Public speaking is among the five most feared activities human
The majority of us fear it worse than anything else. Yet, the
mastery of public speaking is an important tool in our business
It's never too early (or too late) to learn to speak in public.
Every one needs to start somewhere. The best strategy is to look
for non-threatening opportunities with familiar surroundings,
friends and colleagues. Plan your speaking gigs in stages
starting out with a small comfortable group then increasing the
number of members in the audience and finally tackle the
prominence of the engagement.
Become a member of the leadership team where you need to give
reports or host meetings. In these instances, you will have
prepared material in front of you. Practice with the material as
if you were giving the speech. Don't just read the material; live it and convey it with feeling. When you begin with an audience, remember to make eye contact. Watch how people are receiving your information. Do they look bored? Adjust your inflection
Do you participate in a professional association, social club or
sport that hosts regular meetings? Ask to make a short
presentation. If this is too daunting volunteer to introduce
another speaker. This will get you in front of an audience but
the spotlight won't be on you because you are not the primary
focus. It will help you to feel comfortable with a stage, a mike, and an audience. If you are comfortable with jumping right in, ask to be the keynote. Plan for it to be informal so that you get the experience of speaking in front of a group but you don't have to extensively prepare or make a formal presentation.
Make sure to ask for feedback. The simplest way to do this is to
have an evaluation sheet. Write the questions using a ranking of
1-5 for answers. Leave space for writing an additional
assessment, but the less work someone has to do in an evaluation
the better the response.
Tip: Make sure to collect the completed forms before the audience leaves the room. Otherwise, you will never get them back.
After a few informal speaking occasions plan to make a
"real" speech. Make it about something you are an
expert on so the material will come naturally. Prepare for 20
minutes tops for this type of presentation with a ten minute
Q& A You will want to have notes but it is imperative that
you are comfortable with the topic. It has to be part of your
repertoire so that it comes to you even if you get off track. The more you know about the subject the more comfortable you will be with your audience.
Tip: About 8 pages of typed material equals 20 minutes if you
speak in an even measured rate.
Tip: As a friend or a moderator to ask a question even if the
audience doesn't have one (Prepare several questions in advance).
Look for panel opportunities that allow several participants.
Once again, this gives you time in front of the microphone where
the focus is not just on you. It also helps because there is a
moderator who will keep the dialogue going if you hit a rough
patch. It's also good to discuss before hand what the moderator
will ask and what they expect from you in the way of a
presentation. How long will it take? How many questions you will
be asked, etc.
Tip: In this instance, you are part of a team. Don't hog the
limelight. If your material is good and you are well prepared,
you will come out as a credible participant.
Tip: Never serve on a panel blindly without knowing what you are
going to be asked in advance.
After you have mastered the informal and the panel, it's time for some serious speech giving: The 45-minute program with 10 minutes of Q&A.
This requires preparation and practice; a good venue for this is
a trade show or conference. At these affairs they are always
looking for speaker. Plan months in advance. Contact the
organizing group about your topic. Make sure your topic fits with the conference theme otherwise it might not draw the audience you want.
Tip: Abstracts are required in advance of the actual event.
Unless you are an expert at winging it, do your homework early.
The abstract should be the framework for your presentation. This
will give you ample time to prepare your speech and presentation
and add new material should something relevant happen.
Tip: You want your material fresh. Always look to current events
or hot button issues to make the presentation contemporary.
Tip: As a beginner, be advised to stay away from the more exotic
aspects of speech giving. If you use PowerPoint, make it simple.
Remember, the more complicated it gets the greater the chance for something to go wrong. Always take a backup CD and at least two printed copies of your speech.
There are groups such as toastmasters that you can join that will allow you the opportunity to speak in front of a group in a
non-threatening environment. To find out about a group near you
go to http://www.toastmasters.org/
Remember everyone has to start somewhere. The more you speak
front of people the more comfortable you will become. The
audience is not the enemy. They are there to learn from you.
Share the wealth of your knowledge. Keep that thought in mind
when in front of the podium.
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