What I’ve Learned About Effective Public Speaking

Each person, at any given point in her life will have the opportunity to speak in public. It may be in a speech class, a presentation at work, or a funeral speech. The person may end up as a politician, TV host, a beauty queen, lawyer, CEO, preacher, or motivational speaker. In all these careers or calling, effective public speaking is required.

Before I share with you some tips, let me share with you first what effective public speaking is about.

An effective public speaker can capture the audience’s attention quickly and can hold it until the end of her talk. She can move her audience’s emotions and stimulate their minds. She is convincing, encouraging, and “impactful”. She can instill change in her audience. People carry with them and remember what she said during her talk. She keeps her audience involved which makes them feel that they are a part of her. She also keeps her audience entertained; there is no dull moment with her. She empathizes with her audience and they feel that they are understood, which makes it easy for them to trust her. She walks her talk and understands her accountability.

The question now is: how do you get to this point in public speaking? How do you develop these skills?

While some are naturally gifted in this area, there are those who are so fearful of it. For those who are fearful, let me encourage you by saying that even the best public speakers get jittery at times.

Being effective in public speaking is more than just how you talk, what you say, the way you move, and your posture. Though all of these are important, they don’t make up the baseline or foundation of effective public speaking. You can practice in front of the mirror for all you want and just have a mental block during your actual speaking engagement. You can have the best speech written and memorized but forget all about it.

Effective public speaking works from the inside-out. It is more of a mental and emotional state than a physical state. The best way to describe this is Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). The mental and emotional condition of the speaker will always reflect in her talk, and will be the factor that will make or break her being a public speaker.

A person needs empathy to be effective in public speaking. This is the only way she will be able to reach out to her audience. It is only when she knows and cares about where her audience is coming from that she can tailor-fit her speech to suit their needs and interests.

Being people-oriented is a prerequisite to any public speaker who wants to be effective. When I say “people-oriented”, I just don’t mean wanting to be around people or enjoying the company of people, or enjoying the attention from people. The being “people-oriented” that I am talking about here is being genuinely concerned about people. A speaker who has this kind of concern for her audience will be able to move their emotions and stimulate their minds.

Another primary characteristic that is needed in effective public speaking is conviction and passion for the subject matter. I wouldn’t advice any speaker to speak about a topic that she doesn’t have a passion for. Of course you can’t control this when it is an assigned topic in school. Still, you can always manipulate it to gear towards something you are more interested in. When you are talking about something you are very passionate about, there is no way you won’t be carried away. This is what makes speakers very convincing and encouraging.

One thing I can guarantee is this… if a speaker is just all about herself and how good she is in public speaking, she will never be effective in reaching out to her audience. The main objective of public speaking is not only to send your message across but to affect people positively with what you are going to share with them. Effective public speaking is about uplifting spirits, encouraging others, and giving people hope.

It is only when you affect people’s hearts that they will remember what you talked about, even long after your talk is over. This brings me to one of my favorite stories in the New Testament.

It was after Jesus’ death, when the disciples ran to the tomb and didn’t see Jesus’ body there. While they were talking with each other about all the things that occurred, Jesus Himself caught up with them but they didn’t recognize Him. Jesus asked them questions and engaged them in a conversation. When their eyes were finally opened and they recognized Jesus, Jesus vanished. That’s when they said to one another, “Were not our hearts greatly moved and burning within us while He was talking with us on the road?” (Luke 24)

When we touch people’s hearts deeply, they remember.

Another advice I can give is this: Never talk about anything that you haven’t experienced or something you can’t do. As I’ve said earlier, an effective speaker walks her talk and holds herself accountable for everything she says.

When all of these characteristics are in place, everything else will follow easily. As to the physical aspect of effective public speaking, here are more tips to bear in mind.

Look at your audience straight into their eyes. This makes your interaction with them more personal.

Don’t stay in one place. Walk around, but not too much as it may be distracting.

If you are feeling a little bit jittery, hold on to your podium or desk. This will help you establish balance.

Include some actual interaction by asking the audience some questions during your talk or letting them hold something that you are showing as a visual.

Use visuals. This will make your talk more interesting, alive, and interactive.

Practice makes perfect. The more you apply all these principles into your public speaking, the more effective you will be.

A Public Speaking School for Skills Improvement

When it comes to effectively delivering a speech in front of an audience, skills need to be developed and what can help you with this is a public speaking school. Majority of those who have tried at delivering one yet failed along with those with extremely sensitive nerves for social interactions would truly find this a very difficult task to confront. There could be two ways to meet this task where one is through attending classes with other people of the same predicament to work on and another is by working on your own.

Dealing With Nerves via Lessons

A public speaking school comes to serve not only to rid of nerves but also as a vital part of putting your other skills into better and more practice. Even when at most times a traditional class could aid many people in eliminating nervousness in some cases it can’t. A case that is most serious could be one having very serious nerves particularly when trauma is there already buried deep within. One such case could be best addressed via therapy like hypnosis and it is only when this has been resolved can one effectively attend classroom teachings.

People with excessive nerves when it comes to social interactions may also find a classroom setup in a public speaking school quite tough to deal with. Perhaps these people have attempted to speak publicly before yet failed to materialize. Being one with such a case should cause you to remember that trying too much too soon is not wise because should failure become a recurring pattern it is only likely to cause further damage. You can instead try making small speeches and practice them in front of a mirror. By doing this you can better connect with your inner mind in convincing it that you can indeed make a public speech even in a gradual manner.

