The naturally gifted speaker is a myth. If you shake with nervousness at the thought of being on stage or get sweaty palms just thinking about delivering a presentation in a business meeting, congratulations! You’re human! It’s more than normal to worry about your performance when all eyes are on you. Yet when great speakers wow us, we’re easily overcome by the notion that some people are simply born with that gift. Just like we were born our personalised clothing gift!
Yet all the great speakers who seem so relaxed during their presentation and at ease in front of a huge audience have one thing in common: they worked at it really hard and developed their gift. So listen up – public speaking and captivating an audience are skills you can learn, practice and perfect.
The importance of speech
Great public speaking skills will enable you to unite people, cause change and attain your goals, both in business and in your life. Here is why impressive speech is so important:
- Get ahead of the competition with self-confidence: you might be nervous, but so is everyone else. Showing up is half the accomplishment, and so is speaking up! If you can manage to do it, you’re already ahead, and you’ll increase your confidence in yourself the more you do it.
- Be more comfortable: when people get together, they talk. For many, this is awkward because they don’t know what to say. As your public speaking skills grow, so will your level of comfort in the company of others.
- Achieve your goals: making a sale, getting a raise or nailing a job interview can greatly depend on your ability to present yourself and your ideas through speech.
- Get your message across clearly: When you hone your skills on the way to becoming an inspiring speaker, you will have to figure out clearly what you want to say. A great speaker is like a guide who establishes a thread and leads the audience to a discovery.
- Get support: making a speech in public can attract like-minded people who are willing to give their support, but might not have sought you out on their own.
Great public speakers
Learn from the best! Now that you know the benefits of public speaking skills and those big speakers have acquired their skills through dedication and hard work, you are ready to learn some tricks from them. These exemplary public speakers can give you notes:
Guess what – Steve Jobs, hailed as one of the most remarkable corporate storytellers ever, did not start out as the blessed speaker you think you know. His first TV interview in 1978 shows him nervous and terrified. Even later, when he was already known for his calm and composed personality in front of large audiences, his thunderous tantrums could slip through when things didn’t go according to plan. The simple truth behind Jobs’ seemingly effortless public speaking is rehearsal and repetition. His presentation of the iPhone in 2007 is considered one of the best business presentations ever delivered. Steve Jobs told a story that simplified a concept, sold the benefit and inspired the audience – all lessons you can still learn from him to improve your public speaking.
Martin Luther King
I have a dream by Martin Luther King Jr. is widely regarded as the greatest speech of the twentieth century. It was a high point for the civil rights movement and contributed to King winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Here are some speaking qualities of Martin Luther King worth emulating: he spoke with unshakeable confidence in a voice that through cadence and pacing added passion to his delivery. He built intensity through rhythm and repetition, yet was not afraid to ditch the script when he saw an opportunity to fully connect with the people.
At age 25, Taylor Swift is not the highest paid woman in the music business by sheer chance or accident. She has proven to be very cunning at honing her own brand using social media and yes, public speaking. When you have secured dozens of trademarks of your own phrases (such as “This sick beat”), you’re doing it right. Part of the Taylor Swift success story is her focus on her customers, that is her fans. People connect with her because they can relate to her lightness and enthusiasm. Above all, Taylor Swift doesn’t take herself too seriously and always remains committed to her fans, acknowledging and thanking them – an honest gesture often overlooked in business.
Robin Williams was funny in a unique way that simply cannot be imitated, but you can still learn a critical communication skill from him: spontaneity. He was present in the moment and took whatever came at him, making it work for him. No need to try to outwit him, but train yourself to sharpen your mind and add physical expression to your words using your body as well as props. It is always possible to add humour in the moment to a prepared speech and still stay on track and inspire your audience at the same time – as Robin Williams’ 1998 Acadamy Awards acceptance speech exemplifies. During any speech, the unexpected can and will happen. Instead of aiming to be prepared for everything (hint: it’s futile), take advantage of the spontaneous.
Admittedly, you’re likely to not have heard the name before, but Mohammed Qahtani won the title of Toastmasters International World Champion of Public Speaking 2015. His speech The Power Of Words prevailed over nine other finalists and literally demonstrated how a great public speaker has control over his audience to change their minds and alter beliefs. First, he gets the people present to agree with his defence of the tobacco industry, then he turns around and reveals that all the facts and figures he just used were pure fabrication.
How you can become an awesome speaker
1. Study Your Topic
The better you know the topic you will be talking about the more confident you will be and the less likely it will be that you lose your place or stumble in the middle of the speech. If it is possible, you should always go with a topic that you like or that you are very interested in. Research the topic and make sure you understand those parts that you are not too familiar with. Showing vast knowledge of your topic will give you confidence and authority when you speak.
Once you have your topic, know why you are giving the speech. You give a speech to inspire, entertain, persuade, or provoke. Have the purpose of your speech clear before you start to even write it. If you don’t have a clear motive to give your speech, then your audience doesn’t have a clear reason to listen.
3. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Now that you have figured out the subject of your speech, the best thing you can do is practice. Practice in front of the mirror, in the shower, or wherever you are comfortable speaking out loud. Always practice your speech in front of friends and family to see their reactions and receive feedback. This will help you make corrections, see what parts of your speech you are not fully comfortable with, and you are also familiarising with your speech.
Practice as much as you have to, but don’t memorise! You might have the perfect speech at home, but I guarantee that once you step up in front of your audience you will forget parts of your speech. Know the flow of your speech and where it is heading so that when you forget some words you can quickly cover up.
4. Be welcoming
Start off your speech with a warm welcome. This can come in form of a quick joke or story that they can relate to. Not only will it help you calm your nerves a bit but you will also grab the audience’s attention.
5. Know your audience
Knowing your audience before writing the speech will help you speak to their emotions and address them properly. This way you will be able to speak to them directly about their interests, goals, or needs.
Before the event starts, you can try and mingle with the audience so that you feel a bit more at home once you have to give the speech. If you are nervous during the speech, finding a nice, warm smile from a familiar audience member can really make a huge difference.
Take it a step further from just knowing your audience and involve the audience. Ask questions that the audience members can stand up and answer. Getting a response from the audience can help focus a talk.
6. Use imagery
To maintain the attention of the audience, try using stronger words compared to the usual bland ones to create a picture in people’s minds. It, of course, needs to be focused on your central theme, but imagery can be a very powerful concept when giving speeches.
Bonus: Use Famous Lines. Another way to captivate your audience’s attention is using famous lines from well-known authors that people can recount.
7. Visualise yourself giving an epic speech
To truly be able to give that epic speech, it is more than just writing it. You have to visualise yourself giving the speech of your dreams. This is beneficial for a confidence boost and can be useful for practising and reinforcing your speech. If you can see yourself giving an amazing talk, then your audience will live it.
8. End Strong
Every great speech has a strong ending. End with a line that people will remember and that it contains a message that you want them to remember. Apart from the opening line, this is the most important line. Use it well.
No matter if you are still green when it comes to giving speeches or are already a seasoned speaker, Toastmasters International offers helpful quick and easy tips for increasing your confidence and improving your abilities. Above all, always believe in yourself and your audience will, too!
Have more tips on public speaking? We want to hear them! Write in the comments below or through any of our social media outlets. In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome Blog for more awesome content.
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