How to put your best public speaking voice forward

2014-08-29 11:39

The fear of public speaking has forced countless people to go to great lengths to avoid making presentations, or even speaking at small, intimate gatherings. This fear can be career limiting and can make you lose out on bringing new clients over to your business.

It’s easy for me to say, as I have worked as a teacher, insurance salesman and now a motivational speaker and life coach… but public speaking is really not something to be afraid of or to avoid. Most people can reduce their anxiety (and increase their confidence) by avoiding a few poor habits… and embracing some of my favourite tips.

Be thoroughly prepared

Your preparation for any public speaking you do should be done well in advance, as that will allow you to relax in the last half hour before you ‘stand and deliver’. Speakers who lack confidence in what they are about to say will naturally feel nervous about talking to a group of people.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to admit to your audience that you are feeling a bit nervous. This can lighten everyone’s mood.

Read all about it

Write your presentation with your ear as well as your pen. Keep reading it out aloud as you write and rewrite it. And keep it short!

Tip: If it doesn’t sound right, it usually isn’t right.

What are you trying to say?

Some speakers go on stage to try to prove to their audience that they are experts in their field. They want everyone to look at them as masters of the craft. Your objective should be to deliver a message, teach a lesson and help to change lives. It’s not a movie business, but a platform for communication.

Tip: Make sure your method and your meaning are clear in your own mind.

Look the part

Some people will decide before you’ve even opened your mouth if they are going to pay proper attention to your words. The way you look, the way you hold yourself and your presence (or lack of it) all play a vital role.

Tip: If you look good you’ll feel good – and it will show!

Know your subject and material

Be familiar with the technical content of your presentation. The more you prepare the more confident you will be, and the fewer nerves you will have.

Tip: If possible, begin preparing your talk at least three weeks ahead of time.

Know your audience

Think about the purpose of your talk, your audience, the occasion. Who are they? Why are they there? Why have you been chosen to speak to them? What do they know? What is their attitude about your subject?

Tip: Make sure you are speaking about what is relevant to your audience.

Ignore past bad experiences

Public speaking is not an inborn talent but rather a skill which can be cultivated by anyone. Even professional speakers started out as nervous beginners. The only way to succeed is to have the willingness to take a chance, try again and view every opportunity as a step to becoming a better speaker.

Tip: Public speaking is like riding a bike: you’re going to fall a few times before you experience the thrill of free-wheeling.

Calm yourself and start strong

Just before you start talking, pause, make eye contact, and smile. Nothing will relax you and your audience more. You’ll gain a sense of approval and it will give you time to relax and get in control. Then take a few deep breaths just before you step up to the lectern, to help you start with a strong, clear voice.

Tip: Set the stage and get the audience ready to love you.

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