Top tips for public speaking

For numerous people, public speaking is a fate worse than death.

For those who are brave enough to try it, they may like it, but only if well prepared. Knowing that it is not always the most talented or qualified or experienced individual who is successful, but those brave enough to market themselves, you need to consider whether the skill of public speaking would enhance your career.

If you have been asked to present a speech, make sure you spend the recommended 10 times the length of the speech in the preparation. Plan it as you would any proposal or strategy. Tell your audience what you will be telling them. Have a strong headline, byline (explanation) and closing line. Tell a story, personalise it by adding life and making it your own.

Here are some tips for planning your speech:

* Check that it carries the same thread from the start to the finish. It is fun to start with a story or theme, and then to string your audience along to the end for the punchline. They can join the dots along the way.

* Use mind maps to plan your speech, and then put these keywords on to cue cards.

* Only use visual aids if you are confident about how to use them, and do not let them detract from your presence.

* Practise not until you get it right, but until it feels natural and enjoyable. Test it on someone, and get their reaction. Check that the tone, modulation and volume of your voice are appropriate.

* Use of space is important – don’t wander too far off your central spot, rather anchor yourself. Manage interruptions and questions carefully. Have a good knowledge of your subject, speak from the heart and finish with a way forward.

* Self-deprecation is often used to good effect, as is deflecting off your audience. Let people laugh with you. Feed off your audiences’ energy. Smile and look as if you are enjoying the interaction.

* Use good body language. No hands in pockets or pointing of your finger. Use this platform for promoting yourself wisely, and don’t overpromote, or you will merely irritate your audience. Tell them not what you want to say but what they need to know.

* Most importantly, enjoy yourself and the audience will respond to that. While your audience may not remember all your subject matter, or every statistic, they will remember how you made them feel about you.

* Jenny Handley is a brand, high performance and leadership specialist. Visit www.jennyhandley.co.za; follow @Jenny_Handley on Twitter, or Jenny Handley Performance Management on Facebook.



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