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Public Speaking: advice to teachers, lecturers, and professional speakers

A huge responsibility rests on the shoulders of any public speaker who speaks in front of an audience. A successful public speaker waxes lyrically in a manner that’ll capture the attention of their audience and make a lasting impression

Indeed, whilst the very best speakers know how to light up the room and ignite their audience to hold their interest throughout the speech, on the flip side, many public speakers suffer from stage fright, anxiety and stress about being in the spotlight.  This is because speech is both a very simple, and, very complex communication tool.  Indeed, almost everyone has the opportunity to talk, but not everyone knows how to do it in a manner that’s interesting, and that captures and holds the listener’s attention.  Therefore, knowing what to say and how will curry favour with a whole range of new acquaintances, and will help you to win the admiration of others, for example, when giving a report, or presenting a new project.

To improve your oration skills, the best advice is to take a course in public speaking.  However, for the meantime, here below are some top tips on how to improve this skill.

Self confidence

The overwhelming majority of people already possess the ability to tell beautiful and fascinating anecdotes when speaking in public.  The problem is that they just don’t recognise their own talents, because they feel safer staying out of the limelight.  Is this you?

Whether it’s talking in front of a few colleagues, or hundreds at a conference, what exactly is a person afraid of when it comes to public speaking?  It is forgetting or fluffing your lines?  Freezing up?  Of the fear of looking like a clown.  There are many reasons, but the root cause of fear in every case is the same: the person is afraid of receiving poor feedback and making a fool of themselves.  Humans are social animals, and recognition from the “tribe” is a vital to giving a feeling of validation and achievement.

Write down a script:

Go easy on yourself, don’t upset the apple cart, so write everything down.  Don’t hitt your head against a brick wall by forgetting your line: keep a paper copy of them.  This’ll help you to feel more confident too, as you have what you want to say written down in black and white.

Secondly, self-confidence is a quality that needs to be developed regardless of whether or not you want to become the new Tony Robbins.  Don’t be afraid that someone will disagree with you (there’s always someone who will), and don’t be afraid of making mistakes (we’re all human, everyone does!).  As for public speaking, practice  makes perfect, and the more you do it, the better you’ll become.  Rehearse by honing your delivery skills with family and friends, or even in front of the mirror.  Then, once you feel more confident, widen your audience.   

With experience and practice, you’ll come to see what works and what doesn’t.  Which parts of your oration are weaker, and what stimulates and gets the audience going?  Tough skin is important when you do public speaking and the greater your experience, the less you’ll get disheartened by any negative reactions from your audience.  Bear in mind, however good the presentation, there’ll always be one or two hecklers, or people who fail to pay attention however good you are.

Read as much as you can:

To learn to speak beautifully, we recommend that you read as much as you can.   It doesn’t just have to be all the great, classical works of literature, also read online blogs, magazine and newspaper articles, and social media.    Remember: the more you read, the more you know, reading is information, being informed is power.  Moreover, by reading, you can draw on an unlimited number of sources, learn new vocabulary, quotations, and turn of phrases, that you can later use when you make your witty, enigmatic and masterful speeches.

Don’t forget to it write down!

Start a personal diary or a blog because to visually and formally put things down to memory: jot it down!  You don’t need to write an essay, just make some notes about pertinent quotes and information.  Simultaneously, writing down your thoughts will help unload and improve your psychological state and boost your self-confidence.  After all, keeping a personal diary in which a person writes down everything that upsets or enthuses them is a powerful psychological therapy tool that helps to cope with stress, nervous tension, and find a way out of a difficult life situation.  Writing is also an invaluable tool in aiding you to structure and articulate what you want to say.

We learn the language we speak:

We first learnt to talk as a toddler, but of course this doesn’t mean that at this point we have a true mastery of our vernacular.  Great oration comes with practice and the more we read the more we learn.  Moreover, it’s likely that many words we use are superfluous, or even parasite words.   The best communicators are concise and succinct and don’t beat about the bush, go around the houses, and aren’t too wordy.   Therefore, pay close attention to what and how you say speak, and regular training will help you get rid of the words of unneeded words.  Remember, sometimes it’s not what we say, it’s what we don’t which speaks volumes and has the greatest impact.   Watch popular podcasts and YouTube channels of famous people. Do you like how this or that public person speaks or argues?  Take note of the best delivery and style, learn some new tricks: learn from the best.

Stick to your point and weed out unnecessary divergencies and ramblings:

Reach over the noise.  Stick to what’s important to what you want to say and stick to the point.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t digress a little, or tell jokes, but make sure there’s a reason behind everything you say.   What are you trying to achieve by your words? 

When preparing a speech, immediately establish a framework for yourself (in addition, most public speeches already presuppose the existence of rules so that each of the invited speakers has time to speak), and try not to go beyond them.  Unsuccessful?  Well then, it's time to soberly go through the text and evaluate which details can be removed without regret, and which should remain, but in an abbreviated form.  But please, don’t try to meet the deadline by increasing the pace of speech - speaking in public, you need to speak slowly, clearly, pausing.  Practice makes perfect and learn to set a good pace of delivery that really works and gets your message across. 

In general, you’ve probably already guessed that the secret for any successful public speaking is practice.   Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, and believe me,  making them will help you learn from them, so you can improve next time.   Don’t give up, keep practicing, and in the end, you’ll achieve your goal of becoming a great public speaker.

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