By Lenny Laskowski, leading authority on public speaking and a national best-selling author, keynote speaker, and seminar leader
Most leaders today are often evaluated by their abilities to speak effectively. If you listen to effective leaders, one of the skills they possess is their ability to speak in public. Becoming a better speaker is a learned skill and an art. Many of today’s leaders were not good public speakers earlier in their careers.
Unlike reading and writing, public speaking is not one of those basic skills we are taught during our school years. To those with no public-speaking experience, often they feel their only option is to write out their entire speech word-for-word and memorize it. Of course, that’s not an easy task, and it’s time-consuming. Furthermore, most of us don’t write like we speak. So when we try to speak the words we wrote, it feels — and sounds — awkward.
As a result, many of us fail at our first public-speaking assignment, which leaves us with a lot of negative feelings about public speaking. As we get older we avoid public speaking altogether due to this first negative experience. The good news is, we can all become better speakers with the right tools and guidance.
Here are a few short tips on becoming a better speaker (and leader):
- NEVER MEMORIZE YOUR SPEECH OR PRESENTATION
Instead of memorizing your talk, think about the key points or concepts you want to discuss and just talk about them conversationally.
- USE CONVERSATIONAL LANGUAGE
Learn to just have a conversation with your audience. When we approach speaking as a performance, we are worrying more about what the audience is thinking and not focusing on just having a conversation.
- PRACTICE AND REHEARSE
Most people do not rehearse or practice their presentation. Practice your presentation out loud. Record your presentation and play it back and take notes. Listen to what you said and how you said it, make changes and adjustments, and then repractice and rerecord the presentation until you feel comfortable with what you are saying and how you are saying it.
- FOCUS ON YOUR MESSAGE
Do not focus on the audience. Focus on your message and how to effectively deliver that message. Remember, the audience wants you to succeed. If you find yourself thinking about yourself, how you sound, how you look, etc., you are taking away the focus on your message and your nervousness increases.
- TAKE A PUBLIC SPEAKING CLASS
The quickest way to improve your public speaking is to take a public speaking class. Read about how to do presentations and how to improve your public speaking skills. Work with a professional who can give you the proper guidance and help to improve and practice what you are taught. Becoming a confident public speaker is achieved only by focused effort and a lot a practice. The good news is your payoff will come quickly, you’ll have fun along the way, and the confidence you develop will improve virtually all areas of your life.