Art of speaking

Speaking in public does not come naturally for most people. However, if you aspire to success, you’ll need to master the art of public speaking. Well, perhaps not master it, but at least be comfortable with yourself when speaking in front of a crowd.

The crowd need not be 500 angry shareholders at the annual meeting, it can be a gathering of sales staff, a church group, or even a birthday toast to a good friend. Speaking in public means that you have an audience and, more often than not, they are listening to every word you utter, which makes it important that you don’t slip up.

What follows are four easy tips you can use to help improve your performance with speaking in public.

1. Relax

The simple thought of speaking in public is enough to make most people nervous. The actual act of doing so will result in many people simply freezing on the spot! Their heart rate quickens, their hands get clammy and they seem to speak (dare I say stutter) incoherently.

The important thing to remember is that you are not in a life or death situation. You are merely addressing a few people with some words of wisdom (or whatever it is you have to say). Be it two or two hundred people, you should be delivering your lines in the same way. That is, don’t get nervous, focus on the task at hand and get the job done.

Understand that those in the audience know it is not that easy to speak in public and they want to see you do well. Use this positive energy and give a beautiful performance.

2. Know your stuff

We are often most nervous when we must do something that we

have not mastered. Few people are master public speakers, but most can do well if they prepare properly. The key to preparation is knowing your topic inside out.

If you are an executive at Coca-Cola giving a speech on the competition, you’d better know every nook and cranny about your company, as well as all the other soft drink companies. Take the time to make notes and summarize your ideas into small bites of information. All you need to do afterwards is remember the information bites and expand on them during your speech. If there is a question and answer period, try to anticipate possible questions and prepare answers in advance.

3. Know your audience

If you are addressing senior management about the company’s business strategy, you would do so differently than if you were addressing a group of high school students taking their first business class. You must gage the level of expertise of your

audience and deliver accordingly. After all, they have come to hear you speak, so what you say should be relevant to them.

4. Know the room

This detail is often forgotten, but the room where you will be speaking is very important. You should visit the room beforehand and familiarize yourself with the equipment and

layout. Then, work on the visuals of your presentation to make sure

they come across as intended. Talking in a 20,000-seat arena will require a different approach than talking in a 30-seat classroom.

A good trick is to sit down in different chairs where the audience will be seated. This will give you an additional perspective of the room and how to build a rapport with the entire audience, rather than just a few people in the front row.