Imagine standing behind a curtain when a producer hands you a microphone and says: “You are on in 30 seconds.” As the curtains open, you walk onto the stage; a bright spotlight shines upon you and all you hear is the murmuring of a highly charged audience. You know that the judges are waiting, your heart is beating uncontrollably and your hands are sweating. This is your one and a million shot to use your voice to win over the audience, convince the judges of your abilities and deliver a stellar performance. It’s time to rock the house!
So you may be asking yourself what this scenario has to do with public speaking. In business, you regularly need to be able to step in front of an audience of your clients or peers to deliver a presentation that will win them over. Since public speaking is perceived as the number one fear for most people, often times you’ll be nervous and scared, especially if it is an important presentation. While you may not be singing in front of four celebrity judges and millions of people on television, the spotlight is still on you to use your voice to deliver an exceptional performance.
In the business world, “the judges” are your clients and in the public speaking world, they are also your audience. You need to inspire your audience to believe in you and in the ideas that you are presenting to them. The following bullets detail the traits necessary to help influence your audience to buy into what you have to say.
If you were watching a presentation, would you want to hear someone that simply reads off of a PowerPoint slide? Or would you rather hear from someone that tells you the facts, but does it through an engaging tale that incorporates personal antidotes and uses vocal variety to draw the audience into the speaker’s every word. When crafting a speech, you want to have an opening, middle and an end, but you also want to take the audience on a journey. The entire speech does not need to be a story, but should be used as an anchor to support your points. So instead of simply sharing facts, give a personal example or use a fictional character to help your audience relate to what is being described. And lastly, get your audience involved by asking them questions, having them raise their hands, nodding their heads in agreement, laughing at your jokes, and essentially getting them excited about what you are saying.
How many times have you heard a speech and the person speaking says either “umm” or “ahh” prior to every statement? I’m always surprised when I hear a CEO, VP or even a politician who overuses these filler words. These are unnecessary and should be avoided as it makes the speaker come across as lacking assurance of what they are saying. But the good news is that with practice, these could be avoided. For the past nine years as President of my local Toastmasters Public Speaking Club, we have utilized a position in the group called the “Ah Counter.” When someone says “ahh” or “umm” or repeats a word like “and” or “so” too often, the “Ah Counter” rings a little bell. This trains our brains to be more conscious of our speech patterns so that we avoid these unnecessary words in the future. In addition, be sure to use interesting language that is descriptive, purposeful and helps illustrate your speech’s intention.
Good body language is essential when giving a speech because it helps convince your audience of your enthusiasm or sincerity. Stand up tall and show your audience you are in control of the room. You want to look natural and your gestures should be convincing and support what you are saying. Vary your speaking position by moving on the stage. Avoid distracting mannerisms, such as fidgeting. And most importantly, establish a bond with your audience by creating eye contact and by smiling!
Are you making a lot of claims in your speech? If so, your audience will believe your speech to be more authentic if you can validate your data with supportive details. If there are a lot of facts and figures, take this opportunity to use visual aids because reading a list of statistics gets boring for an audience. Visual aids are good if you use them in the right way. Keep them simple and choose only those points that will make the most impact. And if you are speaking in front of a group who is unaware of your credentials, validate yourself, or better yet, have someone else introduce you as an authority on the subject. This will not only enhance your status, but it will also make your speech that much more credible.
Practice makes perfect. Write your speech in its entirety and rehearse by reading it over and over while looking into the mirror. The more you practice, the better chance you have to adjust and strengthen the speech prior to giving your presentation. The goal is to narrow your speech down to pertinent bullet points that can be placed in front of you on lectern or a laptop where they can easily be read. And when using PowerPoint on your laptop, do not simply read off the screen because you will not be providing any value as your audience can do this too. If you’ve practice enough, you’ll know the material, so trust yourself, use the tips above, engage your audience, and rock on!
Some people think of public speaking as simply talking in front of a group, but it is much more than that. It’s about communication. It’s about sharing your ideas in a clear and concise way that communicates your message to your intended audience. You use many of these traits everyday, from team meetings with co-workers, to briefing your supervisor on status, and even when having client conference calls.
Learning the craft of public speaking takes time and practice. If you are serious about getting more proficient, join an organization that allows you to practice regularly, like Toastmasters. I can tell you from experience that practice has helped me immensely to feel confident and comfortable on stage.
So, the next time you step on stage, you may not have Blake, Christina, CeeLo or Adam judging you; but if you do well, you can feel assured that your audience will be silently cheering you on for a winning performance. So, by following these helpful tips, along with regular practice, you can gain the confidence you need to use “your voice” to become a rock star at public speaking.
What are your thoughts? What other tips do you have for sharing your voice to create a powerful public speaking presentation to win over your audience?
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Want to learn more about public speaking? Check out the following resources: Toastmasters International, Toastmasters Club 805, 4 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking and 3 Storytelling Secrets for Public Speaking.