Top 10 Tips in Public Speaking Delivery
Top ten tips in Public Speaking delivery.
1. Your stance.
Before you start speaking, make a conscious connection with the floor. When we are nervous we can tend to shift our weight from foot to foot, or step forward and back, as we speak. This can make a speaker look unsure. I like to think of the image of ‘a person who knows where they stand!’ as opposed to a person ‘who looks a bit shifty!’
So give yourself a moment before you start speaking.
Maybe even consciously say to yourself:
‘Can I feel the floor? Can I feel the floor?’ and don’t start speaking until you can answer yourself with:
‘Yes, I can feel the floor.’
It only takes a moment or two, but in the process you are achieving two things.
1. You are giving yourself a minute to set yourself before starting
2. You are sending a message to your audience of:
‘I start when I am ready.’
It is like settling yourself in the starting blocks before a running race, as opposed to starting off unbalanced.
2. Your voice.
Your normal tone of voice in front of a group of people will probably sound flat and colourless.
So make sure you vary the tone of your voice.
Think of it like a three dimensional graph:
- where your voice can go up and down (intonation or ‘pitch’),
- where your voice can go from side to side (speed or ‘pace’) and
- where your voice can go backward and forwards (volume or ‘power’)
Hence you will often hear speakers talking about the 3 p’s – pitch, pace and power
Add to that a 4th p – pause and you have the basis of a varied and colourful voice
Pitch, pace and pause is all about the sound.
Pause is about the silence.
Just like in music, silence is an important way of highlighting and contrasting the sound.
3. Your gestures
Your hands and your voice work together. If you think of the cultures, such as the countries in Southern Europe, that we associate with passion and animation, these are the people who seem to be using their hands all the time when they speak. They understand instinctively that their gestures add force and variety to their voice. A nervous speaker will tend to stand with their hands clasped in front of them, or folded, or if they are standing behind a lectern, clutching the sides of the podium – all of which act as a brake on their voice. Therefore look for words that either suggest or would benefit from a gesture; typically these might be:
- superlatives (biggest, best, largest)
- words implying emotion (exciting, disastrous, wonderful)
- words with spatial or metaphorical meaning (alone, peak, around)
4. Your pace
Back to your voice. Most speakers, when they are nervous, speak too fast.
So make sure that you control the pace of your voice.
Firstly, consciously slow down your delivery
Secondly, make sure that each word has been finished before starting the next word
(the danger when we are over-excited is that words run in to each other)
So particularly at the start of a presentation, make sure that each word spoken is clear and well-enunciated.
And thirdly, you can use your gestures to help slow down the delivery.
5. Your eye contact
Strong eye contact achieves three very important things.
Firstly, it keeps the audience engaged. If I am in the audience and the speaker allows his or her eyes to connect with all parts of the room, I will feel that I am being spoken to directly whereas on an even more basic level, if the speaker has not looked over to my part of the room for a few minutes, or even not at all, I might be tempted to check my phone. So the eyes are an important way of creating that dynamic connection with each member of the audience.
Secondly, eye contact implies a degree of confidence, confidence in yourself and confidence in what you are talking about. A person who can look you in the eyes will always be perceived as being more confident, than a person who avoids eye contact.
Thirdly, eye contact suggests ‘honesty’.
Many of us will remember a parent, teacher or carer using the phrase:
‘Look me in the eyes and tell me that!’
If you are not willing or able to look your audience in the eye, that might suggest to them that you do not fully believe in what you are saying.
6. Your support
Slides or Powerpoint presentations can be very useful back up for a speaker, but only if used in moderation.
Try to use mainly images, rather than words on the slides, for two reasons:
firstly, images are by definition visual, and therefore make an immediate impact and are easier to recall than words and images give the speaker flexibility , as they allow the speaker to describe or draw out meaning from what the audience can see, without being tied to a set script.
secondly, if the speaker falls into the trap of writing too many words on each slide, he or she will be tempted to ‘read’ those words. And do you know what? The audience can read as well. In fact, the audience can probably read quicker than the speaker can speak and they have completed the slide, while the speaker is still only half way down. And gradually the audience starts to realise that the whole presentation is in fact on the slides and the speaker could have saved everyone a lot of time by emailing the slides out rather than requiring everyone to come and hear him read them.
7. Your body
Speaking is a physical activity. You don’t have to be over-dramatic, but how you stand and how you use your body will leave a lasting impression. Your audience will quickly forget most of the words you have spoken, but it will remember precisely the impression you made while standing there.
Anything that is not supporting the presentation is potentially harming it.
Therefore unconscious or nervous habits or ticks are likely to distract your audience from the message.
If you have a tendency to play with your hair, pull on your sleeves, or fiddle with your buttons, over time that will become distracting.
I invite you to think back to your school days, when there might have been a teacher with a repetitive habit or gesture they used when teaching and how within a short period of time all the class were giggling or copying whenever it happened.
Or on a simpler level:
Do you put your hands in your pockets, while speaking?
Do you fiddle with rings or bracelets?
Do you stand with your weight on one leg?
All of which can make you look unsure or as if you don’t care.
8. Your audience
The bigger the room, the bigger the voice and the bigger the gestures need to be.
If you have made that connection between your gestures and your voice that we outlined in Tip #3, then you will realise immediately that in a larger room, you will need to project a greater vocal range and visually you will need larger gestures to be able to back it up.
Therefore a big vocal emphasis automatically becomes supported by a complimentary bigger gesture.
In a smaller venue, you may be able to move your eye contact from individual to individual, but in a larger room you may need to move your eyes from section to section.
9. Your belief
‘Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?!’
People will forget your words, but they wont forget your passion.
Your belief and passion will shine through.
In fact if you are convinced and convincing, you may find that most of the tips above are no longer as important, because an impassioned speaker has an automatic level of energy and variety in their voice;
they will be automatically using words that are superlative, emotional and visual;
their passion will be instinctively supported by strong gestures
and when you believe in your words, your eyes will shine and you will want to make eye contact with your audience
10. Your preparation
I have never heard a musician come off stage after a bad performance and say:
‘I know that I did not practise, but I don’t understand what went wrong.’
Yet speaker after speaker seems to think that they should be able to speak like Barak Obama without rehearsing. Why?
Because when Barak Obama speaks, he sounds as if the words are just flowing naturally.
And if that is the case, it is because he has said them many times before, - maybe not in the exact same order, but around the same subject.
Think of a jazz musician improvising.
Improvising does not mean they have picked up the instrument for the first time, it means they have played and practise patterns and pieces for years, so that they can reconfigure what they have learnt in different orders.
Therefore remember that preparation is not about learning off by heart – that makes you stiff and wooden, preparation is about walking through, thinking through, speaking through the core of the presentation many times, so that when you are on stage, you know you have been here many times before and you can move from idea to idea with ease and confidence.