Lesson 1 - The Basics of Public Speaking
Surveys show that more people are afraid of speaking in public than of dying! This is not only amazing, it is also quite a problem because being able to speak well in public is an important skill in many careers. Being able to speak well is also valuable in getting
|a good job in the first place. Learn public speaking skill from these articles and you will not only have more success on the job. Being able to get up in front of an audience and give a speech will greatly increase your confidence. |
The writer of these articles is a professional teacher with 20 years experience helping people speak more effectively. In addition to the articles, you can watch carefully chosen speeches, with
comments added, that will show you how to be a great speaker. Before getting into details, here are five tips to help you get going:
1. Don't try to memorize a speech. Instead, use the "key points" approach, described in detail in Lesson 2.
2. Start strong with an interesting opening. It doesn't have to be brilliant, but it has to get the audience focused on your topic. Various ways to do this will be explained in Lesson 5.
3. Don't speak too fast! This is a very common problem as nervous speakers try to finish as quickly as possible. Instead, take your time, and your audience will listen more attentively.
4. Be careful when using visual aids, including (especially!) Power Point. They can be both distracting and confusing unless they are used appropriately. (See Lessons 11 and 14 for more on this topic.)
5. Close your speech strongly with a "call to action".
These five tips will get you started as a successful public speaker. You already have an advantage over other speakers. Now, let's learn how to really do a great job by moving on to Lesson 2 - Prepare Your Speech.
Lesson 2 - An Easy Way to Prepare Any Speech
The Biggest Problem with Public Speaking
Many people say they are afraid of public speaking because they "can't remember what to say". When they have to give a speech, they write it down on two or three (or more!) pages, then of course they have trouble remembering. Writing your speech down word for word a very dangerous way to prepare. Some famous people, such as politicians, do have completely written speeches, but they have two important advantages. First,
|they have professional speech writers who will make sure the words are perfectly clear and perfectly organized. Second, politicians will usually have a "teleprompter", something like a TV screen, from which they can read their speech. They rarely, if ever, memorize their speeches! |
A much more effective, and efficient, way to prepare a speech is to use the "Rule of 5". This is not an absolute guide that you must follow,
Steps 1 to 3
To begin, list the three main points you want to make or the three main examples to use to make your main point. Three is often a good number. If you give one example, it has little meaning. If you give two examples it is stronger, but it may seem like just a coincidence, it may seem lucky. When you add a third example, then your listeners can see a pattern, and they understand your meaning much better. Those are the first three parts of the Rule of 5.
After carefully chosing your main points, think of a good way to introduce your topic. In the introduction, you should clearly introduce the topic while getting the audience to think about what you might say, and to think about their own ideas related to your topic. That is the fourth part of the Rule of 5. You can learn specific ways to introduce your speech topic in Lesson 5.
The last step, quite logically, is to write down the conclusion. Most people forget the content of a speech very soon after hearing it. The conclusion gives you a chance to reinforce your main point. It is also a chance to make a "call for action", which will remind the listeners what you would like them to do. You could ask them to buy something, to accept your idea for a new project, or to take some sort of social action. Your call to action, however, does not have to be a very large request. You might simply ask the audience to think more about the topic as it relates to their daily life.
Now you are ready to move forward. Simply memorize these five points - the introduction, your three main ideas or examples, and the conclusion - or you can write them on a little piece of paper. If necessary, you can also write down any numbers or important facts that you must remember exactly. Then, during your speech, you can talk to your audience naturally and make a real connection. They usually will not even know that you are holding a piece of paper in your hand! Following the Rule of 5 will guarantee that your speech is well-organized and easy to understand. Once you have listed these five items, you're ready to go to the next step, which is explained in Lesson 3 - Preparing Your Speech, part 2.
Lesson 3 - Effective Time Management in Public Speaking
Why do we fear speaking in public?
Many people fear public speaking because they think they will not have enough to say. They are afraid of finishing too quickly and then falling silent, as everyone in the audience watches. In my experience, this is not a realistic fear. In fact, in my observations over the years, most speakers try to say too much, and run out of time. So often, speakers have a very important point to make, but they run out of time to finish what their speech. Running out of time can be just as embarrassing as not having anything to say.
A simple solution
Fortunately, it is easy to prevent this problem. When you prepare, just use what I use, a good teacher's best friend - a watch! When you use a watch to time yourself, you gain very valuable information that most speakers never have. This knowledge will give you confidence when you speak, because you will know how much time you really need and you can plan well. To use a watch effectively, follow these steps.
First, time yourself as you practice your complete speech once. It is best to practice in front of a mirror while speaking out loud. As you practice, speak slowly and naturally, keeping your eyes forward. When you are finished with the whole speech, record the time you used. Beginners in public speaking think that time moves so slowly, but by timing yourself when you practice, when there is no pressure, you can see that time really flies!
