A guide to public speaking

A guide to public speaking

Qatar Living
By Qatar Living

Public speaking -- one of the most common fears many people have. Whether you’re a student or working, there are many different occasions when one may need public speaking skills. 

Whether you’re giving a speech, a presentation or recording a video for a large group of people, we’ve got you covered. 

Here are five important guidelines to keep in mind, to ensure you effectively deliver your message, and you overcome any sort of fear or shortcomes you may have when it comes to public speaking. 

1. Prepare and practice

To be nervous is extremely normal, but practice and gaining confidence after realizing you are thoroughly prepared helps reduce this nervousness, even if it’s a little bit. 

Doing proper research, asking yourself practice questions, taking notes, and going over them helps you gain understanding of the material you’re supposed to cover, unless your public speaking happens to be impromptu. However, prior preparation for planned speaking helps gain skills for future impromptu ones. 

Remember not to memorize speeches word for word though, as losing track of one word may ruin your memory and pace of the entire speech. 

Practicing material in front of the mirror or recording yourself and going over that recorded material also helps realize where you usually get stuck, awkward body gestures, and more. After you understand these various issues you may have, consciously avoid repeating such mistakes or gestures again while giving your next speech. With practice, naturally you should be able to overcome such previous ticks. 

2. Ask for feedback

The worst mistake to make is to think that there is no room for improvement, and that you have pointed out everything you need to improve on on your own. There is always space to improve, and people watching as a third-party may notice certain mistakes or have comments on things you never previously realized. 

Constructive criticism is important! Keep a note of different comments your peers may have. Reaching out to people who have experience in public speaking also may help. Through their own past mishaps and experiences, they’ll be able to look out for certain common mistakes as well as give insider tips and things to look out for while public speaking. 

Furthermore, looking for feedback can happen while you are publicly speaking as well. Look at your audience’s body language and reaction. Are they enjoying your speech? Are their eyes focused on you or elsewhere? You can accordingly change the tone of your speech, or even the material, based on your audience observations. If they’re bored, insert a joke or too! If they are not taking you seriously, toughen up your tone! 

If you want to go an extra mile, depending on the nature of your speech and where it is held, you can also ask your audience to fill out feedback forms at the end. 

3. Know your audience

At the end of the day, public speaking is to a wider audience, not just you, which is why it's important to take in account the audience's needs over your personal ones. However, this audience differs based on the topic of your speech. 

Depending on the group of people you’ll be speaking to, for example, students, professionals in a field, a certain minority group, and for what purpose, you need to accordingly shape your speech. If you’re trying to persuade your audience, you would need a more argumentative tone. If you’re trying to grab their attention and the subject matter is not very serious, you could use a lighthearted tone. 

Furthermore, it is important to understand their level of knowledge regarding the matter at hand. How many details do you need to give? Do you need to elaborate on the context of the matter? You neither want to confuse your audience, or bore them with too much information that they are already aware of. 

4. Accordingly use verbal language and body language

Both your verbal communication and nonverbal communication, body language, have a large impact on how your audience perceives the information you are trying to convey. 

Using a lot of filler words such as “um”, “well” and “like” makes audiences not only lose interest, but also radiates nervousness, which makes people think that the speaker is not confident in their material. This can lead to the audience not taking the speaker seriously. 

This is also why a good body posture, use of hand gestures, eye contact and speaking without stumbling is also considered important, as it radiates confidence in the speaker regarding the material they are presenting. 

Furthermore, making sure your pitch is not monotonous, your speech is paced, and you pause in between sentences also helps grasping the audience’s attention and good delivery.

5. Grab attention with a strong beginning and audiovisual elements 

Whether it comes to essays, speeches, or presentations, capturing the audience’s attention in the very beginning is extremely important. If they are bored in the beginning, it is very likely that they will not pay attention to the latter parts of your public speaking as well. 

Making sure you start with an interesting anecdote, a strong quote, or a surprising statistic, are different ways you can catch the attention of your audience from the very beginning, which will keep the suspense going as they will look forward to what is coming next. 

Furthermore, with the help of a slideshow, pictures, videos, graphs, etc, you can help draw attention with these audio-visual elements. By this way, you’re engaging the audience with more than just your words, but also other forms of ways to present information. It may also clarify and explain the information you’re presenting to a higher extent. 

There you have it! With these tips, you’ll be public speaking at ease in no time. Your crowd will be thoroughly impressed as well as interested, and public speaking will not be as nerve-wracking and difficult anymore! 

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