“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld.
Jerry may not have been addressing business professionals when he said the above quote, but the fear of public speaking is a reality many people in the business world are battling. It’s also a critical skill. From speaking at events to delivering presentations to leading a meeting, you want your audience engaged and you want to appear calm and collected.
At RH Strategic we’ve worked with many of our clients on speech development and presentation and know that delivering a calm and compelling speech is no easy task. I recently read an article in PR Daily – “9 speaking tricks you may not have tried – that offered some good advice for public speaking. I’ve compiled five tips below that we particularly agree with.
- Move Around. Many speakers have a tendency to stay glued to a podium, but PR Daily suggests that “when our bodies are on the move, our brains get more oxygen, which increases mental sharpness.” Try moving around while delivering your message – walk from one end of the stage to the other or use body language. If it makes sense, interact with the audience. This will help you feel more comfortable and deliver a more effective speech.
- Keep it Simple. In the fast-paced world we live in today, it is essential that you keep your message simple or you will lose your audience. Don’t try to communicate more than three key messages.
- Use Stats and Stories. Leading with a compelling statistic or quote can help to draw an audience in or raise questions that your speech will answer. But, be careful – you don’t want to overload a presentation with too many facts and figures that the audience will not retain. Also, a good story or anecdote is a helpful way to illustrate your point. Your audience is more inclined to remember your topic if you use a good story to keep them engaged. When helping our clients write speeches, we follow a storytelling model.
- Speak Slowly. Most speakers speak too fast. When addressing an audience it is important to pause to emphasize points and to take a breath. It can be helpful to have a glass of water and take a sip for natural pauses.
- Use Visuals. Because our attention spans are short, having a compelling visual is helpful. It gives the presenter something to reference and can help captivate the audience’s attention. But don’t rely too heavily on them or your audience may pay more attention to your visuals than you.
If public speaking is on your list of top fears, remember that practice makes perfect. It sounds simple, but being prepared for a speech is the best way to ensure you’ll nail it. Practice will also make you more comfortable.
What steps do you take to deliver a good speech? Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHetoricBlog.
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