A simple guide to being a good public speaker
Be it talking to peers, stage performances in school or college, post-graduate group discussions, office interviews, or matrimonial interactions, your speaking skills will always form an impression on people. Ranging from personal to professional, all areas of life require you to communicate. It is essential to discuss and understand how to form connections, inspire people, correctly share information, discuss ideas, or help with decisions. All of these happen through the power of good communication.
The importance of public speaking
As mentioned earlier, public speaking is useful in all areas of life. It is through this skill that you can create a lasting impact on an audience, elevate your career, multiply your business, improve personal relationships, and improve your life overall. Imagine you are out there for a business deal. You’re in a room full of corporate workers, and one after the other, people start pitching ideas through presentations. Now, each presenter has a unique way of presenting. One such presenter has his facts rightly represented in the presentation but is nervous, has unclear speech, and fearful body language. On the other hand, there’s another presenter who has the same facts as the previous presenter but starts off the presentation with utmost confidence, maintains eye contact, is interactive, and has strong body language. Who are you likely to go ahead with for your business deal? You have the answer, the second presenter, right?
Let’s delve deeper with another example. In today’s time, one spends a major part of their time glued to screens. There are a zillion YouTube videos along with a gazillion Instagram videos, and yet one is attracted to and inspired by only the ones who present themselves on-screen with paramount confidence. People watch the ones they feel connected to. Little does one understand that the creator of those videos isn’t creating exclusive content for one person but it’s their public speaking skills, their art of communication, and their personal touch that makes one feel connected. All thanks to their good communication skills, they are loved by thousands of people.
Now, that is the power of public speaking, my dear readers! So, how does one become a good public speaker? Some of us are born with great communication skills, and the rest of us develop them as we grow personally and professionally, but without a doubt, I can say that it’s difficult to survive without proper communication, especially public speaking skills. Before I elaborate on how to become a good public speaker, allow me to explain a few things that go conjointly with this important skill.
Here’s a small yet effective list:
Communication skills: Being an effective communicator is not just an everyday need but an utterly important professional requirement too. Communication comprises listening and speaking. While most people understand and work on the latter, one tends to forget about the former. Listening with open ears and mind will make you more attentive, it helps in developing better thinking skills, and also helps you to understand your audience better. When you listen better, you decipher words better, leading to the effective delivery of your message as well.
Leadership skills: Public speakers are believed to be experts and leaders in their respective fields. It is their years of experience, expertise, and knowledge which make them people’s person. This leadership skill helps people get promoted to senior positions at work. Anyone with good leadership skills automatically becomes a better networker resulting in a larger audience or more business engagements. As you become a better speaker, you become a better leader.
Thinking skills: As per research by the University of Louisiana, critical thinking is defined as “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualising, applying, analysing, synthesising, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” Well, it basically means that anyone with good critical thinking skills will have a quick and apt analysis of various situations, be it simple or complex. An ability to quickly adapt to situations and take proper action or course, such as audience interaction is something that a good public speaker develops.
A simple guide to enhancing your public speaking skills:
A few months ago, I met with a group of influential people and we happened to discuss public speaking in that meeting. It was around this time I learned a simple acronym which can help anyone ace the art. As you all know, there is always scope for improvement, so I won’t term the following method as something which will help you deliver the perfect speech. I’d rather term it as a method which will help you deliver one of your best speeches. The method is called KSCOPE, let’s learn about it in detail:
K – KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
For a speaker, it’s a must to understand the kind of audience they are addressing. For example, one can’t design a speech apt for school kids and deliver the same at a corporate event. Always prepare your speech by understanding the age range, professional qualifications/designations or educational background, gender sensitivity, etc. of your audience. To the best of your abilities, exclude topics related to political interests, religion, caste, and sexist jokes while preparing a speech. Understand that these are sensitive topics with very strong opinions of people, hence, keep away from them. Understand what your audience aims to achieve from your speech and design it around that expectation in order to resonate with your audience.
S – SPEECH STRUCTURE
Make sure to have a strong structure for your speech. Whatever you may write, while delivering it, you have to ensure ticking off the following:
• Posture– Maintaining a good posture while delivering your speech is of utmost importance. A straightened spine, pulled back shoulders, head held high, covering the stage as you speak, and maintaining apt movement comprise a good posture. Even before you start speaking, your posture talks. Your audience can sense a lot from your posture, so don’t just emphasise the speech, be careful of your posture too.
• Expression – A bland, expressionless, and flat speech is what an audience dreads. Change your tone, facial expressions, and posture as you express different emotions. When your speech portrays an exciting event, expand your body and bring the expression of excitement or joy to your face. When depicting something sad, weaken your body with drooping shoulders and sadness on your face. Imagine someone speaking about a sad event with a wide smile, would you ever relate to that? So, just keep the expressions in mind and depict them as per the flow of your speech.
• Delivery – Staying up to date with the audience’s requirements is one part of delivery. Another indispensable part is the tone of voice while you’re delivering a speech. Your expressions must match the tone of voice and your body language. When you depict joy, open your body, have a smile on your face, move around the stage with enthusiasm, and have a higher pitch because when you talk excitedly, you talk louder. Similarly, while narrating a sad story, have a sad or neutral expression, compress your shoulders a bit, weaken your body, and soften your tone. These small things make a huge impact on your speech’s delivery.
CO – CONFIDENCE
Every book, lecture, video, and article on public speaking mentions confidence as the key ingredient to a good speech. Well, as a matter of fact, it is. Be positive, stand tall in front of your audience, and be confident in your writing, knowledge, and speaking skills. It is this confidence that will take you to ultimate success in life. Also, remember, being confident doesn’t mean being perfect. Being confident means that even when you get stuck or fumble, you don’t let that affect the rest of your speech. That is the true essence of confidence.
P – PRACTICE
I know this point is a cliché but believe me, it is vital. Practising your speech allows you to time yourself, ensures proper delivery, instils confidence, and prevents fumbling. The more you practice, the better your speech will become, and the less you’re likely to forget. So, just practice, practice, and practice. Stand in front of the mirror, find a family member, or a friend who will listen to your speech and just go on practising until you find that glimpse of perfection.
E – EYE CONTACT
Maintaining eye contact with your audience is something which will instantly form a connection. You don’t need to stare at one person in the audience. Instead, what you can do is you can slowly keep glancing from one end of the room to the other. If you’re someone who has inhibitions about making eye contact, I’ll give a simple way out, look at the empty spaces between chairs. This way you will look towards the audience but not look at them and it creates the illusion of eye contact.