How to improve your public speaking skills

Published: 28 Jul 2016

1. Own your subject

"Decide what your overall aim for the session is, then choose three things you want the audience to know/understand by the end of the session."

"I prefer to have lots of bullet points to work through. I get lost reading a script, but other people prefer to have it set out." 

"Know your subject upside down, inside out, back to front, and then know it a bit more. Nothing inspires more confidence than being absolutely certain that you know more about the topic than anyone else in the room."

 

2. Practice really does makes perfect

"Practice it a few times at home: I find cats and children's cuddly toys make a good audience. It's useful to practice with a reference point. This should also allow you to work out what kind of notes work best for you."

"Film yourself - it's surprising how many movements you make without realising."

 

3. Look the part

"Wear clothes you feel confident and comfortable in; you don't want to worrying about whether your bum looks big."

"Wear good accessories for everyone to look at."

 

4. Are you feeling comfortable?

"Assuming it's appropriate for the subject matter, before you start talking: SMILE. It will make you feel more comfortable, and will relax the audience."

"If you lose your place, take a moment, breathe, and consult your notes. It may feel like three minutes, but in reality this will take less than 10 seconds. Your audience will be processing what you said before and won't notice.

"Have a bottle of water close to hand. It's amazing how dry your mouth can get, especially if you are nervous."

"Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart. Don't rock on the balls of your feet. If you are not at a podium, it's OK to walk around a little - don't pace like a tiger, but move as you speak. Try to avoid gripping the back of the chair for dear life."

 

5. Enunciate, focus, project

"Warm up your voice before the event - meow like a cat!"

"Speak lower and slower than normal. It may feel abnormal to you, but it will come across better."

"Identify the audience member who is furthest from you and project your voice as if you're specifically addressing that person. That way you're loud enough for everyone in the audience to hear you."

 

6. First time?

"There's nothing wrong with telling them you've never done it before, if it helps."

 

7. Face the dreaded Q&A

"Tell them at the start they can ask questions. Having people ask questions as you go along keeps it friendly - but if you are worried about time, build in a 10-minute Q&A session at the end, and ask them to keep questions until then."

 

8. So, how did you do?

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"The best thing you can do is get some feedback at the end - that's the most effective way to improve."

 

And finally...

"Leave the gin alone until you've finished."

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