Mastering skills: Public speaking

30 October 2008

I recently read an article on Lifehack about basic skills everyone should master to be able to get ahead in your chosen field. These are skills that everyone can learn with the proper drive and input. I agreed with all the points listed and wanted to expand upon a few. Today I will be writing about Public speaking, which is a skill I am still trying to master myself. In this post I will list how I am going to master this skill and what is currently working for me. I hope this will help others who are also trying to master this skill.

Public Speaking:

This ability is highly valued in the business world. Most jobs require you to be able to hold a presentation before a group of people and of course be able to defend your findings or opinion. This is a skill we all should master and most of us thankfully do, though some master it quicker than others.
Some people are born with this skill, that much is true, but for people like me it takes extra effort to master this. Because this is one of the main skills that I need to master in my chosen major I have compiled a list of things I need to work on to succeed. I find that making lists and taking things step by step often helps me stay on track and reach my goals quicker. It also makes it easier to measure my progress.

What to focus on:
- Speaking volume. I’m a shy person and very soft spoken to put it mildly, so often the one critique I get after and sometimes during presentations is that I am speaking too softly. This was something I was not aware of until recently because I always assumed that if I can hear myself than others can hear me as well. This was of course wrong! To remedy this I often ask a classmate who is sitting in the back to give me a sign when I need to speak louder. This has helped me quite a lot and I am now aware of the speaking volume I need to try and maintain throughout my presentations.

- Articulation. Next to the volume of your voice this is the most important point; what is the point of speaking loudly if people still cannot make out what it is you are trying to say? To master proper articulation I have developed the habit of taking my time to form the words properly when having normal conversations at home. Doing this makes it easier to turn proper articulation in to something that becomes second nature to you.

- Stay calm. For most of us the prospect of speaking before an audience (of any size) can be very nerve-wracking. This is when the shaking, dry mouth, black-outs etc begin. Getting over this nervousness is not a step by step process but in my opinion it takes practice to take away the nerves. When you give presentations often enough it becomes second nature to you and very soon you don’t even think about it, you just do it. The only tip that I can give you to help you calm your nerves a bit is to stand in the spot where you will be holding your presentation and look out in front of you. Take in the view, get used to it. Try standing there when the room is empty or when there are already people around, let yourself get used standing there in front of others and the nerves will dissipate. Trust me I’ve tried it myself.

- Preparation. All of the above will not help you master the skill of public speaking if you yourself do not adequately prepare yourself before every presentation. Don’t try to learn it all by heart but be sure you understand what it is you are presenting. So even if don’t know all the sentences by heart you can still say something. Work with cards on which you have compiled the key sentences and the different topics of your presentation. This will help you stay on track and can also take some of the nerves away.

That was my list, what's on yours

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1 spoke to me:

Patricia said...

Having taught public speaking for over 40 years, I would say the top nonverbal skill of a good public speaker is EYE CONTACT. You have to really know your material to be able to look at the audience. When you look at them, they believe you care about them and are not tied to your notes. Also, when you look at your audience, you can see if they are following you, if they understand you. So that's why I say EYE CONTACT is the most important nonverbal skill in public speaking.

 
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