The Art of Public Speaking: Part 1

Many people balk at the idea of public speaking. They fear the thought of standing in front of a crowd of people, every eye in the room staring at them and judging. And yet, great public speaking can be an important skill for those in pursuit of success; some of the most successful people in the world also happen to be great orators. Great leaders, charismatic leaders, can sway the masses with just a few words. Public speaking is not just a skill limited to the political arena. Motivational speakers use their verbal skills to create cult followings. The best coaches use speech to motivate their players. The best CEO’s use words to inspire their employees. Spoken words can have powerful effects, and if used wisely, can yield stronger results than any weapon. For those who are interested in improving their ability to speak in front of an audience, large or small, here are a few tips…


1. Practice

The best way to tackle the fear of public-speaking is to practice. The more you practice, the more confidence you will gain. Sooner or later in life, you will be thrown into an important situation where you will be required to speak in front of other people.  Rather than praying that the day doesn’t come, start preparing now. Capitalize on every chance to speak in front of people: class presentation, friend’s wedding, etc. The more you speak in front of other people, the more you will begin to realize that you have nothing to fear. Before a big presentation or speech, practice in front of a mirror. As you begin to learn the words on paper, you will also notice that you will stutter less and the words will flow more easily.


2. Confidence

Confidence is an important ingredient in every walk of life, but especially when you are in front of an audience. Good preparation and plenty of practice will definitely give you some assurance, but you also need to have a certain confidence and swagger. When you are standing in front of an audience, you need to believe that what you have to say is important and that you deserve to be listened to. Even if you are unsure of yourself or feeling a bit anxious, it doesn’t hurt to pretend as if you are sure of yourself. Confidence in turn translates into better delivery, fluid body language, and perfect tone.


3. Voice

It’s not what you say that matters, but how you say it. Most motivational talks can be broken down into simple common sense techniques. And yet, what makes motivational gurus sensational speakers is their style and ability to manipulate speech. There are three elements of your voice that affect a speech: volume, speed, and tone.

Volume of course means how audible you are to your listeners. Many people have a tendency to speak meekly or softly when they are nervous. When in front of a large audience, you always want to project your voice so that the people at the back of the room can hear you. Find a volume where both you and the audience are comfortable. From that threshold you can adjust your volume according to the mood of your speech.

Speed goes hand in hand with volume. It is important not to talk too fast when speaking to an audience. In fact, a slower speed is actually preferable to being too fast. Nerves can cause you to speak quickly and “eat” words. If this is a problem you fall into, try to slow down and pronounce words carefully. The effect will be better control over your speech and your listeners will find it easier to understand you.

Tone is one of the most important aspects of your speech. A mundane and monotonous tone can put listeners to sleep. At the same time, a passionate and inspiring tone can rouse a crowd.  Your tone should always mirror the emotion of your speech. Tone is the aspect of your voice which you use to manipulate your listeners. Your tone will draw them in and keep them interested. When preparing a speech, make sure to account for changing tones (peaks in tone for parts that are passionate or exciting; valleys for parts that are foreboding or sombre).


4. Body Language

Body language is extremely important for public speaking. Body language doesn’t only include posture, but also use of hands for gesturing. Proper use of body language can garnish the speech with emphasis and emotion. Great orators use gesture to draw in the crowd and then wave their hands as if to conduct a euphoric orchestra. However, one should be careful in their use of movements during speech. Too much gesturing or wild flailing of the arms can be distracting for the audience. Make sure your body language reflects comfort and confidence.


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