Cue the Applause: Anyone Can Be a Better Public Speaker

Many business people would prefer a 10-hour flight in coach or even a tax audit to addressing an audience. Yet, no matter what kind of business we’re in, at some time we will have to address a group: in a sales meeting, at a seminar, at a bustling convention, or even to give a wedding toast. The keys to successful public speaking are preparation and relaxation. Work at both, and you are sure to be a more effective speaker, to small or large audiences.

How to Prepare
First, think about your audience and what they want to hear. What works great for a group of college students may not fly at the Chamber of Commerce dinner. Challenge yourself to offer information and insights they have never heard before.

Know your stuff. Research the topic; find quotes and studies to support your ideas. The more you know, the more comfortable you will feel.

Do not leave your preparation until the last minute. Think of how much time it should take to prepare and then quadruple it.

Use humor if it feels comfortable. Not everyone is a comedian, but using humor can help you make points memorably.

Plan a strong opener to set the audience’s expectations for the whole talk. They may be coming into the room with stresses and worries on their minds. Your job is to help them put those thoughts aside and focus on your message. You might start with a joke or an interesting anecdote, for example.

Rehearse your speech or sales pitch out loud until you feel comfortable and confident with the material. Practicing will also help you adjust your speech to fit the time allotted.

Be Relaxed and Confident
On the day of your speech or meeting, dress appropriately for the venue and in flattering clothes that allow you to move comfortably.

Speak confidently and make eye contact with the audience. Do not rush or read from your notes. Your cadence and tone of voice should display energy and enthusiasm for your topic. Use eye contact with each member of the audience in turn.

Your posture should be relaxed and natural. If you’re speaking from a podium, move around a bit and use gestures.

Remember, the audience wants you to succeed. After all, they benefit when the speaker is assured and relaxed.

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