5 ways to be a better public speaker

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Getting away from the computer or the coalface of your business and getting in front of a group of like-minded people can do wonders for you, both personally and professionally. Whether it’s a local mastermind group or industry conference, you can be a clear and concise communicator by using the following tips.

  • 1. DO NOT try to memorise your content

If you think back to your high school days, you’d remember the way to deliver a class presentation was by memorising your speech the night before. Maybe you had some palm cards but, for the most part, you committed it to memory word-for-word. This is definitely not what you should be doing as a leader in your field. It comes across as inauthentic, rehearsed and unnatural. But not only that, if your memory fails you at any point in what could possibly be a 20-minute presentation, you’re in big trouble.

Instead, it’s best to focus on the concepts by creating bullet points to commit memory. Each point should contain an overview of the content, stories, data and key takeaways of your presentation. Knowing your content is key as the bullet points then allow you to speak naturally, which is much more engaging and allows the flexibility to move on or stay on-topic if questions arise.

  • 2. DO warm up the audience before getting into your presentation

Mingling with the crowd or small group before speaking in front of them is helpful in two ways: Firstly, it stops you from anxiously waiting in wings and letting nerves attack and, secondly, it warms them up to you. You’re no longer a stranger and they might even be a little more empathetic and engaged while you present.

A great way to use these warm contacts is as examples in your presentation. For instance, if you’re discussing great small business marketing plans, do your research by speaking to an attendee that is a small business owner with a fantastic marketing strategy. It’s a little more work but will make your speech relevant and engaging for the other members of the group.

  • 3. DO NOT let nerves take over

You are not alone as a nervous public speaker. Even some of the most seasoned speakers can get nervous prior to delivering. To take the pressure off and alleviate those nerves, you need to change your mindset. Think about your audience rather than yourself. You are there to provide them with your knowledge and expertise and, even if they leave with just one or two action points, reminders or a new perspective, you’ve made a difference. Focus on being of service rather than how you feel and that should help you to relax your nerves.

  • 4. DO use visual aids

Visual aids are great at being just that… aids. They are not there for you to read your entire speech from directly or to distract your audience with irrelevant material. So if you do use slides during your presentation, use them in an unexpected way. Bullets points are great but even better would be a short, fun video or some photos and illustrations with a sense of humour. If your speech is more of a corporate nature, consider having your slides custom-made by a designer. These tactics can certainly take your entire presentation up a level and you’ll be a professional public speaker in no time.

  • 5. DO interact with your audience

You might think interaction with the audience should be left to stand-up comedians or seasoned professional speakers but that’s not the case. Getting the crowd to repeat a key message, to make affirmative gestures or even just to nod in agreement (or perhaps shake their heads) is a fantastic method to keep the audience involved. Not only that, it also helps them to remember the material.

As you plan your presentation, think about where you can involve the audience, what devices you can use to involve them and what might help them remember the material so they are engaging with you as you speak.

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