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Quick tips for nailing your next public speaking engagement

Posted by Shivali Anand

January 24, 2022    |     4-minute read (618 words)

Good communication is the grease that keeps organizations running smoothly. As a leader, you can’t build relationships, influence choices or encourage change in the workplace without effective communication. 

Even seasoned CEOs, however, may have a fear of public speaking. Roughly 1 in 4 people report experiencing glossophobia, which is the technical term for fear of public speaking. While some individuals join Toastmasters or take seminars to improve their speaking skills, others simply avoid circumstances where they will have to give a speech.

We've selected practical tips from public speaking experts on the best ways to improve your next speech. Anyone can use these pointers to communicate better, even if they don’t necessarily want to become professional speakers.

Prepare: what, who, where

First, you need to know what you're talking about. Delivering an excellent speech requires you to have in-depth knowledge of your subject. 

Second, you need to know whom you’re talking to. This can be accomplished by familiarizing yourself with the audience’s demographics. Speakers who wing it will likely have a tougher time engaging with their audience.

Third, you need to know where you're going. Get familiar with the venue and the stage, if applicable. This will put you at ease when it’s time to speak.

Finally, conduct a dry run with your equipment. Test your computer, microphone, musical arrangement and any other technical equipment you plan to use, to avoid awkward hiccups.

Rehearse

Practice over and over. For public speaking, there's no such thing as overpreparation. Create a daily rehearsal schedule, and stick to it. In addition to your words, practice your facial expressions and hand gestures in front of a mirror.

As you get more comfortable with the speech, fine-tune your tone and voice projection. Be sure to inject a sense of humor to keep your audience engaged. The best-received speeches balance accurate information with touches of humor. Nobody wants to listen to a stuttering, monotonous speech.

To gauge your level of preparation, introduce distractions such as the TV or an alarm while you practice delivering your speech. This will help ensure you’re ready in the event of the unexpected during your talk.

In the lead-up to your speech, take advantage of every opportunity to speak up in other settings. As the opportunity arises, speak in front of a live audience.

Fine-tune

Focus on presenting a clear, unrushed message with built-in pauses rather than a rapid-fire deluge of words to interest the audience. Taking longer breaks than you believe are required can help you emphasize essential ideas and connect with your audience on an emotional level.

Be sure to maintain eye contact with as many individuals as possible to keep your audience’s interest. Exhibit self-assurance — keep in mind that you will feel more confident if you act like you are, even if you’re frightened and uncomfortable. Fake it until you make it

On the day of the presentation

Anxiety and tension can be alleviated with exercise, so make time for a workout. To further get into the right mental space, spend time alone to go over your prepared remarks. Try to relax for at least 10 minutes before you commence the speech so you can think clearly.

In terms of the timing of your speech, aim to conclude before your time expires, and never go beyond the allotted time. The latter is considered poor etiquette because it implies that you're either unprepared or deliberately neglecting the agenda.

After concluding your speech, request feedback. Although it’s natural to feel anxious about being judged, soliciting feedback from the audience is a great way to engage and establish relationships with them. It can also help you improve your future speeches. 

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