It is always a challenge to speak in front of many people, especially if you suffer from stage fright. Any gesture, any look, or any question from the audience can make you more nervous and stressed. To overcome this challenge and be able to go out and speak in front of many people requires a lot of courage, work, and effort. When you speak in public everything counts: the tone and volume of your voice, your gestures. Any mistake or any small slip of the tongue that you make can trip you up. That is why when you are going to give a speech you need to know certain things and be prepared for all eventualities.
What is the Aim of Public Speaking?
Public speaking is about introducing your ideas to an audience and persuading them of your ideas. In ancient Greece public speaking, or the art of rhetoric, was a required skill if you wished to succeed in politics. Romans called speaking in public “ars oratoria” and were convinced that it was one of the most important of all skills.
In our day, speaking in public is perhaps not held in such high esteem, but through your speech you can still communicate and influence groups of people and build your reputation. Public speaking skills are also useful for job interviews or presenting ideas and projects. If you are looking to improve your skills, you can find some great resources online, including U.S.college courses specializing in public speaking.
Why is Public Speaking Important?
Self-confidence - Speaking in public raises our self-esteem and gives us self-confidence.
Improve your knowledge - Researching and preparing for a speech and knowing a subject well enough to explain it will bring you expertise in that topic.
Be an influencer - Public speaking skills are important if you want to be an influencer or leader. In some ways our society is not so different from the Greek or Roman societies, and a big part of choosing our leaders is by their speech. Being confident in what you say, giving explicit arguments and convincing facts will help make you a leader or influencer in your field.
How to Communicate Effectively - A speech is a communication between the speaker and the audience. Here are some tips on how to make this communication more effective:
Create interest - Try to make your discourse attractive for the listener. Remember that you are the one who is busy speaking, the audience is not busy, and needs to be engaged if your speech is to be effective.
Do not rush - Either a quick or a slow speech can cause uncertainty. If you rush and speak very quickly, the audience will lose their way. If you speak too slowly, you may sound unsure of yourself, and your audience may become bored and will stop listening to you.
Vary your tone - It’s important to vary the tone and pace of what you say. People will quickly stop paying attention if you speak in a monotone.
Important Public Speaking Skills
Consider your audience
Before your speech, your most important consideration is your audience. You should always consider what type of audience you are making the speech for. This means appraising all data: age, professionality, sex, nationality, interests, religion, etc. Consider how much your audience is likely to know about the discourse you are giving and set the level of your speech accordingly.
Get your timing right
You should time your speech so that it fits the time allocated to you. If you have not been set a time, bear in mind that a speech that is too long runs the risk of exceeding your audience’s attention span and boring them. A shorter speech may leave many questions unanswered. Timing should also take into account your speech speed control. Do not rush. Vocalize your phrases, and especially, key ideas.
Use culturally appropriate gestures
Your body language and use of gestures is an important part of your communication repertoire. Nevertheless, examine thoroughly the country and culture where you are giving your speech so as not to send the wrong message, or worse, cause offence. Eye contact is also essential to good communication and bringing your audience members along with you as active participants.
Other Public Speaking Skills
Practice your speech a lot, not just once or twice. Practice in front of a mirror, record and listen to yourself, make changes as necessary.
Get feedback from your audience. Be ready for questions, doubts, and even criticism. Prepare answers to likely questions. This way you can avoid unpleasant surprises.
Make Your Speech Your Own
Do not just repeat things you have read. Go deeper and add your personality to it.
Give your audience time to ask questions. If you can clarify any doubts they may have, you have more chances to convince them.
Finally, believe in yourself and in what you are saying. If you are not completely sure about the subject you are dealing with you will not be able to convince the audience to support your views.
About the author:
Edita Hovhan is an expert in Iranian and English studies. She is a mom of two sons and holds two University degrees. She contributes articles about education, its methodologies and new approaches to more effective learning and progress.