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Better Public Speaking Skills = Better Presentations

Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills


We have all "suffered" through at least one of these scenarios:

  • a job interview
  • asking for a raise
  • talking with clients
  • giving a speech/presentation
  • a sales pitch
View these past situations as "practice runs" in public speaking. These tips that follow below, will help you to become a better presenter, just by improving your public speaking skills.

1. Preparation is Key to Being a Confident Public Speaker

We have all been there. We think we were ready for today's sales pitch. Then someone asks a question we were not prepared for. It should go without saying that you need to know your stuff. Make sure you are well versed in everything there is to know about this topic so any question will be welcome and you are never taken off-guard.

2. Teach Someone a Skill to Hone Your Public Speaking Ability

You may wonder how this will help you with public speaking. Well, the reality is that all teachers are public speakers. They even have what is called a "classroom voice", which they use when they are in teaching mode.

By demonstrating something you do well, you are in your comfort zone. The added bonus is that you are also practicing and building your public speaking skills at the same time. Don't underrate the value of this. And ... your friend/colleague/child will be happy to learn this new skill that you are demonstrating. A win-win situation all around.

3. Rehearse -- OUT LOUD

You will probably feel silly, talking to yourself in the mirror. And ... you will think you sound great! However, a better alternative is to record yourself while you are going through your whole spiel. Those 'ums' and 'ers' will grate on your own ears as you play the recording back. Therefore, you will be able to imagine how ineffective your presentation may be if you are not articulate and relaxed.

There can never be too many rehearsals, and don't underestimate their value. But, that rehearsal MUST be out loud.

In PowerPoint, there is a simple process to record your narration. Even if you are not using PowerPoint for your time in the spotlight, use the tool just to hear the playback and make adjustments accordingly.

4. Get Feedback from Friends or Colleagues

While we are on the subject of rehearsing, this is where your colleagues or trusted friends come into play. You may think your presentation is great, but let's face it -- you are hardly unbiased. And, after hearing yourself over and over, you may be missing nuances in your speech that others will pick up on.

I watch speakers frequently, and I can usually tell when one has not rehearsed in front of another party prior to the speaking engagement. It always surprises me how many people repeat the same phrase over and over, without realizing it -- such as "I really love this feature." or heaven forbid, that trite phrase "you know" or even constant throat clearing. Let others give you some constructive feedback before the big day.

5. Relax the Day Before

There is no sense telling you to relax just before you go on. We all know that would be futile in the case of most people. However, there is nothing wrong with taking some time for yourself the day prior to the event to do something fun and forget about things for a while. You will be surprised at what a positive effect this will have.

Of course, you already know that a good night's sleep will do wonders for any reason at all, so why not this great reason?

6. Keep Yourself Hydrated Before the Speech

You may think this is a bad idea, but I am not speaking of drinking lots of water prior to the event. Just make sure you have taken a few sips before your turn and have water handy on stage. Nerves have an added, disconcerting effect of making your mouth dry. Tripping over your words will be the result of a dry mouth.

7. Articulate / Enunciate

This cannot be stressed enough. John might be a wonderful raconteur in front of his friends, regaling the small group with stories. But, in a public speaking engagement, the voice has to be better.

Speak like you are in the theater. Perhaps, that might even be the case. Make sure those at the back can make out the content of what you say, not just the volume of what you say.

The best example of a bad speaker I can give is a teenager. Boys mumble into their chins, and girls ramble on at the speed of light. I rarely understood what my teens were saying and I am sure you know exactly what I mean. Articulate / enunciate -- use your language clearly, easily and fluently in a natural speech pattern. You won't be sorry (and your audience will thank you.)

8. La, La, La, La, La, La, Laaaaaaa

That was supposed to be an opera singer warming up his/her voice. It works for them and they are pros, so they must know a thing or two about the voice. You don't need to sing, just talk to anyone in your best voice before your speech. The result -- no froggy voice for you on stage.

9. Mingle With the Audience

If there is a chance to mingle with the audience prior to the event, do so. This will relax you, and when it is your turn, they might seem a little bit like 'old friends'. As a result, the audience may remember more of what you say, because they had met you earlier.

10. Dale Carnegie -- The Ultimate Presenter

Dale Carnegie made his mark in history by teaching others about public speaking (among other things). His book How to Win Friends and Influence People, written in 1936, has sold over 15 million copies and is still a top seller today. A personal favorite of his quotes is:
"There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave."

Check out some of his famous quotes -- which really, are advice for public speakers.

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