Hotshot professionals in New York love to talk about how great they are at leading teams, delivering “robust” presentations and generally being the most-loved person in the office. These types come off as super-confident and typically will prepare for that critical client meeting by “winging it.” Or so it seems. Of course, most of that outward confidence you see is supreme bravado on their part; and you have no idea what steps they actually take to prepare themselves to serve as keynote speaker or deliver a killer presentation in front of the client’s CEO to close a deal. If you want to improve your own public speaking skills, here are three best practices to ensure your audience is totally attentive.
I know. You hate the thought of the sound of your voice and hate the idea of looking at yourself on tape even more. But if you have never videotaped yourself giving a speech, I highly recommend you add this to your speech or presentation prep game plan. You will immediately notice all of the flaws. As painful as this may seem it will help you step up your presentation game. Videotaping your performance increases your self-awareness and can significantly reduce your ticks (touching your face, tapping your fingers, etc.) and fillers (“ums,” “likes,” “sort of’s,” etc.). The best public speakers check their egos at the door and throw self-consciousness out the window, and you should too.
Prepare a script and memorize
You would be surprised at how many of the best speakers rely on a script. Your boss or CEO may seem like they are just improvising up there on stage, and of course, during a Q&A session, that could certainly be the case. But during the prepared remarks portion of a talk, nine times out of ten, what you are hearing is scripted and heavily rehearsed. The transitions, parallels, interesting anecdotes and asides that give a presentation or speech its weight are there for a reason; it’s not by accident or mistake – these things are planned down to the last nitty gritty detail.
Enunciate and slow down your delivery
When you are actively giving your speech, become aware of your pace and try to slow down. Generally your adrenaline picks up the moment you face a crowd and open your mouth, making time feel like it’s moving in fast forward. That of course, is all in your head. Be aware of your pace and your tone, and be extra careful about your enunciation. While your mind is under stress, your body wants to do everything it can to get your presentation over with to bring it back to a relaxed state, but you can counter that instinct simply by thinking about slowing down and adding a sporadic pause for additional effect.
There are tons of self-help materials out there that you can draw upon to become a better and more relaxed public speaker, but the most important element you need to get there is practice and repetition, so get started now and thank me later.
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.