Whether you are a business owner looking for ways to improve their business, or someone who wants to climb up the corporate ladder and build a successful career, public speaking can make quite an impact. If you look at the examples of world leaders and politicians, most of them who succeeded in winning the hearts of people did so because of their public speaking skills. In order to win over people’s minds and influence them, effective communication is necessary.
Public speaking is a powerful tool through which you can inform, persuade or entertain your listeners.
• Informational Speaking includes any presentations, lectures or teaching sessions which often form a part of your work. Here, you are sharing your knowledge in a specific subject with your audience.
• Persuasive Speaking can include any product demonstrations that are done to convince potential clients to buy your product or service. It also includes motivational speeches made as a business owner to your staff or proposals presented in front of senior management.
• Entertaining Speaking refers to wedding toasts, formal dinner speeches, award acceptance speeches among others where your primary purpose is to entertain your listeners.
Both informational and persuasive speaking are important skills for success in the corporate world. Though entertaining speaking might not directly affect your job, being able to deliver a joke properly is a valuable skill which can completely change the atmosphere in a room and relieve stress.
Though public speaking is defined as structured speaking to a group of people, most of us come across public speaking exercises as part of our daily lives – dealing with diverse customers, interviewing people for a job, persuading investors, briefing the media – all these require skills associated with public speaking. This includes effective and clear communication, leadership and motivational skills and the ability to converse clearly and engage with people from various backgrounds.
Now that we have established the importance of mastering public speaking for career success, let us discuss some tips that will help you achieve this goal:
1. Know what you are speaking: Speak what you know and know what you speak. You are less likely to forget something about which you are confident. Do your homework thoroughly and make sure you are very familiar with the content. If you have not prepared the presentation or speech yourself, this becomes even more important.
2. Rehearse, revise and record: Even if you are a seasoned orator, it is always important to practice your speech. Once you deliver the words out loud, you will have a better understanding of what works and what will not work. Revise accordingly until you are happy with the material. If you are a beginner, it is a good idea to practise speaking in front of a mirror so that you are aware of your facial expressions. You can also record your speech and play it back to hear how you sound and figure out ways to improve.
3. Know to whom you are speaking: Whatever the avenue, make it a point to arrive early and walk around the room getting to know your audience. It is always easier to speak to people familiar to you than to strangers. Your audience, be it colleagues, potential clients or investors, are also more likely to be persuaded by your speech if you have spoken to them informally just before the session.
4. Know where you are speaking: If you will be using a microphone, projector, whiteboard or other aids, try them out well in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises. Being prepared in this way will definitely add to your confidence by reducing the number of factors not in your control. It is also a good idea to walk about the area where you will be standing, decide on positions to take and make sure you can scan the room from your preferred location.
5. Relax and concentrate on your message: It is normal to have some anxiety about public speaking. Taking deep breaths, smiling at the audience, and visualising yourself succeeding in the speech are some techniques for beginners to calm their nerves. As far as possible, concentrate on delivering your message and avoid focussing on the surroundings.
6. Know that people want to understand: Most of you will be speaking to colleagues, clients or other parties who are interested in your message. This means that they want you to be successful in your delivery. Understanding this should give you a big confidence-boost.
7. Improve through experience: It is important to realise that the first speech you deliver will not be perfect. It takes most of us quite a few tries to be able to deliver a confident and clear speech. Wouldn’t it be ideal if you could practice your speeches in a friendly environment so that when the stakes are high, you can deliver perfectly? Toastmasters International is one such organisation which helps speakers with their oratory and leadership skills. You will also be able to find public speaking courses which will help you in mastering public speaking.
8. Ask for feedback: Of course, you cannot ask investors or your bosses for feedback on your presentation, but if possible, have someone the audience who will give you honest feedback. A general ‘How did I do?’ might not get you helpful suggestions, so be specific about what you ask. If you are looking to improve in certain areas, like your speed, your cadence or other technical aspects, ask them to focus on that.
Mastering public speaking allows you to improve both your verbal and non-verbal communication and helps you to become an influential leader. For a startup it means learning how to pitch to investors and how to build your personal branding by attending speaking events. Being a good public speaker is the first step to being seen as an industry leader in your field. Once you have mastered this, there will be no looking back!