Public speaking has become an important part of life. Be it debate and elocution competitions in schools, or sitting in Group Discussions as a part of interview process or giving talks, presentations and other vocal activities as part of school and work, some public speaking skill seems to be essential to succeed everywhere. Even if you are in a career where there isn’t a lot of it demanded, even a simple aspect of work like presenting a progress report can be made much better if the presenter has some essential skills.
Some of the greatest orators in the world have been studied over time, and a few aspects that are common to them have emerged. These can be applied to daily life and public speaking opportunities to do much better at the demands of today’s life.
Preparation: Great speakers present well on the topic and do not just read off from a paper a speech that was prepared by someone else. They think from the listener’s perspective: what would they like to hear? If I were in the audience, how would I like this material to be presented?
They also read on topics which are related so that they are prepared for questions or to change tacks if they see the audience getting bored. They anticipate questions from the point of view of the listener and keep some fun facts up their sleeve to jazz thing up.
Presentation: How you arrange technical aspects is important. From your voice, your dress, to actual physical objects in your presentation space, all add to or take away from the clarity you can have. For PowerPoint presentations, keep them simple and uncluttered because audience cannot read and listen to you at the same time. Check out the book ‘Presentation Zen’ for more on PowerPoint presenting. Try not to talk from behind a podium because it hinders your connection with the audience. However, if there is no choice, use your hands a lot and lean forward to show you want to connect with your audience. Do so voice warmup exercises and make sure your throat is fine on the day of speaking. Wear simple, elegant clothing that does not attract too much attention.
Engagement: Engaging with the listeners is crucial. Take pauses, see if they understand – don’t just prattle off. If they are getting bored, change tacks or use a fun fact. Use less jargon, and avoid using long sentences. Move from one concept to another in a logical flow and sum up at the end. Have questions towards the end and answer them to the best of your ability. If you do not know, humbly say so. No point getting into an ‘I’m the expert’ fight with an audience member. Diplomacy is the key.
Feedback: Finally, be open to feedback. Ask audience what could have been done better. Do mock sessions with friends and family and ask where you can improve. Use this feedback to improve on your technique and you’ll be an ace speaker in no time!
Please feel free to ask questions and post comments.