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The secret to good public speaking

Updated on May 8, 2011

For those who aspires to be successful in life, there is no escaping that you have to speak in front of a group of audiences. Your first exposure will be most probably in your college or university days. You will have to make multiple presentations of your projects to your college mates and your lecturers throughout the duration of your study.

Your subsequent exposures will be when you start job hunting. During your job interviews, you have to be a good speaker in order to convince the panel of interviewees that you are the candidate they are looking for.
When you succeed in getting the job and if you aspire to climb up the ladder to higher positions in your corporation, you have to prove that you can speak, lead and manage well. You have to be able to speak well in front of your co-workers, your subordinates, your managers and your customers. Therefore it is really important to learn the skills of public speaking.

Tips on public speaking

  • Know your audience – Even before you start preparing your presentation materials, know and understand who your audience are, what are their needs, what interests them and what they are looking for. Make sure that your presentation contents matches to their needs. Ensure the contents of your presentation are in logical sequence as you do not want to end up being disorganized and confusing during the actual presentation.

  • Practice makes perfect – Memorize the key contents Practice and practice the whole presentation at home by yourself, in front of your family or your friends. Get their invaluable feedback on how you can improve. If alone, videotape yourself, view the tape and look for areas where you can improve. Keep practicing as many times as you can until you feel you are ready and confident.

  • Know the correct body language – During practice, observe your body language. The golden rules of body language are:
  1. Do not sit down during presentations
  2. Do not stand still in one position. Walk and move about.
  3. Make use of facial expression or hand gestures appropriately
  4. Do not bend down your head to read from your notes. You should be glancing now and then towards the key points in your presentation slides to guide you along.
  • Speak confidently - Speak with confidence. Except for those born with the gift of the gab, many of us are self-conscious and lack confidence in ourselves.  Without self confidence, the feelings we will experience before the presentation starts includes:-
  1. Fear
  2. Tension
  3. Self-consciousness
  4. Tension
  5. Butterflies in the tummy
  6. Rapid heartbeats
  7. Dryness in the mouth
  8. Perspiration and wetness
  9. Uncomfortable
  10. Very disorganized thoughts
  11. Near panic

So if you are undergoing a multitude of these feelings, how well do you think your presentation will go? The most important thing is to have confidence in your own self.

The Secret Key

The secret key to gaining confidence before the presentation starts is to take control of metabolism. Control your racing heart and stress through diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is actually natural breathing, the way we breathe when we were babies. When you inhale, your diaphragm should flatten and when you exhale, your diaphragm should move back to its original arched position which will then push the air out of your lungs. Keep taking deep diaphragmatic breaths many times and you will find your heart beat slowing down and stress flowing away.

  • Speak with conviction – Believe what you are saying and effectively convince your audience to believe likewise.

  • Maintain eye contact – If possible, make direct eye contacts with a few people in the audience. Make eye contact with each one for about 3 seconds each time. However, in some cases this can has a reverse effect as it can cause you to become self-conscious and loss of confidence. So if you are not sure you can do this, try to look ahead over your audience heads. This way you are not really looking at them yet at the same time, it provides an illusion as if you are looking towards them.

  • Introduce humor – If possible, introduce some appropriate humor into your presentation. This will make it a whole lot more interesting as well as making you feel more at ease when you are able to connect well with your audience.
  • Keep it short and sweet - Ensure your presentation is not too lengthy and yet able to cover all important elements. If too long, your audience will find it too boring and will stop listening after some time. Make sure you make a summary of your key points at the end of the presentation to edge them into your audience memories.

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