Master the art of public speaking

Do you break into a cold sweat when asked to speak in public? Or maybe your voice trembles, you fumble over words and your thoughts get jumbled up when you have to address a considerable amount of people. Public speaking may be a cause of stress or anxiety and most people would rather avoid it at all costs. However, it is unavoidable and at one time or another we will all encounter several instances in our lives where we will have to speak in public, thus it is vital to master the skills that will make us effective public speakers.

Learning how to become an effective public speaker can be the key difference between success and failure in your life at home, at work and in your own community. There are a number of reasons why public speaking is an important life skill.

By mastering it, you will increase your selfconfidence. Public speaking is a somewhat difficult skill to master and learning it will empower you to confidently face any challenges that you may encounter in future. Once you get the hang of it and speak publicly more often, it will make you more comfortable around other people including strangers. Public speaking also enables you to perfect your everyday verbal and non-verbal skills and allows you to effectively communicate your ideas. It gives you a medium of selfexpression. There are many more benefits of having this skill, which cannot be exhausted here.

The fear of public speaking or glossophobia is ranked as one of the most common phobias. Research into phobias has even shown that some people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying. Yet public speaking does not have to be stressful. Though it may come naturally to some people, it is a skill that can be learnt, just like any other.

Most people fear what may happen when they speak in public. They shy away from public speaking because they fear something publicly humiliating like falling off the stage or forgetting everything they have to say. What if the audience hates me? These are all legitimate concerns and would be embarrassing if they happened. However, they do not happen in most cases. And if at all one of these happens, purpose to learn from the experience or use it to your advantage.

Another important factor to be aware of is that you don’t have to control the behaviour of your audience. You can only control that which is within your reach, for instance, your own thoughts, your preparation and arrangements for audio-visual aids. If your audience is fidgety or restless, don’t try to control this. Refrain from chastising your audience for not paying attention. Unless someone is being intentionally disorderly, there is very little you need to control.

You also don’t have to be brilliant, witty or perfect in order to be an effective public speaker. It’s acceptable to make mistakes or even get tongue-tied. You can tell no jokes at all and still be effective. The essence of public speaking is to give your audience something of value. If your audience walks away with anything of value, whether it’s feeling good about themselves or feeling happy or entertained, they will consider you a success.

Remember, your audience is made up of human beings, who may be deathly afraid of public speaking just like you. They may admire the courage you have to stand before them.

They are aware of the risk of embarrassment, humiliation, and failure involved in public speaking and thus, in most cases, they will want you to succeed and also be forgiving of the little mistakes that may seem like a big deal to you.

PUBLIC SPEAKING TIPS

Be well prepared. Read, research and internalise the information you need to convey in a way that you can present it in your own words and relate it to yourself or your audience. Have two or three main points or one key point. You can write these on little cards and use them as talking points. Most people get easily bored and remember very few details when bombarded with volumes of information at a time.

Have the right purpose in mind. What goal do you need to meet through your public speaking? If it’s a wrong goal like getting the audience to like or agree with you, you may end up failing miserably. Not only is it unrealistic to want everyone to like you, it is the wrong purpose. Remember, the core of public speaking is to GIVE your audience something of value, not GET approval, recognition, more sales or clients. These may follow as a result of your good performance but should not be your purpose.

Be yourself. Don’t try to imitate other public speakers you admire or consider successful. Many successful public speakers just gave themselves permission to be themselves in front of other people. The more you do it, the better you get. Take advantage of every opportunity you get to speak in public to cultivate the skill.

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