Public Speaking Tips That Really Work
Public Speaking Tips That Kick Ass!
Public speaking tips… speaking in public is the number-one fear in the United States and the second is death!
This means that most people are more afraid of standing up to make a speech or presentation than they are of dying. How crazy is that?
We are only going to briefly touch on public speaking in this blog post because it is a huge subject. Public Speaking Tips is actually a book in its own right. If this is an area you would like to focus on a little more then I check out the specific books and downloads I have available at my website. However, let me tell you that the single biggest hurdle with public speaking is in the label itself. Have you ever had someone come up to you at a party and talk AT you, telling you how great they are at this and that?
Yawn – Boring!
Nobody wants to sit in an audience and listen to someone bleat on about their own view of the world. We are all tuned into a radio station called WIIFM. Of course it is not really a genuine radio station but an acronym for ‘What’s In It For Me’. It’s cheesy but true; everyone (including you and me) is interested in how your views match their own or how they can get value out of what you are saying.
Public Speaking Tips: Talk to People Not At People
Forget about public speaking tips and start planning your public conversation. It is so much more engaging to be around somebody who is talking to you and not at you. Back when I used run major market commercial radio stations for a living part of my job was to coach radio presenters. Their perception of ‘public speaking’ was always a big obstacle for the newbie broadcasters to get their head around. They would nervously sit behind the microphone for their first ever experience as a broadcaster and say ‘Good morning to you all listening’.
This short sentence would book them an appointment to see me straight after the radio show finished. The problem with this statement comes from what the speaker sees in their imagination.
A radio presenter knows that there are tens of thousands of people listening, they see virtual football stadiums full of people all hanging on their every word. This is an illusion, because people don’t listen to the radio like that. They are sitting in traffic jams, at the breakfast table or are on the train with their headphones on. I would tell these new broadcasters that they are not speaking to a crowd but they are having a conversation with one person. Even if there are four people in a car listening, they are all still listening one at a time.
People are always listening one at a time!
Many radio presenters who worked for me understood this immediately and I never had to correct them again, others struggled with it and I actually had to tape a picture of their best friend above the microphone and tell them to talk to the picture.
Another common mistake people make when they step up to speak. Especially when they are given a microphone. Is to affect a different voice to their normal everyday speaking voice. My mother does this whenever she answers the telephone. Her normal voice is a fairly broad accented North East of England tone. However, when she answers the phone she turns into the Queen of England for some reason. Why?
Public Speaking Tips: Be Yourself
I suspect if people wanted to speak to Queen Elizabeth they would have called Buckingham Palace and not a house in Darlington, County Durham! People do this because they are not used to hearing their own voice coming from a different direction than usual. Normally we only hear our voice leaving our mouth and moving away from us.
What we are hearing more than the sound is the vibrations of our voice through our skull. When you speak with a microphone you also hear the sound coming back at you from another direction and it sounds weird. When people hear their own recorded voice for the first time it is very common for them to exclaim ‘ Oh my goodness, is that how I sound’?
I also encountered this with new broadcasters who in real life would speak with a soft regional dialect but when I put them on air they would turn into characters from Smokie and the Bandit! I would sit them down after their show and ask ‘are you American’?
People do this for three reasons generally:
- People have a preset image and sound for someone who speaks on the radio, makes a speech or acts on a stage. Most new actors ham up their performances because they believe that’s what ‘actors’ do. Only after some coaching do they become more natural and like their own character.
- Your voice automatically sounds a bit strange. You are not used to hearing it come at you from that direction and so the temptation is to try and change it to stop it sounding so weird. The reality is it didn’t sound weird until you changed it!
- There is some Pavlovian conditioning going on. Automatic responses that are fired off by putting a person into the activating situation. Give someone a microphone and nine out of ten times they will blow on it or tap it to make sure it is on, despite the fact they have just seen someone else using it to introduce them. Equally, when you put someone in a radio studio and tell him or her that they are a disc jockey. They become what his or her subconscious decides a disc jockey is!
Imagine if you paid a lot of money to go see David Copperfield the magician. Excitedly you took your seats in the theater and before too long the show began. However, you were surprised to see that David walked onto the stage nervously and for the entire performance and without explanation he pretended to be Penn and Teller.
Sure, Penn and Teller are great magicians but you didn’t pay to see a poor copy of those guys you wanted David Copperfield. That is also what your audience, so be yourself!
Speak in your own voice, with your own accent and in the style that you usually adopt in day-to-day life. Of course you will need to speak with more clarity and punctuation than you do when you are talking to your friends but just remember to take your 10 by 4 with you to the podium…
- Speak louder than normal (10%).
- Deliver the words slower (at least 10%).
