Wednesday, September 23, 2015

5 Tips To Be A Smoother Speaker

At some point in your career, there's a chance you will be called upon to speak to a group. Whether the audience consists of fifteen coworkers or a group of three thousand, you want to appear professional and smooth when you speak. Beyond that, even after you have had some good experience, speaking as a skill can always be improved. Here are a few tips on how you can do exactly that.

  1. Don't write your speech - When I grew up doing speaking events, I had verbatim prepared speeches, complete with anecdotes and jokes alongside the content. Then I would memorize the speech word for word. That said, those were competition-style speeches that maxed out at about five to seven minutes, and I would have months to prepare, memorize, edit, and practice the speech to get the right pacing, etc. Instead, I recommend jotting a quick outline down of all of the points that you need to cover and work off of the outline. If you have a presentation to accompany you, keep the slides to the main points and fill in all the color verbally.
  2. Talk at slower than normal speed - This one causes me fits as I have a tendency to speak quickly anyway, but whether or not you realize it, when speaking to a crowd, you will accelerate. My recommendation here is to try to talk slower than your normal speed. Recognize that conversational speed is interrupted by the other person talking, so one-way speeches need to accommodate with pauses and a slow enough pace for the audience to absorb the content. My super-speedy presentation style has come in handy when my time window has been overly compressed, but I don't recommend it for normal presentations.
  3. Use a timer - If you have a fixed time limit, you should be aware of how much time you have available to talk so that you don't go over. Fortunately, there are several free presentation timer apps available for your phone, so in a pinch, you can grab one of those and run it on the podium. Some even have vibration settings so you can run it from your pocket. Make sure the phone is muted, though, so you don't get a rogue phone call in the middle of your speech.
  4. Make eye contact - Obviously if you are presenting on a conference call, this one cannot happen, but when in front of a crowd, you should attempt to focus and make eye contact with several individuals in the crowd. I recommend finding at least one person on each side of the audience, and perhaps at different depths in the crowd, to focus on as you present. Don't stare them down, but look them in the eye and move back to scanning. If you are presenting to a smaller group, direct your comments from person to person.
  5. Get a buddy - If you know that you have certain speaking problems, sometimes you can enlist the help of a buddy. I had a tendency to go too quickly through number-heavy material on conference calls (primarily because I tended to allow myself to slip into reading the content and I couldn't connect with the audience via eye contact), so I enlisted a few friends to send me IMs if I moved too quickly. My PC screen would light up like fireworks if my clip got too fast, and I would be able to pause and make a concerted effort to slow the pace after that.
I've got a few more tips and tricks for speaking that I will put in a future post for you, but for now, this list should get you started to smooth out that next presentation.

What tips do you have for speaking smoothly? I'd love to know if they match up with mine.

Image credit:allanfernancato via Pixabay