EASY Public Speaking

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • Recognize the benefits of public speaking.
  • The boy scout way: always be prepared.
  • Links to public speaking Web sites.

Too shy to lecture? Too insecure to present?

We don’t buy it.

Every time you shout your order to a bartender, cheer at a game or call to a friend on the street, you engage in a form of public speaking.

Our advice? Toss out the excuses and start learning how to parlay your existing "skill" into face time at the front of the conference room.

Why bother? The benefits associated with a SharpMan’s ability to deliver an effective, engaging presentation have been known to catapult a career from cubeville to corner office. Other common residual benefits include:

  • Recognition within your company.
  • Recognition as an "expert" in your field within your industry.
  • Enhancement of speaking and networking skills.
  • Strengthened self-confidence.

Check out these SharpWork tips for getting these benefits in your court:

Four Steps for Planning Your Presentation

Step One: Start early. Good speaking requires preparation. If you take the time to plan for your talk, you’ll be less likely to be nervous and more likely to impress your audience. For your first presentation (or until you feel comfortable with public speaking), do it right. Begin preparing a week before the date.

Step Two: Plan your talk. Rather than preparing your talk in one overwhelming sitting, consider preparing a rough draft of your presentation, polishing it, and then letting it soak in overnight. The next day, pick it up again and "cut and paste" where needed until you’re satisfied.

SharpMan Tip: According to an old presentation adage, attention spans are short and retention ratios are even more pathetic. For this reason, try to limit the information in your talk to five key points. Keep yourself and your audience on track by creating a presentation that introduces the five points at the beginning, elaborates on each in the middle and concludes by restating them at the end. Again, keep each of your point simple and try to make each catchy, intriguing, and if appropriate, witty.

Step Three: Outline the basics. Make an outline of the major points in your presentation and transfer those points onto large flashcards. Remember, you won’t be reading your cards, so don’t copy down whole sentences. When making your flashcards, provide yourself with short key words that will serve as road marks for delivering the information you’d like to convey. Limit each flashcard to three or four points.

SharpMan Tip: If you have access to Microsoft PowerPoint or a comparable presentation program, consider using slides rather than flashcards. They keep you on track while keeping your audience engaged and awake.

Read through your flashcards and make yourself as familiar as possible with each card and what you’d like to say about each key word.

Step Four: Practice, practice, practice. Begin practicing the delivery of your presentation three days before the event. If this is your first presentation or a particularly important one, consider inviting a few friends over for a quick live run-through. Dry runs allow you to gauge audience response and comprehension as you’re speaking. Afterwards, ask your audience what they think should be changed, deleted, or added. Listen to what they suggest, but be sure to stay within your comfort zone.

Five Steps to Pumping Up Your Delivery

Step One: "Hellllloooo SharpMan!" An audience will usually remember what they see rather than what they hear. Thus, it’s time to get out the old iron and starch and don your most attractive attire. (For SharpGrooming shortcuts on this, check out Wrinkle-free: Ironing the Easy Way, Looking Sharp on a Budget: How to Clean and Press Your Own Shirts, Starching Work Shirts, Dry Cleaning Tips and More on Dry Cleaning.)

Again, why bother? Easy:

Before you even begin the introduction, your audience will have analyzed you and your speech just by glancing at your clothes. Is such a rash judgment unfair? Perhaps, but by understanding how an audience works you will be ahead of the game and in control of how they view you.

We suggest matching your wardrobe to your subject matter. For example, serious topics require a more formal wardrobe, while the opposite is true for casual subjects. The point? In public speaking, "you are what you wear," so be sure you’re communicating the intended message.

Step Two: Not too fast or slow. Remember the tortoise and the hare scenario? Mix in a little of each and you’ll have the ideal pace for your presentation. If you speed through your delivery, you will risk losing your audience as they struggle to keep up. On the other hand, if you drag it out, then your audience may lose interest.

Also, pace the timing of your visual aids. When showing slides, go by the general principle that each photo requires at least 10 seconds, but no more than 100. Consider ditching the slide or breaking it into segments if you go over or under that time frame.

Step Three: Look at the Naked People. Yeah, go ahead and pretend the audience is naked if that helps to calm you; or, alternatively, consider a basic set of truths: (a) you know how to speak and (b) you’ve been doing it for a while. Our point? Since you’ve got the basics down, relax and focus on controlling your listeners.

Making eye contact shows you are an interested, sincere and powerful speaker. How do you effectively use eye contact when speaking to a group? To avoid appearing shifty-eyed, choose four people to focus on as you speak. Pay attention to this group’s nonverbal communication.

Hint: snoring is not positive feedback.

If it seems like their interest is waning, become more animated. If one of them smiles at you, send your best grin right back. This helps a natural rapport develop between a speaker and his audience. Learn how your audience responds to you, and then mold and polish your technique to match that group.

Step Four: "Excuse Me, Excuse Me, Sir?" No matter where you go, there will always be those people who have to throw in a question or two. Should you happen to encounter an inquisitive sleuth, utilize these fail-safe responses:

  • If you get a question that will be answered later in your talk, don’t let it throw you off. Stay the course by saying: "I would like to address your question later when I cover…"
  • If you get a question beyond the scope of your talk, don’t let it shake you. No talk can address every point. Simply answer: "Regretfully, I do not have that information. Please meet with me after the presentation."

Of course, with both of these responses, make a point of always following up and doing what you say in order to maintain your credibility as a speaker.

Step Five: Gauging Your Audience. By measuring which parts of your lecture make an impact and which sections result in half-opened eyelids, you will be able to effectively improve your approach. Keep in mind that your audience will usually reflect your personality. Thus, you’re exploding enthusiasm and unconfined smiles will be contagious and your presentation more captivating.

This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
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