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Public Speaking Advice

July 19, 2016

When you hear “public speaking” many think of speaking in front of a large crowd while typically giving some type of presentation. If you don’t have a career that aligns with that job requirement, then you may be tempted to write-off brushing up on your public speaking skills.

But we’re here to tell you that mastering the art of public speaking is an important skill to have in any job. As Beamer from Textron puts it, “Public speaking can help set you apart as a leader or diminish your credibility. Having confidence, charisma and conveying clear thoughts is extremely important to your career.” Full Quote

Whether you are an intern, an entry-level employee, or someone who typically gives large presentations to your coworkers, public speaking is an important skill that you should have. While you don’t need to be the best at it, it is important to be the best that you can be.

Think about this. You may work on a project for weeks, months, or years. Why would you want to shine a negative light on that project by presenting it or speaking on it poorly? This is your chance to capitalize on the work you are doing. Go ahead, put it in that shiny new box and deliver it with gold. There is no better way to get the message out that you are a super star than by telling everyone in a public way with confidence!

While public speaking is something that you need to practice on your own, we have a few tips from our expert contributors to help get you started.

Speak with Confidence, and Eliminate Filler Words

Like, when you speak to like, a huge group of people, like at work, people may like, notice if you use like, filler words.

Using the word “like” four times in one sentence was distracting, wasn’t it? People notice when you use filler words, such as “like” or “um”. You can be telling them the most important thing they will hear their entire life and may miss the message when it is mixed in with filler words.

To help with this, video tape yourself speaking a few times. This will help you identify any filler words that you may be unaware of.

After you identify these, Ashley from Worthington Industries recommends slowing down and focusing on pausing when you feel tempted to use these filler words. It may take lots of practice, and while it may sound like you are speaking slowly it will still sound very natural to your audience. Full Quote

Eye (or Forehead) Contact

Eye contact is also important and a way to show your confidence. Lacking this may make you come across as timid and unsure.

Ashley recommends, “If you are uncomfortable (making eye contact), try to focus on their forehead.” This is one way to cheat the system. They wont be able to tell that you aren’t looking directly in their eye, but you will still appear to be making strong eye contact. Full Quote

I tend to think as I speak. Trying to think+speak+make eye contact can be difficult to do. Easy solution? Think, THEN speak. Speaking+eye contact is a lot easier to manage.

Be Prepared

Traci from Accenture says, “First and foremost, for even the most skilled public speaker to do a great job, they have to be prepared! Speaking to your small team and speaking to a large group is going to be a struggle the entire time if you have no idea what you’re talking about, so make sure you spend a bit of time getting to know the subject matter. This way, even if you stumble, which even the most skilled do, you’ll be able to pick right back up because you’ll know where to go next.” Full Quote

I couldn’t repeat how true this is. If you know and are excited about what your topic, you all of a sudden become more confident. You become the expert. As you probably have already picked up on, being confident is half the battle.

If you need to, write down a bulleted list of points you want to hit. This will insure that you aren’t reading off of a paper, but you are still prepared with every point you want to touch on.  Practice taking this list and allowing yourself to explain each point.

Know Your Audience

Traci urges us to know our audience and consider whom we are speaking to.
She says, “With your current message, is what you’re saying going to go over their head? Is what you’re saying going to offend someone or make him or her feel inferior? If you are the subject matter expert, have you sufficiently explained the topic so that everyone will understand? There is no faster way to lose the attention of your audience than to forget this while preparing.”
Full Quote

You may not feel like an expert on a certain matter, especially when meeting with managers and directors, but you are speaking for a reason. She also says, “If you’re being asked to present to your team or even a larger body, you’re being asked to do so because someone is either giving you a chance to do so and be heard, or because someone thinks that what you have to say is important enough for everyone to hear.”

Body Language

Video taping yourself will also help pick up any body language issues you may be unaware of. Swaying back and forth, continually touching your hair, having your arms crossed are just a few common mistakes. Try your best to again, slow down, and be conscious of what you are doing with your hands and body. Not only can poor body language or habits be distracting, but you again will appear unsure and timid.

These are just a few tips to start, but also to encourage you that with a little bit of practice it is possible to master this skill. One thing that all of our contributors agreed on is that everyone can learn to speak well. Even if you think it’s “not your thing.” Good luck!

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