No matter where you are in your career chances are you will have to give a presentation or talk to a group of people at some point. In our current situation with the pandemic most of us are on video calls all day, which require great communication skills.
Even in normal times most of us have had to speak up during a meeting or maybe you’ve been asked to speak at a conference. Any time you talk to a group of people whether it is 10 people or 1,000 people it is important to be able to present yourself and your company well.
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As professional speakers we have a lot of experience speaking to large groups of people around the world and today we are sharing 7 tips for becoming a better public speaker.
1. Practice, practice, practice. When you have a presentation to give whether it is for 5 people or 5,000 people practicing it is extremely helpful. It will give you confidence, it will help you feel prepared, and it can help you figure out areas you struggle with. If the day of the presentation is the first time you run through the whole thing you risk stumbling through it, sounding unprepared, and feeling nervous. Set yourself up for success.
2. Repetition. The more you give presentations or webinars or speak up in meetings the easier it will get. The first few times are the hardest. You have to be resilient and keep trying, even if you mess up. Don’t let a bad presentation stop you from doing more in the future. Learn from your mistakes, get feedback from others, practice, and keep going.
3. Get feedback. Whenever you can ask others for feedback. If you are speaking at a conference and they give you audience feedback, read it and take relevant advice to heart. Or maybe you have a family member or a friend in the audience who can offer some comments. If you are giving a presentation in a meeting ask a coworker or a boss for feedback. Maybe you talk too fast and you need to slow down. Maybe you need to speak up and pronunciate better. Or maybe you are doing a great job at engaging the audience. Take feedback when you can and always work to improve yourself. But remember never take feedback personally, use it to help you, don’t let it tear you down.
4. Breathing and pace. Both breathing and pace take practice in public speaking. When you are nervous and uncomfortable it is easy to forget to take normal breaths and you may speak so fast that no one catches what you are saying. You may feel like you just want your presentation to be done so you can sit down and not have everyone looking at you. Practicing deep breathing before a presentation can be very helpful. It opens up your airways and it helps relax your body. And during your time talking speak at a pace where people can understand you, and use pauses to your advantage. Pausing in the right spot can really emphasize a point or get people on the edge of their seats.
5. Structure. Whenever you are giving a presentation or a talk you want the people listening to walk away with your main points. To do this you really need to have structure in the material you are sharing. It usually helps to share 3–5 main points you want to get across. Structure your speech like an essay, start with a thesis statement and add three to five supporting statements and then summarize at the end. Keep it simple so your audience can follow along. Stories are powerful. Using them throughout your presentation or even in a meeting to paint a picture or give real life examples, can really help.
6. Know your audience. It is important to know who you are talking to so you can personalize your talk for your audience. Will you be talking to 5 people, 50 people or 500 people? Are there any topics you need to avoid? Are there cultural differences that you need to be aware of? Do your homework, know who you are talking to, and personalize it as much as you can.
7. Dealing with nerves. We both have given hundreds of speeches to large groups around the world, but we still deal with nerves before we go up on stage. It’s just human nature. But there are things you can do to deal with it. Exercise and meditation can help. Deep breathing is a good thing to practice, especially right before you talk. Avoid coffee and caffeine if it makes you jittery, eat healthy and get good sleep before a presentation. Maybe you have an activity that calms you like playing chess or listening to music that you can do before you speak. It’s okay to be nervous, you just have to learn how to channel it in the right way.
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