Although public speaking is the number one fear for many people, the reality is if you are in a business that deals with people, you will likely have to speak to them at some point. Don’t worry, though! There are plenty of resources to help you calm your nerves and be prepared.
Even if you aren’t planning to become a public speaker, the techniques can apply to any field, from retail sales to managing clients for a portfolio manager, like Larry Creel of Edgewood Management. Public speaking skills are valuable in any industry, and if you are ever asked to speak — whether in a small business meeting while presenting a portfolio to investors, or giving a toast at a party — you can use these tips to improve your delivery and get results.
Unlike casual conversation in the office or over coffee, public speaking has a different purpose: you want to convey information to get results. Perhaps you’re giving a presentation on the annual budget and want to ask for more funding for a project. Or maybe you’re asked by your best friend to give a toast at their wedding. Knowing the purpose of your
When you’re engaged with what you’re talking about, chances are good your audience will be equally engaged — but regardless of how you feel about your speech’s topic, the audience needs to come first. Engage people! Varying your inflection, using hand gestures and facial expressions, and modulating the speed of your delivery are all ways you can keep an audience engaged. Just remember not to speak so fast — breathing is important!
It’s them, not you. When speaking to other people — even if you’re introducing yourself at length — focus on the audience. You’re speaking to them for a reason. If you are relaying information, inspiring a crowd, or aiming to raise funds for a charity cause, knowing your audience is important. What’s the average age and demographic of your audience? A younger crowd will engage differently than older folks, for example. Knowledge is power, and chances are good you will generally know the type of audience you’ll be speaking to before you arrive.
Even if you know your topic by heart, practice what you plan to say. A reading is very different than a speech! Work from notes if you can; look at the audience so you can adapt as needed to their reactions. Rehearse in front of a mirror — and give yourself enough time to practice your speech more than once before you need to present live. You’ll feel more confident when you know your material and don’t need to rely on your notes 100 percent of the time.
Your voice is important, so take care of it. Avoid dairy products before a speaking engagement; drink water, especially with a twist of lemon or honey to help soothe the throat tissue. Take breaks to rest your voice. Throat clearing can have negative effects on your voice, so try to limit it if you can. And breathe!
Public speaking might seem scary, but with practice and care, you can be a pro in no time.