For some people, public speaking is easy, a simple task that can be done at any time. For others, however, the very idea of public speaking is enough to bring on a bout of nervousness and anxiety. Below are a few tips on how to be an effective speaker from people whose skill at speaking publicly has been proven.
- Connect with your audience: Many speakers try to add humor to their talks to make their audience laugh and create a good first impression. This does not mean telling a joke, necessarily, as that often comes across as trying too hard. Instead, make funny observations, asides, or use humorous descriptions. Sir Ken Robinson, a British educator who gave the most watched TED talk of all time, was very funny and relatable simply by making asides or parenthetical comments.
Another way to connect with your audience is to find common ground and show your audience how similar you are to them. This could be achieved by being self deprecating, acting casual and relaxed, or by practicing your tone. Ronald Reagan had a calming and comforting tone that allowed him to connect with and better communicate with voters and the American public.
- Practice: Know your speech inside and out, and not just by rote memorization. Know your material so completely that nothing will be able to disrupt your flow. Be so familiar with your material that even if you forget a word you can remain calm and unflustered. Practice the words, the delivery, even the pauses between important points. Another of the more successful TED presenters, Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor, rehearsed her presentation over 200 times before speaking in front of a live audience.
- Give new information: Audiences generally don’t enjoy talks they’ve heard before, or hearing speakers rehash already worn out topics. To keep your audience’s attention and make them glad they came to your presentation, give them something new. Learning about new information, discoveries, and technological advances are among the most common reasons people listen to presentations.
- Put your presentation in context: When Winston Churchill gave speeches during World War II, he was able to impress upon his listeners the importance of his words by drawing attention to the state of the world. Martin Luther King Jr. often made use of historical context, couching his new ideas in old words and referencing the past. By instilling in their listeners a sense of importance and gravitas, these two famous orators were able to speak words that have echoed long after their deaths.
If you find yourself giving a speech or a presentation, remember the examples of these famous orators. Speak with passion and confidence and use humor, context, and new information to make your speech unforgettable.