THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Public Speaking Basics
Updated: Jun 26
Public speaking is a skill that can be challenging to master; it can cause stress and anxiety for many, but it is essential for anyone who wants to communicate effectively in a professional or personal setting. Although there is no “one size fits all" strategy, there are best practices to help you become a dynamic and engaging public speaker whether you are giving a presentation at work, speaking at a conference, or delivering a speech at a wedding.
Prepare and Practice
The first step in becoming a confident public speaker is to prepare and practice. This means researching your topic, organizing your thoughts, and rehearsing your presentation. Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend/family member to get feedback, and improve your delivery. One of my favorite options is utilizing voice record on my phone; listening back will help you hear inflection, emphasis, and areas of the presentation that need more (or less) energy.
Know your Audience
Knowing your audience is essential for effective public speaking. This means understanding their interests, needs, and expectations. Tailor your presentation to your audience; use language and examples they can relate to. If you were presenting to a group of law enforcement professionals, it wouldn’t make sense to only share stories from the tech sector; examples can be applicable across industries, however, your audience will feel more connected and engaged if they can relate to the subject or experience you are speaking about.
Use Visual Aids
Visual aids can help you communicate your message more effectively and engage your audience. Use slides, videos, or other tactile props to illustrate your points and make your presentation more interesting and memorable. One caveat to include here, “death by PowerPoint” is a real thing… utilize slides, but don’t read from them!
Speak Clearly With Confidence
Speaking clearly and confidently is essential for effective public speaking. Speak slowly, and use pauses to emphasize important points. Maintain eye contact with your audience to build connection, and use body language to convey passion and enthusiasm. When you’re NOT feeling confident (and we’ve all been there), sometimes you'll have to fake it till you make it. Take a deep breath, stand tall, pull back your shoulders, and take up space; these simple non verbal cues will convey confidence to your audience.
Engaging your audience is essential for effective public speaking. Use humor, stories, or interactive activities to keep your audience interested and involved. Ask questions, and encourage feedback and discussion.
Being authentic is essential for effective public speaking. Be yourself, and speak from the heart. Share personal experiences and insights, be vulnerable, and connect with your audience on a human level. Trust me--your audience will see and call out BS. Give them you...ALL of you, the good, the bad, and the ugly of whatever topic you are sharing.
Regardless of industry or role, public speaking will most likely be required of you at some point. By preparing and practicing, knowing your audience, using visual aids, speaking clearly and confidently, engaging your audience, and being authentic, you can become a more confident and effective public speaker. Remember to be patient with yourself, and keep practicing to improve your skills over time.
Why not you... rock that speech?