10 Public Speaking Tips To Stand Out At Work
Anyone Can Improve For The Better
By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer
As a professional public speaker, I’ve picked up many pointers on giving effective talks. But I learned the basics in my years as an employee: making formal presentations at meetings, or just answering questions aloud when called upon.
Improving your ability to speak in public has many benefits. It enables you to come across more authoritatively. And audience finds you more interesting, so they’re less likely to tune out your message.
Being a better presenter involves preparation and practice. I’ll share with you ten steps that can help anyone become a superior speaker.
1. Know That Being Nervous Is Natural
The first time I had to make a presentation at work, fear consumed me. My hands were cold as ice. Perspiration dripped down my arms. My stomach convulsed as I started my PowerPoint slideshow. Five minutes later my talk was finished. It had felt like the longest five minutes of my life.
Public speaking is the number one fear of adults in North America. It can be overcome by following the next nine steps.
2. Know Your Subject
Nothing leads to a nervous panic like not knowing your subject well. Confidence grows when you are sure what you’re saying is accurate and on topic.
This means you should do your research before preparing a presentation. Double check doubtful numbers or facts. Anticipate the questions you may get asked. You don’t have to be smarter than everyone else in the room, but you do have to show your subject-matter expertise.
3. Know Your Audience
Every presentation you make is geared to a particular audience. Find out who that group will be, then gear your material to their needs.
Will your audience consist of experts, or newbies? Will you be addressing your peers, or mainly higher ups?Are attendees all internal staff or external suppliers and vendors?
Your listeners want you to speak at their level. Use the kind of language and terminology they’re accustomed to hearing. Don’t use insider jargon unless your audience understands it. Use comparisons and descriptions your attendees can relate to.
4. Know Your Material
You’ve seen presenters hem and haw. They stumble over their words. Or lose their place and forget where to pick up. Awkward! Usually it’s because they don’t know their prepared material well enough.
It’s not that you have to memorize your content word for word. Instead you should have all your main points outlined. Make sure they flow in a logical fashion. Introduction, body and conclusion: that’s the standard structure.
5. Know Your Objectives In Advance
Setting goals for your talk permits you to hone your content. A presentation is a piece of strategic communication. You want your audience to do something specific when you’re finished speaking.
Decide first what you want to accomplish. Is it to inform the audience so they’ll have enough to make a decision with? Do you want to persuade them to agree with your point of view? Possibly your goal is to wow them with your knowledge ahead of your performance review.
6. Know Your Time Limit
Be aware of how much time your talk has been allotted. Then create your content so it fits within the limit.
Too often a speaker tries to jam a mess of material into their short talk. Did you know it’s harder to produce a five minute presentation than the same one done in 10 minutes? That’s because in brief talks, you must work hard to include only the important content. Rambling at length is out of the question.
7. Know Your Meeting Room
When you’re doing your talk, where will you be situated? You might be seated in a chair, or standing at the front of the room. There may be a desk or lectern (a place to hold your notes, if you have them) between you and the audience.
Scope out the room beforehand to see where you’ll be positioned. That way when you’re asked to begin speaking, you won’t look around frantically and get disoriented. One less worry to deal with.
8. Know Your Equipment
Ever tried hooking up your laptop to a projector when all eyes are on you? Suddenly the pressure increases. If you haven’t practiced connecting your equipment, and using it comfortably (e.g. changing slides using a handheld clicker, adjusting the projector’s focus), it’s a detail that could trip you up.
9. Know That Practice Makes Perfect
Public speaking, like any skill that you learn over time, gets easier with practice. So rehearse your talk until you’re more at ease with it. Time it and adjust your pacing, or alter the amount of content, accordingly. Revise the parts that don’t flow smoothly. Throw in a brief introduction that gives your talk a structure.
Feedback is priceless when you rehearse. Ask for observations on your body language and eye contact. Are you speaking slowly and clearly enough? The impact of your content depends, in large measure, on your delivery.
10. Know Where To Get Instruction
When it first became obvious that my speaking skills needed improvement, I turned to Toastmasters International. This self-help group gives you hands-on experience in the art of public speaking. They provide workbooks, exercises, and immediate feedback from your peers. Chapters are located across Canada.
If you’re pressed for time, watch some of the highest-rated TED talks. See how the speakers handle themselves. Then emulate in your own unique style.