Public speaking, in my eyes is one if the best skills you can attain.
Not only does it give you better confidence in yourself, it also gives you the charisma to perform in any environment (be it in a meeting, a presentation or on a stage) along with the respect of your peers. We’ve all seen TED talks – probably more than we say but less than we’d want to. They’re a great source of learning about cutting edge thinking, some of the great examples of progress from across the world but also it provides a great insight into what good looks like when it comes to public speaking.
It’s my firm belief that public speaking is a skill that everyone can possess. There may be some issues – a stammer or speech impediment that might prove a greater hurdle (although never let it put you off trying) but for the 95% of you who can speak normally, public speaking can be a great skill you can learn and refine as your career progresses.
What’s more – it’s within your grasp.
Tim Ferriss says that it takes 10,000 hours to perfect a skill. 10,000 hours to perfect, maybe. But with public speaking, no-one expects you to be the best. As long as you can confident, concise and use these 3 techniques – not only will it be enough to make sure your audience doesn’t fall asleep, it’ll maintain your positive image in their eyes as someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Practice, practice, practice is the best way to get good at anything. Before you tell some local TED organisers that you want to speak at their event, try something a bit smaller first. All around the world are various public speaking associations and academies, crash courses, clubs and organisations that provide you with 2 things – a willing audience of people who are in the same position as you and a trainer who can help you refine your skills.
Another way to practice is to record your self. Either pull the dusty video camera out from the cupboard or record yourself via your phone or laptop. Speak on a topic of your choice for 5 minutes and then re-watch yourself. Note down the things you thought were good and the things you thought were bad. Give yourself a pat on the back for all the good things and commit to working on the bad separately.
Sorry people – no scripts aloud. Trust me, it’s for your own good. Now, unless your delivering a moving/motivational inauguration speech that has to be crystal clear and to the point (and you can make glancing at your paper placed on your lecturn effortless like Obama can) – you want to learn how to do this on the fly. Why? Because if you want to improve and refine this skill of public speaking and, ergo, refine your overall communication skills, you need to remember that 98% of the time you won’t have a script.
Not only that – the biggest sign of an amateur is someone who wanders onto a stage with notes on his hand, cards or a sheet of paper. It has the same effect as someone who just reads off a PowerPoint when they’re delivering a presentation. It disconnects you from the audience, you can’t maintain tonality or cadence. Also – if you lose your place, trust me, you’re in trouble.
Power Of 3’s
Cicero’s magic bullet. The great Roman statesman and Senate speaker nailed this one over two millennia ago. Why is it important? The brain remembers things in threes. This isn’t only good for your audience (doesn’t overload them with information) but it helps you not need notes.
Think about it – a presentation has beginning, middle and end (in other words you tell them what you’re going to tell them, you tell them and then you tell them what you’ve told them). For the middle you need three themes that support your point, and under those three themes you need three examples. If each theme also has an intro and summary then think about it – all you have to remember is your three themes and your three bits of evidence. Granted, that’s 12 things but because of the power of threes, you make it easy for your brain.
It also means that if you do desperately need notes – you only need 12 bullet points (means you won’t get lost)
Use Your Hands
Have you ever seen those pictures of Hitler striking poses in the mirror? Pretty funny, I know. Hitler is one of the most highly praised orators of the 20th century (obviously for the wrong reasons) but his ability to engage his audience was unparalleled.
These mirror poses were the poses he would use whilst delivering his speeches – he wanted to see which poses demonstrated the most synergy with the tonality of his point. For example – once he’d made a point and wanted to emphasise it, he would fold his arms and arrogantly nod his head. Another is that he would throw his arms in the air to symbolise the horrors that might ensue from inaction.
Although I’m not suggesting that you watch Hitler’s speeches – be mindful that your hands have the potential of saying more to your audience than your mouth ever will. If you’re making points – count them off on your fingers. If you making reference to your audience – spread your arms wide and embrace them with your body language. The list goes on.
20 Minute Rule
This one is simple. There is a reason why all TED talks are below 20 minutes. Why? It’s about the length of the average person’s attention. Anything longer than 20 minutes gives time for people to fidget, to disengage, to check their phones, to rethink why they’re there. Remember lectures in university or college.
Next time – try containing the bulk of your presentation to 20 minutes, if not, no more than 30. If it’s a 60 minute meeting – 10 minutes intro, 5 minutes background, 30 minute presentation, 10 minute Q & A, 5 minute close.
Do you have any tips you use when public speaking? Share them in the comment section below.