There are many kinds of public speaking – political speeches, sermons, lectures, after dinner speeches and presentations to peers, sub, or super ordinates. The main goal of a public speaker is to change the attitudes or behaviour of members of the audience or to increase their knowledge and understanding. Often, these are combined.
BODY LANGUAGE & VOICE The main sources of failure in public speaking are being inaudible, boring, unconvincing, talking too fast (or too slow!), having irritating mannerisms, being nervous, not being able to handle the audience and presenting your material badly.
A public speaker should speak loudly and distinctly with the head up and a projected voice which reaches all corners of the audience. The end of words should be sounded, there should be no ‘drop off’ at the end of sentences, one should avoid saying ‘er’ and keep pitch, voice quality and breathing under control. Energy and enthusiasm should be demonstrated with appropriate movement around the stage/area you are in.
One needs to be a subject expert but also a member of the group, that is, on equal terms with the audience. Anxiety levels can be reduced by preparing and knowing the materials beforehand so that you are familiar with them. You should also decide beforehand what is your precise relationship with the audience, are you there to entertain them, teach them, persuade them, and also, are you in a position to do this; do you have the right to do this?
PLANNING YOUR PRESENTATION Make sure your presentation has a beginning, a middle and an end. Set the scene, set expectations, gain credibility and capture their interest Flesh out your main points, give examples, give references that will convince the audience, illustrate visually as much as possible, encourage questions and discussion. We remember what we see and feel
Weak endings can be fatal; relief to finish can cause carelessness. Try to keep control, summarise to reinforce key points, use facts the audience will remember, tell audience what you want them to do next and make sure everyone knows where you are for questions
MANAGING YOUR AUDIENCE Establishing rapport with the audience is important. You can gain their attention and confidence by explaining why you are there, outlining what you are going to talk about and why and what your aims and objectives are, should be there any. You should watch and monitor your audience carefully, be on the look out for people who are unable to hear, people who are bored, falling asleep, puzzled or cross. Ensure you take rapid corrective action but be sure that you don’t depend on continual positive reactions from the audience; you need to be more concerned with the overall long term impact of the presentation.
One way to engage your audience is to make sure that you demonstrate and energy and enthusiasm, even passion in your subject matter. Many studies show that attitude change takes place more easily when the presenter is emotionally aroused and enthusiastic about their material.
Key to any successful presentation is being aware of the differences in your audience. Individual personalities learn and assimilate information in different ways. Some people like to listen, some to experience and some like to have the material to hand to read and make notes on. It is important that your presentation takes these different assimilation styles into consideration in the preparation. Consider in your preparation that you need to facilitate different learning styles and ensure that you cover all bases, making sure that visual people have interesting graphics to look at and that you are energetic and clear in your presentation for the people who prefer to listen. If it is appropriate, for the kinaesthetic types in your audience, role plays or practical exercises might be a good way to engage them. ‘I do not object to people looking at their watches when I am speaking. But I strongly object when they start shaking them to make sure they are still going’ Lord Birkett (1883-1962)
SUMMARY Decide what you are there for and what your message is. Be aware of your body language and keep control of voice and nerves. Try to learn the first 5-10 minutes to ensure that you don’t need to constantly refer to materials, this will help with establish credibility. Make sure you have planned your presentation, have a beginning, a middle and an end. Make sure you can work any equipment you may need before your presentation. Maintain enthusiasm and energy and engage your audience by being aware of different communication and learning styles. And finally, enjoy yourself, this will be evident to your audience and you are therefore more likely to get your message across and your audience will be more motivated to learn and listen.
Flourish Coaching provides group or 1:1 communication strategy programs and beginners and advanced presentation skills programs.
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