Being Armed for Attending Public Speaking School

When you get into a public speaking school it is important you come prepared and it helps to practice the mirror technique. Be sure that you continue with it at home even when initial classroom lessons have progressed for you to benefit from those lessons. Lessons should work to improve speaking techniques along with confronting your need to rid of anxiety and for the best results, both parts of the method in public speaking should work together. In the beginning you may need to work with a variety of speeches to determine your strength. With this, humorous and serious materials are not excluded.

Classroom learning via a public speaking school is beneficial in the area of speech preparation and its efficacy when delivered. People at most times find it more enticing to use an existing speech or make one out of a material that is already of public domain. What could be a predicament here is that there can’t be maximum familiarity as opposed to a material which you have prepared on your own. Whether you choose to use one material over the other, in any case there is a need for extensive practice.

Additional Advantages in Attending Public Speaking School

Of the advantages of attending public speaking school one that is obvious is the ability to have feedback from other people prior to your actual public speaking stint. What can be aided here includes refining of your posture, making the proper eye contact and even the manner in which you speak. When speaking before an audience in a large room, you need to utilize a different method as the need to overcome the room size and length of space found between the audience and yourself is there. The use of a microphone also comes with the need for mastery using a different skill which your school in public speaking could help you with.

3 Tricks For Controlling Public Speaking Fear

Whether you are giving a full blown speech to a group of hundreds, giving an update during a meeting, or having to do a oral presentation in class – if you have a fear of public speaking, this can seem like the end of the world to you. However, even though you have a fear of public speaking, stage fright, or whatever label you want to put on it, you can get through the experience and possibly even enjoy it.

Here are three tips to help you the next time you have to get up and speak.

Outlines and a Full Speech. Most people will tell you that it’s not good to write the speech out and then memorize it. It puts too much pressure on you to have to get over a fear AND remember the speech line for line. I don’t 100% agree with this.

For years I’ve used a method that has NEVER failed me. Let me repeat this: IT HAS NEVER FAILED ME. I know that seems like a pretty bold statement. However, as I was overcoming my public speaking fear, I tried many things.

I will write an outline of the major topic points I want to cover. Depending on how much time I have to speak, I will list 1 – 2 major points per minute that I have to speak. This is a general outline.

Once I have my major points selected, I create 2 – 4 minor points for each major point I want to cover. Again, this is a general outline.

Now I have the major points and minor points that I want to cover. I will now write 1 -3 sentences per minor point. I use full sentences exactly how I would say it during the speech.

Once you have that filled in, you now have your exact speech written, as you would speak it. However, you also have your outline points that you can use as a “guide” to bring up with you.

As you go through and practice (see the next section), you can start with the full written speech. Once you are comfortable with that, start to use only the outline. The reason this is important is that if you get stuck and need to refer to the outline, you will know exactly what you want to say (based on what you wrote for the full sentences and the fact that you practiced with both the full speech and the outline).

Also realize that it’s OK if you miss a sentence or even a minor point. No one knows exactly what you are going to say and it’s OK if you miss it. You’ll be the only one who knows.

Practice

This seems pretty obvious. However, this is a step that most people take for granted. They will go through the first tip (writing the speech) and only practice a few times.

Some pros will tell you not to practice or write out your speech. However, these are the same people who make a living from speaking in public. They are not subject to the same level of fear that most of us have.

When I was in high school, I had to give a 15 minute talk. I was still extremely afraid of public speaking but this was for 1/3 of my entire grade. For the 15 minute speech, I practiced over 100 hours. If you break that down, I did the same speech 400 times.

The good news was, even though I was still nervous, I was so confident that I knew the material that it didn’t matter how scared I was. I gave the speech exactly as I wanted (based on my 400 practice runs). I got an A for my efforts.

When you practice, speak out loud. Get used to hearing your own voice. Use a mirror to help you see your body language. Record your speech with a web cam or camcorder. Then review the playback and improve the areas you see need attention. You can also use your family as an audience. The more you practice in front of people, the more comfortable you will be once you do get up and speak.

You can also come up with your own ideas and methods for practicing. Just remember, the more you practice, the better prepared you will be.

Relaxation and Meditation

This is a tip that I only learned within the last few years. It’s something that I learned after I started to take yoga. There is also an element of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) in it as well.

Start in a comfortable standing position. Your shoulders and neck should be relaxed. Close your eyes. Now, touch your thumb and forefinger together, like you were making the “OK” sign. This is your trigger.

Now, picture the happiest moment of your life. It can be anything: the birth of a child, your most relaxing vacation spot, or playing with your favorite pet. Anything that makes you happy and smile. It’s OK if you do smile while you think of this.

You should take long deep breaths while you have this “happy image”. Hold your breath for 1 to 2 seconds and release. Repeat this breathing exercise for 5 minutes. Make sure you focus on that “happy thought”.

Start this before each practice round. This will be something you do just before you get up to speak. By doing it now as part of your practice, you will “train your brain” to become relaxed and be less stressed.

Once it’s time for you to speak, you can touch your thumb and forefinger together and run through the “happy thought” exercise. During the speech, if you find that you’re getting stressed or nervous, just touch your thumb and forefinger together (no one will notice you doing this). This should help reset your brain back to your “happy thought” and should help to calm you down.

These are just 3 of many tips that you can employ to help you calm your nerves, overcome stage fright, and help control you public speaking fear.

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