Tips for being a more successful public speaker

February 8, 2011

Does the thought of giving a public presentation make you all sorts of nervous?

Dale Carnegie once said: “Always have something to say. The man who has something to say and who is known never to speak unless he has, is sure to be listened to.”

Well, that’s all well and good, but how do we start to build a reputation as a great speaker? We all know that practice makes perfect, but what are some good tips to get going? There are a few things you can do to begin to improve your public speaking right now, including:

Having an energetic body language and an upbeat tone of voice. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many speakers tense up when they get in front of a room of people, and it’s easy to fall into a rut of talking at your PowerPoint and without conviction. Show your audience that you’re glad to be there by using hand gestures and voice inflection to illustrate your point in a more animated way.

Maintaining eye contact with your audience. I know this is a challenge for many people. And you’ve heard the old wives’ tales about picturing your audience in their underwear and the like (though, I’m convinced those tricks make the situation WORSE), so try this one on for size: If the thought of gazing into someone’s eyes makes you uncomfortable, stare at them right between the eyes. It looks like you’re looking directly at them, and it will make you look like a more confident speaker.

Avoid being tied to a script or podium. No one wants to attend a speech in which the speaker simply reads from a PowerPoint presentation, especially one that has a novel on each slide. If you feel more comfortable having something you can refer to, that’s fine, just keep your slides simple and with only your main points on them. Walk around to keep people’s heads moving as opposed to fixated on you in one spot. You’d be surprised, but if your speech is in the morning especially, your audience will appreciate a presentation with a little variety.

Get your audience involved. This can be accomplished in a few ways. You can ask questions of your audience, such as if they have an example that illustrates what you’re talking about. That takes the pressure off of you as a speaker and again adds variety to a presentation. You can always do a question-and-answer session after your speech. This allows attendees to ask questions you didn’t answer during your speech, gets them engaged, and shows you have knowledge beyond what you came prepared to talk about.

Are there any tips you’d add to this list? Leave them in our comments section.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Mid & Northern Michigan. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

Photo credit: spaceodissey

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