CAREER DEVELOPMENT / DEC. 05, 2014
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How to Be an Effective Public Speaker

Good presentation skills are important in today’s competitive market. This is because presentations are necessary in the world of business. Whatever role you have in a business, your chances of success will largely depend on your ability to influence others.

In fact, the ability to present well is one of the most important attributes that successful business people possess. So whether you are proposing an idea to a small group at university or speaking in front of a large group at the office, becoming an effective public speaker will be a huge advantage in terms of professional development.

Here is what you need to do to become an effective public speaker:

 #1 Have a plan

When presenting, it’s important to have a good structure. This allows you stay focused on the delivery of the presentation but at the same time allows you to be more flexible in terms of what you could say. Effective planning will also help you identify key points to refer to as part of the introduction, main context and conclusion and explain each step to the audience.  The following steps will help you:

  • Plan how you are going to deliver the presentation step-by-step.
  • Make sure you estimate the time you need effectively. If you are running out of time stick on the main points and omit details.  
  • Outline the points you are going to talk about and then cover the topic in more depth.
  • Consider how you are helping the audience with your presentation. Try to answer ‘What’s next?’ for all attendees as it will help with content, focus and delivery.
  • Always have a plan B’ in case technology decides not to work.

#2 State the purpose of presentation

State the purpose of the presentation in the introduction and inform the audience of what the outcomes are. This way they will have a clearer idea of what is expected and can stay focused on what you are saying. Before standing on that stage, ask yourself “why” you are delivering this information to people and how they are going to benefit from it in the first place.  

#3 Use engaging content

Regardless how old people from your audience are, they will still appreciate good content that is funny and interesting. People like pictures, graphs, videos, quotes from famous people and factual evidence as they tend to comprehend visual content a lot easier than words.

Once you are in front of the audience, look around you and get to know your audience a bit better, so that you don’t end up presenting content that’s boring and irrelevant to their needs.  

#4 Don’t rush it!

Be aware of the time and pace the presentation in a way that flows smoothly. This might depend on how many PowerPoint slides you have prepared and how much time you have available. Either way, it’s important to not rush the presentation as this might encourage you to talk faster and end up confusing the audience. Also, make sure you allow the audience some time to participate at the end and to ask questions.

#5 Practice, practice and…practice

Rehearse your speech over and over again until you become comfortable with what you are saying. Repetition is the best practice so make sure that you spend some time preparing for the big event. It might be useful to check the facility at some point in order to become familiar with the room setup.  

An excellent reason to practice is to learn to control your nerves. Without a doubt, presenting in front of an audience is a lot different than presenting to yourself in front of the mirror, but practice will help you memorise your speech and material better so that nothing distracts you “on stage”.

In essence, there is no definite way to be an effective public speaker. What’s important is to always be yourself, presenting with a “style” that works for you. It doesn’t matter if you choose to be funny or serious, just make sure you are comfortable with it and prepare to succeed.  

Image Source: iStock

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