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Even as an extrovert, an enneagram 7, and someone who is told she’s “never met a stranger,” public speaking still makes me sweat. Meetings, announcements, even Zoom calls require public speaking skills.
Beyond the typical “practice makes perfect” and “don’t use filler words,” it can be tough to find practical tips for speaking to a group. I’ve compiled a list of the best tips I’ve heard for public speaking that will help you in the future.
Become friends with the pause. This is a public speaking skill that is easy to practice in everyday conversation. When you’re tempted to use filler words like “like” and “um” and “so”, replace them instead with a pause. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be with allowing space for natural pauses.
Don’t read unless you have to. Reading off your slide, from your notes, or sheet of paper is more obvious than we think. If you do need information written down in your personal notes, make bullet points instead of full sentences, so you’re not stuck reading line for line.
Record yourself. Prop up your iPhone or have a friend record your presentation. That way, you can go back and watch yourself as if you were an audience member. You’ll probably find that the little things you notice about yourself aren’t visible to your audience.
Practice with distractions. This is one of my favorite tips. Practice your presentation with the TV on in the background. Practice it on a walk or jog. Allowing your brain to cut through the noise to remember what your message is will result in a foolproof performance later on when it’s the real thing.
Watch for the pesky voice uptick. Be mindful of the way your voice elevates at the end of your sentences, often called an inflection in your voice. If your voice gets higher at the end of the sentence, it usually indicates a question. Whereas if your voice lowers at the end of a sentence, it signals a statement. You don’t want to sound unsure in your delivery, so believe in your knowledge and be firm in your message.
Be careful with your hands. Similar to filler words, once you notice a speaker’s hand gestures, it’s hard to pay attention to what they’re saying. With that said, some hand gestures can help prove a point by making your presentation feel more dynamic and natural, so it’s all about finding a balance. Also, remember not to touch your face too often. Zoom calls make this harder to resist.
The 3 Sections Rule. Just like it sounds. If you structure your presentation or speech into 3 bite sized sections, your audience will have an easier time following and you’ll have an easier time visualizing the cadence and flow of whatever you’re presenting.
Integrate humor into your speech. Laughter is the best medicine AND the best way to build rapport with your audience or team. Sprinkle a few well timed jokes and you’re golden.
Hopefully you’ve learned a few things from this list for your next big meeting or presentation. Whether you’re in your first job or 20 years in, public speaking is always a skill that we can improve. Do you have any other unique tips for speaking to a group that I haven’t included here? Let me know. I'd love to add them to this list.