- Make your voice richer (10%).
- Speak clearer than you usual do (10%).
The easiest way to get used to speaking like this is to get a video camera and record yourself making the speech or presentation – each time you do it you will watch back the tape and notice something that weakened your speech, perhaps something that you were not even aware of at the time of recording.
Public Speaking Tips: Slow Down
Often the most common thing that people notice is that they are speaking far too fast. This happens because in everyday life we do tend to talk quite quickly to our friends and family, who have become tuned into our style of speaking. But additionally when we are under the spotlight, we ramp up the speed because we desperately want to get the presentation over with as quick as possible and so we turn a marathon into a sprint.
Trying to speed your way through a speech causes a negative performance loop. The speed demonstrates a lack of confidence. It also makes you stumble over your words, which further demonstrates a lack of confidence.
You can notice you are speaking too fast when words start losing their ending.
For example going becomes goin and doing sounds more like doin. Also you will find several words become connected together rather than be spoken as individual words. ‘I am going to make a speech’ becomes a jumble of a words that sounds like ‘ Iamgoin t maker speech’.
Don’t worry there are some very simple exercises you can do just before you speak. These will really help prevent this happening. It’s almost impossible to write down the instructions on how to do these. You need to see and hear what I am doing with my mouth for you to grasp the concept of the exercise. If this is something you would find useful. There are lots of training videos at my website that you can download free of charge. While you are there be sure to check out my video on the power of the pause.
It is strange but often the most powerful part of any speech is actually the silence in between the words. Placing a pause in a strategic place in your delivery adds substantially more than a gap in the presentation.
For example, say these two sentences out loud and see which sounds more powerful:
“Nicola opened the basement door and allowed her eyes to become accustomed to the darkness. Suddenly out of the gloom came a scream and then she saw the full horror of it, a snarling animal charged straight for her”
“Nicola opened the basement door and allowed her eyes to become accustomed to the darkness. Suddenly [PAUSE] out of the gloom came a scream and then she saw the full horror of it. [PAUSE] a snarling animal charged straight for her”
Do you see that the pause is the power behind the drama of the story?
You can compound the effect of this dramatic element. Make eye contact with a few of your audience during the gap. This makes them feel that you are personally telling them a story and sharing an important moment with them. Additionally the eye contact effectively puts the spotlight on them for a moment. Which further amplifies the sense of intrigue created by the pause in conversation.
Public Speaking Tips: Deliver A Dramatic Pause
But there is another benefit to the dramatic pause. Silence can be very uncomfortable at times but only if you are not in control of it. Have you ever been involved in a conversation about someone, only to have them walk into the room? That horrible moment is what we label ‘an awkward silence’. It is a moment that nobody wants to own; nobody is in control of it. Eventually someone starts talking about a random subject to fill the gaping chasm in the room and the group is very grateful that somebody took control.
Equally you will have witnessed nervous speakers who get frozen to the spot in fear. Perhaps it has even happened to you. The speaker knows it is time to speak but for some reason they just can’t bring themselves to start. After a very short amount of time everyone in the audience starts to feel uncomfortable.
With the knowledge of just how awkward an uncontrolled silence can be. So being the sort of person who isn’t afraid to use silence in their presentation says louder than any words could; this person is a very confident individual.
Being Good At Public Speaking Is A BIG Plus
As I said at the outset of this chapter, public speaking is a whole area of study in itself. We are only brushing the surface of some of the amazing techniques you can employ to become a professional orator. However, I will close this blog by telling you one of the most powerful things you can do to enhance any speech or presentation. Show me someone delivering a speech badly and in ninety nine percent of occasions they will not being doing this!
Smile! It is one of the simplest public speaking tips you will ever get. But nothing has such a dramatic impact on your delivery and level of confidence than a smile. You see, most people stand up to speak with a load of terrifying self talk going on in their head. They are demanding that they ‘don’t mess up’ the speech, they are praying to God and doing dozen of other things that they hope will speed them through the torturous moment ahead. As a result of all this activity in the conscious mind they approach the podium looking like a frightened ghost.
I have seen dozens of best men speeches where a terrified rabbit in the headlights stands up and declares how happy he is to have been chosen as best man. Yeah right, and it looks like it… I always think!
Public Speaking Tips: Try this, say this sentence twice. Firstly with a solemn face and then do it again but with a smile on your face throughout:
“I am delighted to be here speaking to you today, I have some amazing details to reveal about the launch of our new model”
Do you see how different it sounds, but more than that do you feel how different you feel about yourself in the moment. It is very hard to smile and be miserable at the same time and confident people are rarely miserable when speaking.
So remember the next time you speak… take your 10 x 4 and smile, smile, smile!
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