If someone was to play an “either/or” game with me: You’re paragliding with your instructor dressed as a clown while a family of spiders is celebrating their daughter’s quinceañera around your nostril area (and they have piñatas) with winds blowing 60 mph. You also have a rattlesnake for a scarf and grasshoppers imitating your aviator glasses. OR – you can hold a microphone in your hand, make a speech at your brother’s wedding, and the nightmare stops. I would say: Bring out the rabies-infected dogs imitating customs officers holding a mammoth syringe when I land. And make sure I have a direct phone line with my deceased grandfather; I want to ask him a thing or two about death. That’s how I feel about public speaking. How about you? This is “How to be a better public speaker” 101. We’re marching through this together.
The “orator” title
It matters. It really matters. People often think the virtue of being an orator exclusively belongs to “important” public figures. Quite far off. You don’t have to be a prime minister, a CEO, or a college professor; how we convey our thoughts directly reflects our social status. You can be a teen tech genius with a supreme business idea and soft skills falling just a bit behind, someone’s aunt orchestrating a big wedding, a green auto mechanic setting up shop, or a mom calling for an emergency family meeting. It’s all the same. You need to be heard, and you need to do it right.
Always the upper hand
Let’s say you’re giving a product demo tomorrow morning. Will the product speak for itself? Is being a ventriloquist your forte? Brilliant skill. Also, not so great. Don’t have the confidence? Find it. Look for it in every nook and cranny until you find it. Let’s pretend I’m your potential buyer. You’re pitching, and I’m not buying. Why? You just don’t seem to show it the right way. You don’t have faith in your own product. If you’re not buying it, why should I? Obtaining a certain level of overall calmness and displaying a sense of confidence (even if you’re faking it) will most likely seal the deal. Calm and collected wins the race. No trembling. Eye contact.
Salute your anxiety
Jazz hands, anyone? Right before you go on stage, whether it be an actual stage or just a friendly sit-down, here it comes. The heart starts pounding, your legs quiver, your mouth – a desert, your mind an autumn fog. As romantic as it sounds, these moments of “stage fright” can inscribe the infirm trajectory of our self-worth indefinitely. How do we prevent it? We simulate beforehand. We build our confidence. Invite our friends over for a trial run. Practice our speech in front of a mirror. Always take notes. And do it again. We face our fears before they face us.
I’ve got the power
You want to know the secret behind the theme of “How to be a better public speaker?” It’s in the voice. The title says it all – You’re a speaker; You talk, and people listen. Of course, they also observe; they watch your body language, but the primary focus rests on your vocal cords. That’s your power, your channel of transmission. Belly breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) enables you to reach that most potent note, the assertive, the assuring, the almighty. Learning how to breathe from your diaphragm will ensure your voice does not thin out just when you’re about to reach that “crescendo” point. People place trust in people with good diction and a good presentation, according to experts from convertmore.com. All you need to do is practice.
See your audience
See them before you see them. It sounds a bit bizarre, agreed. Also true. What’s your target group? If you’re a social worker visiting a nursing home, will you be using slang? Understanding where you’re coming from is easy (at least, most of the time). Understanding where your listeners are coming from should not be overlooked if you’re planning on becoming a respected public speaker. Adjust the vocabulary and your thought process according to the group involved. Public speeches tend to induce “corrida” anxiety, so we consequently forget how vulnerable our attendees may feel. Our speeches are not for and about us; they should be designed and conducted in such a manner so that it exudes inclusivity and awareness.
Be the authentic You
Are you trying to pitch what could be this year’s best business app? No need to go full-on with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in your presentation. It will show. Be authentic. Your audience will be more attentive if you’re simply a living, breathing pile of flesh. Going overboard with being superior or inferior to your listeners won’t be favorable. Be relatable. Keep your vulnerable persona ajar when speaking in public. A standing ovation is guaranteed.
Our stance, hand gestures, and facial expression tell the story just as much as words departing our mouths. Nobody enjoys listening to an enraged speaker. Or a catatonic one at that. Find your body’s groove. It’s supposed to feel natural to you and soothing to your audience. Hypothetically, we don’t want to be portrayed as having a panic attack while explaining a possibility of a “multiverse” and CERN’s upcoming blackhole experiments to our students. Funky and abrupt body movement takes away from your story’s credibility, no matter how genuine.
Keep them on their toes
Maybe you’ve decided to start over at 50 as a freelancer, and you want to share your story. Good on you! But how do you make it stick? Literature methods. Prologue and epilogue. That’s what grabs the attention. Use anecdotes and your humor to open the presentation. Make that ending count and startle the crowd. And please, try to steer away from unnecessary fillers. It ruins the plot. We want Hitchcockian suspense, nothing less.
As a reminder
If you’re wondering how to be a better public speaker, remember: If Florence Foster Jenkins had the courage, so will you.