Public Speaking Made Easy (well, sort of)
Written By: Akunna Onwu
The daunting task of speaking in front of an audience has plagued each of us at some point or another. Whether we are talking in a team meeting or presenting to an audience at a public forum, we all have to speak in public from time to time.
What usually makes it daunting is that we are never certain of how the audience might react. This is usually out of our control and is a cause for anxiety and concern. While captivating an audience is a skill that takes years to harness, I have found that there are some basic and simple ways in which one can improve one’s speaking and presentation skills. These are things, I believe are within our control and I will in this article, attempt to put forth some of the crucial aspects I have learned from personal experiences, that in some way ease those jittery nerves and assist with delivering an excellent speech.
I am in no way an expert on the topic, but I have found that the general pointers below have served me well – in one way or another – when speaking in a public arena. Note that these are general pointers and may be applied across the spectrum regardless of the speech, talk or presentation you are expected to give.
BE prepared- know your stuff and the confidence will flow
I have found that I am most confident when I am well prepared. Be it at the office when I need to present at a meeting or even at a gathering of hundreds of people. When I know my “stuff” there is an air of sureness and a degree of calmness that ensues – even though the nerves are still present! I find it’s at least one less thing to worry about during the presentation or speech. My confidence booster is understanding my topic, understanding the purpose for delivery and finally, what I want the audience to take away. This helps cut away some of the fluff that may have creeped in during the initial preparation.
Practise, practise, practise!!!
I think this goes for anything in life. When I was a child my mum used to say to me “anything worth doing at all is worth doing well”. This usually meant, “Have you practiced enough; that you are satisfied with whatever the outcome of your input might be?” The old adage “practice makes perfect” is quite apt when preparing to speak or present to an audience. Yes, there might be a few unexpected glitches during your delivery, however, you have practiced and prepared your speech to the point of being comfortable enough, to smoothly deal with any glitch that pops up. A great way to practice is by rehearsing your speech in front of the mirror, with friends or family members.
Know your audience!
Knowing your audience assists with how you deliver your speech. In other words, it assists in deciding the different tools that you may utilise in order to communicate effectively with the audience. Be it via a PowerPoint presentation or in a humorous manner. This is vital, as it could possibly define how receptive the audience is to your message.
Pause, pause and pause again
Those ten, 20, 30, 40 or 60 minutes of speaking to an audience may seem like eternity and as such, we usually tend to rush through our presentation or speech in a manner that conveys to the audience our incessant need to catch the train before we miss it. This usually results in the audience not absorbing the message you are trying to put forward and feeling like they were on the same race with you. The art of attaining the correct “speed” when speaking is one that needs to be mastered. You do not want to be a slow poke and neither do you want to be a gabbler. It is finding the right balance between the two that ensures that your audience has fully grasped and understood your message. Pausing also helps you focus and recollect your thoughts in order for you to proceed further.
Make contact with the audience
Rather than scan and pan through the audience, try as much as possible to make contact with them. Make eye contact with individuals as you speak or present, moving purposefully from one individual to the next. By doing so, it proposes a sense of being part of a conversation where the whole experience becomes one of a collaborative effort, making it a more authentic experience for the audience.
The above tips are in no way an exhaustive list of things to only consider when speaking or presenting at a public forum. They are just my quick go-to tips whenever I find myself in such a situation.
Should you feel the need to further enhance this skill, there are many other avenues that you could explore. There are courses that one could take on public speaking and communicating effectively. Another great avenue where you can learn and master the art of public speaking in a safe environment is via Toastmasters International, an organisation that specialises in communication and leadership development. Should you require further information, simply visit https://www.toastmasters.org/.
So, the next time you are faced with speaking in a public forum or at work in a meeting, try not to get into a state of panic and anxiety. Just remember to prepare, practice and know who you are addressing the speech or presentation to. And while delivering the speech or presentation, always pause and engage with the audience.
By: Akunna Onwu, BCom; LLB; LLM
More articles by Akunna HERE