Public Speaking Advice

The Art of Public Speaking

Unless you are a trained public speaker or have a natural talent for captivating an audience, most people tend to dread standing up in front of a crowd.

Fortunately, a few simple pointers can make sure you shine on stage rather than sending your listeners to sleep.

Speaking Anxiety

"Public speaking creates anxiety in all of us - even those who do it all the time,"

says Robin Chandler, founding partner at Impact Factory, a professional and personal development company specialising in tailor-made public speaking and communications.

"Every trick people use when they are preparing to speak in public is tied up with sound bites, gestures, tone of voice and focusing on grabbing people's attention rather than giving them information."

"Tony Blair, for example, uses a certain 'look' when he pauses in speaking, which acts as a stopper and gives you a poke to make you wake up and listen."

Rhetorical Questions

Another great technique, according to Chandler, is to ask rhetorical questions during your speech to make sure that your message is communicated as clearly as possible.

"For example

So, why are we doing this? - I'll tell you why.

which has a certain challenge in it as well as a question."

Using Gestures

When planning your speech - whether it's a Best Man speech or a work presentation - you also should be looking to use gestures that you know are your own.

"The only decision you have to make is whether to make your gestures big or small, and it is important for people to remember that they don't have to learn new stuff."

"If you want to really affect people, work out what your natural style is and then alter it slightly - so if you're chatty, smiley person then take your smile away, become less chatty and slightly withdrawn at certain points, and that 'No More Mr Guy' approach really grabs people's attention."

Five Common Mistakes

1. Repetition

"The most important thing to remember is that unconscious repetition is death in terms of public speaking."

"Repetition of a gesture is guaranteed to upset people and repetition of vocal tone will make your audience fall asleep.

"However repetition by choice can be a powerful tool. There is a 'Rule of Three' worth remembering and it goes something like this:

"I will not give up, I will not give in and I will never surrender"

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2. Being Unclear About Your Message

Politicians tend to talk a lot about being on or off message. Deciding on your own message is vital - something that many amateur public speakers overlook.

Decide exactly what you want your audience to be thinking and feeling when you stop speaking and that will affect the way you speak and gesture.

3. Over-using PowerPoint And Slides

During a work presentation, don't rely on PowerPoint or lots of slides. By hiding behind it, you are really saying that the slides have more personality than you do.

PowerPoint can't present and you can - the best thing you can do sometimes is to turn it off.

4. Trying To Be Funny

You should never attempt the use of humour if you are usually a stoical, un-smiling person.

If you need to inject some humour bring someone else on who can make people laugh - there's no shame in just bussing them in!

Five Common Mistakes

5. Becoming Mr Or Mrs Monotone

Successful public speakers always make sure that their speeches are loud and varied in tone.

Never use the same tone of voice all the way through - vary the tone so that it goes up and down frequently.

Remember that gestures are a very important aid to drive changes in your voice.

You can actually make a difference to how you sound so that if you point a finger, stand up, or smile - the physical changes the vocal.

Seven Top Tips For Public Speaking

1. Move Around A Lot

Don't get stuck in one place - there's nothing worse than seeing somebody rooted to the spot with terror.

2. Get Territorial

If you simply take something with you, such as notes or a glass of water, and put it down somewhere it demonstrates that you occupy the space and it's yours.

Give your body something else to do. Just standing on a stage can make you super self-conscious.

Have things to pick up and put down, to take out and put away. Think 'Show and Tell' here.

3. Bend Your Body

One of the most important tricks to relax is to bend in the middle of your body beforehand.

Think touching the side of your knee with each hand - what this does is release the muscles around your midriff and lower back, which will free up your movement and relax your breathing.

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4. Stand Off To One Side

Only go centre stage when you are relaxed and confident.

When you are finding your feet, stay off to one side and you will avoid feeling like a rabbit in the headlights.

5. Concentrate On Your Opening And Closing

Don't over-rehearse but do make sure you get your opening and closing right.

This will make a lasting impression on people and ensure that you don't just dribble off at the end.

6. Say Thank You And Take A Bow

Whether you think you've done well or badly, always take a bow and say thank you.

You can actually fool people into thinking you've done better than you have by doing a good walk-down.

7. Always Test The Technical Equipment Beforehand

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