Essential Expert Public Speaking Secrets
Oratory, or public speaking, is a skill that they used to teach at school. No longer. Now, we’re expected to shuffle and mumble our way through life. The trouble is, that doesn’t work. Standing out from the grey masses sometimes means you have to step forward, grab the mike, and impress an audience with a clear, convincing, charismatic performance. If only you had some killer tips that expert public speakers use to wow the room.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
The speaker that thinks he doesn’t need to prepare is either arrogant or lazy. In any case, they will be spotted quickly and ignored or discounted by their audience. The key factor that made the late Steve Jobs such an outstanding public speaking practitioner was his insistence on massive amounts of preparation. He would rehearse for days before an important speech, practising every aspect of it until every last bit of it was flawlessly committed to memory so he could present perfectly.
You may have already noticed how few speakers get this right. But it’s something that all expert speakers have mastered. Call it the Art of Waking You Up if you like, but all the top public speakers in the world start strong. It can be achieved through tone of voice, a startling fact, a thought-provoking question or statement (Kitra Cahana did this so well in her excellent TED talk that begins “I know a man who soars above the city every night”), or even just by posture. In fact, I’ve used that myself; it can work very well in a situation when you need to command the attention of the entire room. Simply holding your opening posture silently can bring a hush to the venue. The trick is to hold it until every eye is upon you. Don’t try it too often though, you need nerves of steel!
I once saw a great speaker open her talk by throwing a rugby ball to someone across the room. When it was caught expertly the room fell silent and she used that silence to move smoothly into a talk about the importance of teamwork. The old style of after-dinner speakers often do it with a joke, but whichever technique you choose, make it dramatic. If it falls flat, so will you. Only use openings that you have practiced until they’re perfect. Oh! Did I just remind you of the first point? I think I did.
Nothing is more certain to punish an audience for listening than the droning, mumbling, monotone that we have all had to suffer through all too often. When a speaker is introduced I’m always full of excitement to hear her pearls of wisdom, but how many times do I find that excitement turn to despair as the speaker mumbles her way through the entire ordeal. She may be an expert in her field, but unless she can hold our attention she may as well have stayed at home. Failing to learn how to present with clarity risks destroying the entire purpose of the speech.
Everyone has to start somewhere, but there is no excuse for remaining bad at public speaking these days. If you want us to take you seriously, value your messages, and seek you out afterwards, you have to develop the skills of timing, enunciation, and variation of tone. Nobody is a ‘natural public speaker’. We’ve all had to put in the time, effort, and practice to make ourselves competent. If you need to know how to do that, read on to the end. We’re nearly there. The good news is that we can all learn these skills.
The Next Step
I didn’t learn oratory at school. I wish I had, it would have given me a massive head start. Everyone can improve their public speaking skills, and just about everyone should in my opinion. Students can use it to improve grades in tasks that involve a presentation. Job seekers find it invaluable for increasing their confidence during interviews. Salespeople should consider improving their public speaking abilities as an essential and ongoing part of their job. Anyone who wants to persuade their boss to give them a raise should definitely consider investing time and effort learning how to present with clarity and persuasiveness.
If I have convinced you that now is the time to get started… good! There are a few public speaking coaches in Plymouth, but you should also definitely look into joining Plymouth’s public speaking club, Armada Speakers. Armada Speakers is a part of the largest organisation of public speaking clubs in the world, Toastmasters International, and I highly recommend them. I was a member for years and it was there that I learned the skills that started my career as a professional speaker. Contact Armada Speakers with the details below.
Get in Touch with Armada Speakers
Armada Speakers meet every other Tuesday from 7pm until 9pm at the Copthorne Hotel, Armada Way, Plymouth, PL1 1AR.
They are a very friendly club and welcome guests to every meeting. It’s free to attend for your first visits until you feel comfortable and ready to join.Visit the Armada Speakers website