It’s human nature to be nervous when giving a speech or a presentation. Whether your boss asked you to present this quarter’s report to the board of directors or you’re giving a keynote speech at your company’s biggest conference, everyone gets nervous when presenting. Below are a few tips about how to improve your public speaking skills, including how to engage your audience, that can help you feel confident while giving your next speech.
Even if you are completely comfortable with the material you are speaking about, it is always a great idea to review your key messages and notes prior to speaking. Go through your notes and even practice speaking out loud, either in front of a mirror or to a family member or friend.
This practice will not only help you reinforce your key messages to yourself, but will provide you with insight as to when the best time to pause in your speech will be. It will also help you hear if there are any odd sounding sentences or statements that may be difficult for your audience to understand.
If your speech is going to be timed or you are given a specific window to fill, be sure to practice while timing yourself to ensure you stay within your time limits. Practicing your speech will help calm your nerves and make you feel more confident for your presentation.
Understand who you’re speaking to:
Other than the key messages you are trying to get across, the most important piece of a successful speech is having an exceptional understanding of who you are speaking to. Knowing your audience will affect how you speak and how you deliver your content.
While crafting your speech, ask yourself the following questions: What are the key messages I want to convey to my audience? What can they learn from my speech? How can I best reach my audience? By asking yourself these questions, you are creating an outline for yourself to follow while drafting your speech or presentation.
Focus on Content Delivery:
We’ve all sat through a presentation where it seems like the presenter just discovered how to use transitions on PowerPoint. Not only is poor content delivery awkward, it can be incredibly distracting to your audience as well. This isn’t to say that visual aids aren’t a good idea, they are incredibly helpful tools when used appropriately.
When speaking, make sure that the focus of the speech is on the content you are trying to convey to your audience. Not only will this help you avoid using visual aids in a distracting manner, but it will also help you stay on track and your audience will have an easier time tracking and understanding your speech.
Engagement is the key to success:
Boring speeches can be incredibly difficult to pay attention to, and if you aren’t careful, your audience could fall asleep, literally! This is why it is paramount to try and establish a connection with your audience within the first 30 seconds of your speech.
There are a variety of ways to do this, such as telling a story, posing a question, or offering an example of why what you are speaking about is important. For example, if you are giving a keynote speech at an industry conference, you can begin by connecting with your audience through a story that the audience can relate to.
Not only will this help showcase your personality, it can help you better engage with your audience and establish a strong connection to help them get more out of your speech.
Beginning, middle, end:
Last but certainly not least, be sure that when speaking, you have a distinctive beginning, middle, and end to your speech. Everyone has had an experience sitting through a speech that nobody knows how long it will go on for. This can cause your audience to lose interest in what you are saying, or even worse, completely tune you out!
To avoid this happening, try and stick to the below framework:
- Beginning: Have a hook to draw your audience in, and provide context for what you are talking about
- Middle: Provide your key messages and examples to support your points
- End: Use this as an opportunity to summarize the material you just covered and drive home your key points.
If you follow these five easy tips, you will be a public speaking professional by the time your next speaking engagement rolls around. For more information about tips to improve your communication skills or advice on how to nail your next speaking role, check out our free Storytelling Master Course on our website.