Public speaking is often compared to the fear of death. A lot of people claim they would rather die than speak in front of a group of people. This should not come as a surprise given the amount of practice and preparation that is required to become a great speaker. Regardless of how scary or complicated it feels, when tackled consistently and systematically, effective speaking can turn your life around and fill it with passion and enjoyment. The below tips will help improve your speaking skills significantly.
Be passionate about the topic
Passion alone improves speaking skills drastically without major efforts. No matter how good your speaking skills are if you are not interested in the topic you won't do well. Determine your passions and choose a few topics that turn you on before getting any further on the quest of improving your speaking skills.
Have something good to say
To be a great communicator you need to have something good to say
Great speakers know what they are talking about. They understand the importance of preparation:
research & gather information - leave no stone unturned while gathering information on the topic that excites you
analyze - think through the facts to solidify the knowledge in your mind
build connections between concepts - ensure you think about multiple aspects on the topic of interest in different ways to create as many logical connections as possible & and to be better prepared for debating it when necessary
Regardless of the occasion, to speak well and to present your thoughts in a logical and convincing manner you need to plan appropriately. While it's easier to plan for a scheduled occasion, you will sometimes find yourself involved in an impromptu conversation. Be ready for both types of communications by preparing properly.
Planning a scheduled communication requires proper planning. Here is a few hints on how you could prepare better:
Research - explore credible sources of information on your topic
Brainstorm - come up with as many ideas as possible on what you plan to talk about
Create a structure - once the raw information has been collected, organize all ideas into logical sections with a nice and easy to follow flow
- Use stories - simple and credible stories stick much better than boring facts
How could you possibly prepare for an unplanned communication on your topic? What if you don't know who, in which format, and when you will be speaking to? The best way to prepare to unexpected communications is to explore multiple sub-areas on the subject of your interest. Exploring and debating on a number of smaller topics will help you create "knowledge account" which you can draw from when the right time comes. Impromptu speeches can only be good if you have a great baggage of knowledge on the matter.
Once you have something good to say, learn to say it well.
If you want to become a great speaker practice is a must. A lot of it. And a little bit more than that. Constantly look for opportunities to improve your speaking skills. Joining a local Toastmasters club is one of the best strategies you could deploy. With Toastmasters you will always feel a lot of support from every single member, these clubs are amazing in destroying your fear to speak publicly while becoming extremely confident at the same time.
Another way to practice is to start looking for opportunities to speak wherever you are.
at work - stand up and take more responsibilities at work if possible. Ask for more responsibilities. Not only will this affect your career in a very positive way but your speaking and leadership skills will improve much faster at the same time. Use any opportunity to practice speaking: lunch time, discussions, negotiations, and other occasions. It's amazing how many opportunities open up once you start actively looking for them.
at home - one of the easiest ways to improve your speaking skills is to deliver speeches to family members. Explain to your loved ones how important this matter is for you and find a topic that interests the whole family. One of the best topics you could try is personal development and raising champion kids. What about organizing a 'family seminar' on the importance of developing good habits? What about explaining what the most valuable resource on the planet is? Time. Once gone, time is never to be recovered. You can always get more money but you can't get more time. Imagine how much impact such speech would have on your whole family while improving your communication skills at the same time.
in social life - if you are involved in any social activities chances are you have a lot of opportunities to practice. Have a volunteer position at a local tennis club? Involved in any multi-cultural activities? Helping kids to master dancing skills? Any of these and other similar activities provide your with heaps of opportunities to practice your communication skills while helping others.
Deliver clear message
Speak clearly. Only use those words that help deliver your message. Avoid using filler words such as "um", "eh" and other sounds that don't help you in any way. They are noise polluting your speech and making it so unpleasant to listen. If you replace fillers with natural pauses you will sound much more intelligent. Be aware that using phrases like "I think" will diminish your authority. Say things like they are without adding extra noise.
The golden rule of any speaker is to be brief. Don't overwhelm your audience with thousands of facts and logical conclusions. Be factual but brief. No one wants to go through boring influx of unnecessary information. As you practice, look for opportunities to make your points more concise and cut down on unnecessary details.
Loaded with emotions, your speech will strongly affect the audience. Remember words without emotions have very little impact: no one wants to listen to a boring monotonous flow of dry facts. If you speak from your heart emotions will naturally appear in your voice but do not overuse this powerful tool. Too much emotions is not good either. Find the right balance to impact as many people as possible.
Put emphasis on your audience
Engage and read your audience from the very first moment. Your listeners come first and if you don't pay attention to how they respond to your message you can lose them fast.
Engage your audience
Engaging your audience is critical for capturing and retaining people's interest and for your own comfort. The more your listeners are engaged the better they remember what you have to say and the longer they remain interested. Great speakers know how to captivate their audience until the very last phrase in the message. Another great benefit is your sense of belonging to the group instead of being isolated as a speaker.
Read your audience
Reading your audience is critical in delivering great speeches. As you speak look for signs of engagement. Do people pay attention? Any signs of boredom such as messaging, multi-tasking or talking? If you observe any of these behaviors make the necessary adjustments immediately or risk loosing your audience. If the crowd is huge it can turn on you fast. Faster than you think. To be a successful speaker you must learn a critical skill or checking the levels of engagement as you deliver your message.
In conclusion, becoming a great speaker requires a lot of dedication and regular practice. Once you pay the price in terms of effort, the benefits are obvious: great speakers are highly confident people with great reputation and countless life opportunities.