Thursday, October 8, 2015

5 More Tips To Be a Smoother Speaker

A couple of weeks ago, I gave you a few ideas on how you could become much more comfortable and natural as a public speaker. Everyone gets called on to speak, and how you execute a speech or presentation can have implications for your career, determining whether you make the sale, communicate what you need to on the project, or teach the masses what they came to hear you talk about. Chances are, you will need to speak in public, so here are five more tips to make it go well.
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  1. Get rid of garbage words - Uncomfortable speakers often break up their content by throwing in "garbage words." You'd recognize these words as "uh," "um," "you know," "like," and various others that, when repeated, become a staccato chopping noise preventing the content from making its way through. While these phrases or words are usually uttered unconsciously, as your brain searches for the next section of content, they erode the fluency of the message and your credibility as well. It takes a strong conscious action to break this habit. Instead of throwing out "um," which appears that you don't know your content, force a pause, which gives the audience the idea that you are intentionally waiting for them to absorb your previous statement before moving on. Intentional pauses also provide nice breathing breaks for you and help to pace the content. If you cannot force yourself to ditch the words by yourself, give some practice speeches and have friends throw things at you when you use one of your crutch phrases.
  2. Don't read - I've commented before about how reading content to the group can make for a truly awful meeting. Reading content in place of a speech has the same effect. I have often heard people reading (primarily people uncomfortable with public speaking) and trying to thank a group of people or express gratitude for someone's hard work. Unfortunately for them, because they were reading, their delivery came across as insincere and absent all feeling. Even if they broke into a cold sweat, danced from foot to foot, and looked uncomfortable delivering the message, a person delivering the message spontaneously appears more genuine than someone reading the same message.
  3. Move around if you can - This one depends on your setting. Sometimes you are expected to present from behind a podium, and sometimes you are crammed in a tight conference room. But if you have the floor space, I recommend moving around a little. Don't pace, as that will make you seem more nervous than standing still. But use the movement to work the room, getting closer and more intimate with each side of an audience. A little walking around also loosens you up and makes the speech more like a discussion rather than a lecture. It also can keep your blood flowing (so you don't pass out like that kid on the third row of your middle school musical presentation).
  4. Use the crowd (feed off of feedback) - Crowds are alive. They can give you cues just like a person in a one on one conversation would. If a hush overtakes the room, your words have fixated the crowd or they are rolling their eyes at you and yawning as they have lost interest. Look for individuals who might actually be yawning. Body language will also tell you a lot. Those taking notes or sitting forward in their seats may be more in tune with your content. If the crowd laughs, shouts, applauds, or provides other feedback, work with it. Solicit it. You need to interact to be able to connect with your message and make sure it hits home.
  5. Use your hands, but not your arms (gestures) - In case you haven't figured it out by now, most tips on how to make your speeches smooth and fluid are about relaxing and engaging in a conversational style discussion with the audience. Imagine talking to a friend standing rigidly with your arms at your side or planted firmly in your pockets. The posture certainly does not invite engagement. Likewise, waving your arms wildly while conversing gives off more of the insanity vibe. Your sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle. Use your hands to gesture, motion, engage in the conversation, but don't go flailing your arms about like a mallard duck trying to take off. Be demonstrative, not distracting.
Do you have a speaking engagement coming up? Can you use some of these tips or even the overall concepts to make it better? What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Image credit: Hans via Pixabay