The secrets of public speaking

Practising the art of public speaking
By Alex Burden, Student Blog

2 July 2018

Some people can command a room when they speak, or deliver important presentations with such ease that you suspect they practice every weekend. In fact, everyone can learn these skills and conquer nerves; discover the secrets behind great public speaking and how to win over your audience.

4. Minimise what you want to say

A great presentation or oration sticks to simple facts and themes that can be easily replicated in the minds of your listeners. You want people to engage with your key headlines, so make these as snappy as possible. The art of ‘clickbait’ or ‘soundbite’ headlines works in public speeches also, and will also make messages more memorable for the audience.

It allows you, the speaker, to relax a little as there’s less pressure to carry a novel’s worth of material in your head. This tactic also leaves less room for your audience to misinterpret your words.

When you are confident of the messages, then the audience is confident in your messages.

3. Win the audience

No two audiences are the same. Take a few minutes to research who you are presenting or speaking to; an Executive Director’s meeting will be pitched differently from that of a client, so this will help you decide what tone to take.

Engage the audience with your eyes – they are less likely to want to engage with you if you’ve buried your head in notes or staring at a screen. This also gives you the opportunity to monitor expressions; if your presentation style has been on the light side and you are met with stony faces, then it’s time to take a more serious tone.

Because you will have already nailed your key messages, it should be less of an issue to alter how you deliver your speech in the moment.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

2. Leave a lasting impression

Your ‘presence’ when speaking to an audience is important for keeping everyone’s attention. Some audience members may be using this time for day-dreaming, but there are ways to encourage them to sit up and listen.

Some orators are guilty of hiding behind a lectern (out of sight and out of mind?), while others appear to fill the space through engaging hand movements, or changing their position on stage to keep their audience attentive.

You can take it too far, however; we’ve all, at some point, witnessed a speech that involved more marching back and forth across the stage than the London Fashion Week catwalk and it’s distracting, to say the least.

Find the right balance between standing still in a corner and sashaying to a Powerpoint!

1. Rehearse it

There’s no getting around this – the more comfortable you are with what you are going to say and how you will deliver it, the better it will be on the day.

Just don’t obsess: last-minute cramming doesn’t help in exams and is just as much help for public speaking. You want to approach the ‘stage’ in a calm, collected manner and that won’t happen if you neglected at least one rehearsal or are worried that you didn’t perfect it enough!

Chris Anderson: TED’s secret to great public speaking


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