Now that you understand how much time you need, start to look at each section of your speech - the intro, each main idea or example, and the conclusion - to see where you must either cut or add to your speech. A very general guideline to follow is that your introduction should be 10 to 15%, your conclusion should also be about 10 to 15%, with your main ideas totaling about 70 to 80% of your time.
One Last Tip
Keep in mind that you do NOT have to perfect with your timing. That would put too much pressure on you as the speaker. The goal is to be sure you have enough time to say everything you want to say. By preparing with a watch, you will always have more success in communicating your message. When you do that, you are ready to look at ways to make your speech even more memorable. That will be in Lesson 4 - Organizing Your Speech.
Lesson 4 - Five Tips for Organizing Your Speech
Why organize a speech? After an average speech, most listeners remember very little of what they heard! As mentioned in Lesson 2, your speech often will include three main ideas or three examples. Having three points helps the human brain remember better than only one or two main points. This article will show you how you can put these main points into various organizational structures. If your speech is well organized, the listener can use that organization as a framework to aid in remembering your message.
One of the most common ways to organize a speech is chronologically, according to time. Explain what happened first, then second then third. Take your time with each section, then pause at the end of each section to signal a transition. This is the same method of organization of any story, which always has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
A similar approach is the "Past, Present, Future" approach. While the chronological approach can be used to describe a situation that is completely in the past, or completely in the future, the "Past, Present, Future" way of organizing takes a longer-term view. In your speech, you could describe the situation as it has been in the past. In other words, you can give some history. Then you could describe the current situation as it is right now. Finally, you can ask the audience to think of the future and how the situation could improve for the better.
Another good way to order your message by logic. One way to do this is to use the "cause and effect" approach. Explain the cause first, giving enough detail for the audience to understand, then describe the result. Another common way is to use the "problem and solution" approach. Describe the problem, especially from the point of view of your audience, followed by your suggested solution.
An easy method of organizing your presentation is by using the comparison approach. Describe Situation A (or Problem A or Example A, or whatever) then show how Situation B (or Problem B or Example B) is different. You could describe all of Situation A first, in great detail, before comparing it to Situation B. Another option is to jump back and forth between A and B - explain one point about A and compare it to B, then take a second point about A, etc.
For almost any topic, it is possible to use the PGP approach: particular - general - back to particular. You could start with a very specific story to introduce your topic. After that, you can explain, in general terms, what your message is. When you are done, conclude by reminding the audience of your specific example (or a similar example) to burn your message into their brains.S
One warning! Do NOT make your organization too complex. Keep it simple so that everyone in the audience can follow your speech and remember your message. Whichever way you choose, it will be helpful to have a clear structure to your speech. To further aid in memory, you can let the audience know about your organization in your introduction, then remind them of it again in your conclusion. That leads us to the next article which is Lesson 5 - Powerful Openings.
Lesson 5 - Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking
A famous speaker once said, "The mind is a wonderful thing. It starts working at the moment of birth and doesn't stop until we get up to speak in public". I remember my first time speaking, standing in front of only 23 people, my legs were shaking. I felt nauseous. It was difficult to breathe. I got through that experience mainly because I was prepared. I am still nervous years later, though much less now. I have learned that nervousness is never a big problem - unless I'm unprepared!
Understanding that everyone gets nervous can help us begin to overcome our own nervousness. Suzanne Bates, author of Speak Like a CEO wrote, "If your heart is beating fast, it's usually a great opportunity". Being nervous is actually a good sign, so take advantate of it. It's perfectly normal, so don't worry about it. Above all, don't let it stop you from performing. In my observations working with thousands of new speakers over the years, the audience almost never notices the speaker's nervousness! If you just keep going, things will turn out well. Of course, you must be prepared - see lessons 2, 3 and 4. As long as you are ready to speak and focus on your message, you will do well.
Many experienced speakers say that nervousness helps them do well. You can start to use your feelings to motivate you to prepare the best speech you can. When you are nervous, you will stay focused on your goal - to successfully communicate your message.
If you still find that nervousness is a problem, try these tips for dealing with fear of public speaking:
Breathe deeply before you get up to speak. This will help your body relax while also helping your brain think. As you breathe normally, you will look very confident to your audience which can help you focus on your job.
Visualize yourself speaking confidently and successfully completing your speech. Before you actually get up in front of the audience, imagine exactly how it will feel to get up in front of the audience, relaxed and with a smile on your face. Imagine the sound of the audience as they applaud and your calm feeling as you wait for the applause to stop before you start speaking. If you visualize every step of your presentation, you will be more likely to perform smoothly, or you will adapt easily if something unexpected happens.
Find friendly faces in the crowd and focus on them. Remember, they want you to succeed and are hoping to learn something from you. Just remember to look at faces on each side of the room to avoid ignoring half of your audience!
One advanced speaker said he still feels nervous and can't look the audience in the eye or he feels more nervous, so he looks at their foreheads! The audience will never notice if you do this. It will seem to everyone that you are making great eye contact even if you are not, precisely, looking into their eyes.