make it a point to practice standing up straight, using sweeping gestures with your hands and incorporating facial expressions in your everyday conversations.
Consider checking out our video on hand gestures to help you incorporate the correct kind of hand gestures in your speech or presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-t8g3lA2sE
13. Take a walk across the stage
The stage is yours. Rather than standing grounded at one spot, take power and consider taking a walk across the stage. It also creates the illusion of a more personal connection with the entire audience.
14. Practice in little ways, every day
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to prepare yourself for any speech or presentation is to practice every day. Practice in the way you speak with your friends and family, practice when you’re alone and basically practice anywhere you get the chance to speak.
Pick up an article and read it aloud with appropriate hand gestures, voice modulation and pauses. Take up your older presentations and redo them in a different style altogether. Play around with the material that you already have available.
This way, when you actually have to present, you’d have had enough practice vocalising and using hand gestures, so you’re comfortable enough using them on stage.
15. Feedback, please!
It’s one thing to ask your “dummy” (aka, your friends or family) audience to give you authentic feedback after doing a practice delivery in front of them, and it’s another to ask your real-time audience to do so.
After your speech or presentation, perhaps chat up a few members from the audience and ask them what they thought of it or talk to them about areas where they thought you could work upon.
Better still, you could distribute feedback forms after every few sessions you host. Realtime feedback from the live audience will give you the right direction and guide you better on how you can become a genuine and better public speaker.
Things to remember with the audience…
Things to remember with the audience …
1. Befriend them
If you’re like the average person, chances are public speaking gives you the chills. It might help to befriend a few members of your audience prior to your presentation.
By reaching the venue earlier and getting to know them, you now have a few friendly faces to shift between while speaking. You also have had the opportunity to know them on a slightly more personal level, thus allowing you to make tweaks to your presentation if needed.
2. Look them in the eye
The average person usually avoids all eye contact and stares right at that unmovable spot at the back of the room, which makes the presentation altogether mechanical and monotonous. Take advantage of the friendly faces you’ve connected with.
While it can be scary, start by making eye contact with one person in the room, pause, look at the next and so on. This way you’ve completed a complete visual scan of the audience all while connecting with just one person at a time.
The benefits of eye contact are plenty, but above all, research states that what was said while holding a strong gaze is remembered the most.
3. They don’t know you (yet)- so let yourself be
You did acquaint yourself with them but the audience does not know you. They don’t know what your content is, they don’t know which paragraph comes where, they don’t know where you apparently messed up.
Go easy on yourself because chances are, they haven’t even realised what you’re overthinking. When you speak from a place of zero pressure, you’re more likely to connect with the audience on a more honest level, thus being able to motivate them or influence them, whatever the purpose of your presentation may be. This is kind of like letting yourself be and not taking yourself so seriously.
4. Put them at work
Good news is, as the speaker, you need not do all the work.
Put the audience at work instead. Ask them questions, make them do exercises, call one or two on stage if need be. This just builds a stronger rapport with the audience and the more interactive your session is, the more fun and memorable it will be.
5. You’re in control
With what you say, what you do, who you look at, with every small detail, it’ll help to remember that you own the stage. And when you know you’re in control, you don’t need to worry about goofing up, forgetting, “making a fool out of yourself” and the likes.
You direct how the whole show goes, and that essentially means you can change the course of the show at any point of time!
So here’s the deal again: the next time you’re required to speak, you don’t start imagining the most negative scenario out there. You take it in your stride and run a mental checklist of all you’ve just read and visualize the best!