Mastering the art of public speaking is essential for students and young professionals, offering the potential to boost confidence, leave a lasting impact, and unlock exciting opportunities.
You might think public speaking skills are just for the elite few who are born great speakers and presenters… but you would be woefully wrong.
Public speaking skills are here for everyone, from managers and students to doctors and best man speeches. No one is born a great speaker. Great speakers are made, with knowledge, awareness, and lots of practice.
Here are a whopping seven powerful strategies to enhance your public speaking abilities and excel in various settings, from classrooms to business pitches and beyond.
#1 Captivate Your Audience With a Compelling Opening
Audiences are lazy. They are also selfish. Every audience is asking themselves the same question from the minute you walk into the room: What’s in it for me?
So you must grab their attention right off the bat. You don’t have 5 minutes to warm up and get into the swing of things, maybe waffle a bit until you get to the real reason you’re there 10 minutes into your story.
Engaging your audience instantly with a captivating opening line or thought-provoking question gets them involved right away and catches their attention. Then, you hit them with your hook and tell them exactly why they need to care and what’s in it for them..
#2 Connect With Your Audience Through Storytelling
Every time you speak, communicate, and present, you are telling a story. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end and so does every communication you have.
There are ways to make your content ‘sticky’ and memorable for your audience in public speaking. One of the best ways to establish a deeper connection with your audience through your content is to use personal anecdotes and relatable stories.
Using personal stories and anecdotes to illustrate points or ideas gives the audience a direct line into your humanity, your heart and mind. You are a human being talking to another human being so show us. You must make your content more than data and information or else you may as well just send the audience a slide deck.
#3 Master Your Physical Presence and Non-verbal Communications
Your voice is not just the sounds you make. It is your entire body and your non-verbal communication says as much as the sounds you make vocally. Your whole body is your communication instrument so mastering how you stand, sit, use your hands and eye contact, and how you move is critical in engaging your audience and holding their attention.
So pay attention to your body language, facial expressions, and vocal variety to enhance your delivery and keep your audience listening.
#4 Use Visual Aids To Create Impact in Your Content
One very important point to remember in public speaking is that Powerpoint is NOT your presentation. YOU are your presentation and Powerpoint is only there to support you, your story, and to help the audience better connect with you and your data and information.
Visual aids, images, and video are great ways to reinforce your ideas and concepts. You can also use physical props or graphs, charts, or statistics in your slides. But you must justify having them on your slides; they cannot be for you to remember your content. They can only be there if they will help your audience connect with your story, ideas, and concepts.
Use visual aids sparingly and purposefully to support your message without overwhelming your audience. Map out your story first, then decide what visual aids you actually need to illustrate and support your message and help the audience better connect with it.
#5 Connect With Your Audience By Active Listening
As I said earlier on, audiences are selfish and lazy. They want every moment of your presentation or speech to be about them or relatable to them. One sure fire way to keep their attention is to show attentiveness by actively listening to your audience’s reactions and adjusting your delivery accordingly.
For instance, asking questions is a great way to foster audience interaction and get them physically and mentally involved with your story. Anything that keeps them on their toes and feeling involved will score you points with any audience.
So you can encourage participation through interactive elements like questions, polls, and group discussions and keep them wondering what you’re going to do next. We have a saying in theatre, ‘Surprise and Delight.’. Keep them guessing and you’ll keep them listening.
#6 Find Your Truth and Be Authentically You
People are always telling me they want to find their ‘authentic’ voice and the thing is… they already have it. And speaking from your own authenticity is sometimes easier said than done, I know.
Here’s the thing: You were born with a free, strong, natural voice (unless you have a physical vocal impediment) and as life goes on, that voice can get lost. You stop speaking up, the joy goes out of speaking, and you feel smaller and smaller.
When you practice the skills of public speaking, you get to embrace your unique style and showcase your passion to create genuine connection with your audience. Some people feel the need to be given permission to be brilliant, beautiful, and powerful.
Practice finding your own personal style and strengths in public speaking. They are there; sometimes you need a guide and coach to help you rediscover them and own them again.
#7 BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE
Breathing is the cornerstone for all public speaking, presenting, and communication and is fuel for every aspect of speaking and communicating. It is a tool that give you huge bang for your buck when it comes to the basic skills and techniques of great speaking.
Practice belly breathing, or Diaphragmatic Breathing, and you will centre your breath in a deep place of power, groundedness, and support. This will give you a high quality of fuel that supports your voice, aids clear thinking, and helps manage nerves and anxiety.
Take The Bull By the Horns and Practice, Practice, Practice!
Great public speaking is a game of two halves: What you say and how you say it.
All you need to turbocharge your success and become a memorable, impactful, stunning speaker is to find the skills that resonate with you, practice, practice, practice, and then get targeted, specific feedback from a professional.
By implementing the simple strategies above, students, young professionals, and C-level executives alike can become confident and impactful speakers, ready to knock it out of the park in any public speaking engagement.