Public speaking, today, has become more of a necessity than a choice. At some point in life, all of us have to give a speech or presentation be it in school, college or at your job. As scary as it sounds, it is inevitable! In such a case, having good knowledge of the subject would have no value if you are not able to express it effectively to your audience. Here are some simple hacks to improve your public speaking skills –
12) Practice in front of the mirror –
This is probably the most common method that we all have been listening to since time immemorial. Despite being an old one, this method still holds its importance. It is very well known that you cannot lie to yourself. Hence when you look into the mirror and practice, you can yourself see wherever you falter or look nervous. This will help you evaluate the parts in your speech that you are not comfortable with or appear to not be comfortable with. You can then edit or rephrase those parts. This is just the preliminary method which helps you analyze your comfort.
11) Record and listen –
The mirror method only helps you evaluate your facial expressions which are a small part of your body language. The most important factor in public speaking is voice modulation. The same content can fall flat if it is not accompanied with appropriate voice modulation. Hence inculcating voice modulation is not the only important key, it is necessary to use this tool at the right places. Practicing in front of the mirror enables you to hear yourself directly as a first person and you would miss on to the nuances of voice modulation and the places that you are going wrong. Recording your content and listening to it gives you a third person’s view and gives you an idea of how an audience would receive your speech. It would also help you identify places where the pause is a little longer than necessary and you can also judge if your speech has the capacity to hold the audience’s attention.
10) Imagine children –
There are various suggestions of this genre where people would ask you to imagine rats. I find those suggestions a little unhygienic! Rather if you imagine children you will keep a few things in mind involuntarily. We all know children are thought to be credulous and innocent with very limited knowledge of any subject. Once you fix the idea in your mind that you know the subject better than your audience, you will have that confidence in speaking and you would stammer less. Also, children need to be looked after constantly. This will make you remember that while delivering a talk you have to look at every person in the hall and not just at one corner or not read out your talk from a paper.
9) Do not learn your content –
Most speakers stammer and falter because they have learnt the speech that they want to deliver and simply vomit it out on the stage. A rote learnt content not only lacks voice modulation but also increases the chances of stammering and long pauses in the speech. While speaking, your mind wanders on trying to recall the learnt content instead of concentrating on voice modulation and eye contact with the audience. Furthermore, you will involuntarily speak faster than your normal pace in an attempt to rush through the speech and finish the stress of remembering the lines. Even if you have your speech written by someone else, make sure you know the link behind the content and remember the link and topics to cover.
8) Do not put in copied jokes or content –
This is like a strict no-no for any speech. Often we expect that the audience would not have heard a particular joke/content and hence would give a positive response when we use the same in our speech. More often than not, the audience is exposed to same kind of social media as you are and knows the joke/content that you are referring to. They would then, not respond remarkably on your delivery and this can be a lay back to your confidence. In addition, they would remember that you had used a copied content and this would mire your image as a speaker.
7) Catch the attention of the audience –
The best way to ensure a good speech is to ensure an enraptured audience i.e. catching and holding on to the audience’s attention. This can be achieved by making eye contact with every person in the audience. Generally an audience is divided in 5 major parts. Right back, right front, left front and left back and center ahead. One should preferably follow a cross pattern to make it look like the speaker is connected to and talking to every person in the audience. Start by looking at the right back, shifting to front left then right front, followed by left back and ending at the center. This pattern will also give you a boost in your confidence and you would not be distracted due to the audience of any side. Generally, the part of the audience which is not in eye contact with the speaker, loses interest and starts talking among themselves distracting other people as well as the speaker. This would, together, deteriorate your performance and confidence both.
6) Have a friendly critic in the audience –
Even after listening to your own recording and looking in the mirror, there are trivial facets which appear normal to us but looks like mistakes to the audience. Hence make sure you have one such person in the audience who attends your performance with the sole intention of analyzing the places you make mistakes in and the places you deliver beautifully. Make sure that this person is a friend or a person who wants you to improve and progress. This would ensure that you do not repeat your mistakes but surely imbibe the effective hacks in your next speech.
5) Speak slowly –
As I said before, if you have rote learnt your content you will speak faster than normal. This will put a higher stress on your brain to recall the next lines faster and you will end up stammering and mixing your words. If you are not crystal clear in your speech and take appropriate pauses, you will lose on to the audience’s attention and all hell will break loose. Speaking slowly ensures that you have enough time to think about the next lines, modulate what you are speaking presently and also your speech is clear and easily decipherable for all.
4) Use your hands –
As trivial as this sounds, this is one of the most important characteristic of a good speaker. We have all seen PM Modi addressing the US at Times Square. He made sure he spoke from a point where everyone could clearly see him and he was constantly using both his hands. We all have seen the meme on him too, right? Nevertheless, a good speaker would always use both his hands and hence prefer a collar mike. Using your hands improves blood flow in your body and keeps your mind and body active and alert. Hence, you will be easily able to think of what to say next and not stammer. Walking around at a slow pace while talking is also one way to ensure an aura of confidence around you. Make sure you do not walk into things around you like chairs on the dais or water bottles on the floor. Also, the hand actions should be slow, steady and adequate. Do not make your actions a reflection of your internal nervousness. In addition, when you use hand actions, the audience’s attention gets distributed between your speech and your actions and they would not notice minor glitches in the speech.
3) Attend as many sessions as possible –
I always believe that public speaking is an art and one can never reach the pinnacle of any art. It is a continuous learning process. Hence make sure you attend as many events of this nature as possible (excluding videos). Attend these events as a critic and closely observe every facet of the speaker. This would have a dual advantage. You will not only get to know the factors that you should imbibe in you to improve your presentation but also get to know what all mistakes a person in the audience can notice which the speaker commits involuntarily. This could be as trivial as holding the mike in the left hand when the speaker is clearly a right handed person or as major as keeping his back towards the audience while looking at the projector screen. Make sure you notice, analyze and implement the factors from every session that you attend.
2) Dress comfortably –
The only difficulty in comfortable public speaking is not the internal obstacles. Many a times, people wear clothes they are not very comfortable in. Facing an audience then makes them over-conscious and distracts their mind from the speech. The mind, now, has to pay attention to too many things at the same time and this has a bad effect on your speech. Any such discomfort should be avoided.
1) Watch movies in the language you have to speak in –
This is one fact very few people know. It is a well-known fact that even our thoughts are in a particular language, the one we are most comfortable in or the one we have been using for a longer time. The lag in thinking and speaking is due to the fact that we think in one language, it takes us time to translate in to the language that we have to speak in. Hence, when you watch movies in the language you want to speak in, your mind gets in the frequency of that language and it becomes easier and faster for you to think in the language you want to speak in. This improves your fluency and reduces lag.
All the best for your next public speaking event! I would love to hear what you think about these 12 Public Speaking hacks, what happens when you use one of these and if you have any better hacks to tell us about in the comments section.