Public speaking skills are no longer ‘nice to have’ skills in business.
They are MUST HAVE skills.
Over the past decade, I’ve dedicated myself to honing my public speaking skills and throughout this journey, I have discovered five fundamental categories that, when mastered, have the potential to elevate any speaker head and shoulders above the rest.
Here are five simple must-have public speaking skills and why each one is crucial for delivering impactful speeches and presentations.
#1 Structure Your Words Simply and Clearly
A well-structured speech is the foundation of effective communication.
While most speeches consist of a beginning, middle, and end, the best speeches go beyond this formula. They feature a strong opening statement that captivates the audience, a compelling middle that builds on the central idea, and a conclusion that circles back to the introductory theme. Crafting a speech that follows this “full circle” structure takes your audience on a coherent and memorable journey.
Here’s an example: Consider a speech about gambling addiction. An attention-grabbing opening could be: “I put all of the money I owned on the table and looked up at the dealer. I waited for the him to turn over the next card and I knew that, wherever card it ended up being, my life would be changed forever.” This powerful introduction hooks the audience and leaves them eager to learn more.
The hook is like an amuse bouche for the audience: It gets them salivating and wanting to taste more. Give them something juicy to taste first and then give them more.
#2 Limit Those Filler Words
Filler words like “uhh,” “ahh,” and “umm” tend to creep into our speeches as a substitute for silence. These words can be distracting and detract from the impact of your message.
To eradicate filler words, start by identifying which ones you frequently use. Record yourself practicing a speech or seek feedback from a trusted friend or family member. Once you are aware of your filler words, you can consciously replace them with moments of silence, allowing your speech to flow smoothly and engagingly.
Often, when you use a filler word, you could actually be taking a breath or taking a pause. Or both. So practice taking a breath instead of an ‘umm’ and watch the clarity of your words soar.
#3 Master That Body Language
Studies have shown that body language plays a significant role in how a message is perceived, often overshadowing the actual words spoken.
Purposeful body language adds depth and impact to your speech, keeping your audience engaged. For example, if you say, “I’m having a great time” with a low, monotone voice while displaying closed-off body language, your audience will sense the contradiction. By aligning your body language with your message, you enhance the authenticity and effectiveness of your speech.
Also, when you are physically open to the audience it comes across and incredibly confident and says to them, ‘I’m here for you and you are important.’. That’s attractive to every audience because you’re telling them they are the most important person in the room without saying a word.
#4 Incorporate Vocal Variety
Vocal variety is an underrated aspect of public speaking that can greatly enhance audience engagement.
By modulating your voice’s volume, pace, and tone, you can capture and maintain your listeners’ attention. Adjusting volume and pace can create dramatic effects that align with your speech content.
For instance, when you’re telling a story about a thrilling experience, you might increase your pace, while delivering distressing news calls for a softer voice and slower tempo. Mastering vocal variety empowers you to connect with your audience on an emotional level.
Creating vocal variety and using different vocal colours and textures also keeps your audience’s ears interested. People’s ears get bored very easily so keep changing up your vocal textures and choices to keep their ears listening.
#5 Throw In A Little Bit Of Humor
Humor is a powerful tool that not only relaxes the speaker but also puts the audience at ease. But you have to be careful of using it. Don’t try to tell jokes that are either rude, blue, or sexual or that you are not comfortable with. Humour can be an observation about the coffee, what you had for lunch, or a conversation you had with someone before you stepped on stage.
By incorporating humor, particularly in the opening minutes of your speech, you establish a connection with your listeners and set a positive tone. Making your audience laugh creates an enjoyable atmosphere and boosts your confidence as you witness their enjoyment.
Remember, a relaxed audience is more receptive to your message, making humor an essential ingredient for successful public speaking.
By mastering these five simple must-have elements—speech structure, eliminating filler words, body language, vocal variety, and humor—you can transform into a phenomenal, memorable public speaker.
Embrace the power of a well-crafted speech, practice self-awareness to eliminate filler words, use body language purposefully, explore vocal range, and employ humor strategically. By putting in the effort and practicing with specific purpose, you will captivate your audience, inspire change, and be remembered as a persuasive and influential speaker.
Remember Maya Angelou’s words: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
You’ve got this.