Public speaking is one of the most important skills that you can develop in your career.
Even if you don’t make a living as a speaker, or work in a profession where you frequently give public speeches (like a politician, litigator, media personality, corporate or sales trainer, or an educator), your ability to speak fluently and convincingly, in a public or group setting will dramatically influence your career.
It is inevitable that you will be asked to give a public presentation, or defend your ideas to some extent, in a public setting. A convincing public speaker is often seen as having good leadership potential, this frequently opens the doors for career advancements, and opportunities. Also, as an effective public speaker you convey confidence. This will have a ripple effect, not only on your career, but on your personal life as well.
There are many fantastic resources out there to become a better public speaker – organizations like Toastmasters, and classes like Dale Carnegie training – that will help you improve your public speaking skills, if you are willing to invest the time and money. There are however, five simple power tips, that if you master, will go a long way to immediately improving your public speaking abilities. Here they are:
1. It’s Not About You, It’s About Your Audience
Your performance as a public speaker is ultimately judged by how well you can connect with your audience. It’s not about you. You might know more about the subject than anyone else in the room, but if you can’t convey your knowledge in a way that connects with your audience, you will be a judged as a poor public speaker. Tailor your message to your audience. Show up to give, and serve, not to be seen and heard.
2. Simplify and Clarify
If you want to keep the attention of your audience your message must be crystal clear and simple. You are looking to convey a few key points, or sow a couple (at most) seeds of inspiration. It can be very helpful to give the audience a roadmap, right from the outset, of what your goals are in your presentation, or what key points you wish to convey, and after you have delivered your message, summarize these points again for clarity. Keep it simple. Like in writing – less is usually more in the realm of effective speaking.
3. Please – No Death By PowerPoint
It is rare to see a professional presentation these days without the use of some form of media, or a PowerPoint Presentation. Multimedia and PowerPoint can be a highly effective addition to your speech when used correctly; however, it can also be the death of your presentation. Do not make slides full of bulleted points with size ten font. It is distracting, and people will stop listening to you. If people are reading, and not listening, then you are failing in your presentation. You want them to focus on you. Use simple images, or concise statements, that cover the essence of what you are talking about, but that require the audience to listen to you to understand the fulness of your message. If you want a reference on how to do this correctly check out Seth Godin’s TED talks – he is a master of the simple presentation slides.
4. Give Us Some Passion (And Personality)
Let the audience feel your passion. When I was preparing for my TEDx talk, the advice I received by many previous TED speakers was to speak about “what made my heart sing.” Even if your presentation is technical, there is always an element that interests you in some way, or a story related to the material that uniquely resonates with you. Share your personality. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. You are in front of the crowd anyway, subject to their judgement, so you might as well own the experience and allow your personality to shine. You are more likely to influence others, and convey confidence, when you show your natural personality.
5. Stories Connect, Statistics Validate, Use Both
An effective speaker will touch both the hearts and the minds of the audience. We influence the emotional side of the audience by using stories. Any student of mythology, who is familiar with Joseph Campbell’s work, understands that the human experience is one of constant and evolving stories and narratives. Stories are powerful – use them. After you connect with the audience’s heart, you become doubly convincing by then using logic, reason, evidence and statistics to validate your point. An effective speaker will use both – logic and emotions, to convey their message.