“Am I using the right word?”, “Do I sound right?”, or “Are they judging me for pausing too long?” Do these questions sound familiar to you? Yes, we’re talking about one of the greatest fears of most people: public speaking.
When you’re placed in front of a group of strangers, everything amplifies. From every gesture you make to each word you utter from your mouth. Indeed, not many of us are blessed with the talent to speak confidently in public speaking. However, it’s a skill that is utilized in every possible social matters. Whether in big corporation or small-scale startup, the ability to articulate your thoughts well is an art that should be mastered by anyone who wishes to be successful in their careers. If you think that you’ll never have to present in front of people, think again.
Sure, there will always be some people who enjoys speaking. But those who hate it are definitely not alone. Here’s how you can sound smarter and more professional when you speak.
1. Prepare and practice speaking more
In basic education, we are taught that “practice makes perfect” which is true. Practicing more will always be the key to improvement as speaking is a skill. And a skill can be honed and improved.
Drop the idea that you will never learn how to speak properly and smartly. Drop the idea that you will always be the one who looks up to those who can speak fluently. It is never too late to start practicing. As quoted by Lisa Braithwaite in Mic, a public speaking coach and trainer, “a speaker who wants to serve the audience mostly needs to be well-prepared and have made time to practice out loud”.
Try this: go in front of the mirror and try pronouncing words that you find difficult to say. In this way, you get to see how you look while speaking. More so, listening to yourself helps you understand your very own words which is a key to sound smarter.
2. Support your argument with facts
To sound smarter, make sure you support your argument with facts from reliable sources. For example, expert opinions on the subject matter, statistics published by renowned scholars or government agencies. All these sources are highly credible and will help to make your points more convincing,
Considering the fact that we are surrounded by fake news, gone were the days that we can believe everything we see on newspapers. So, it’s absolutely crucial that we verify the source of every piece of information before presenting them.
3. Watch your body language
According to Inc., there are 4 kinds of speakers in the business world: the incoherent, the coherent, the articulate, and the eloquent. How the eloquent is different from the rest is that they “use language and body language to win the hearts and minds of their listeners”. For them, eloquence is not just about words.
Whether you’re speaking to a group or having a one-to-one conversation, your gestures play an important role. How so? You can make your words more convincing by using thoughtful body language. The audience are observant. Every movement you make including rubbing your hands against each other constantly, or slouching your shoulders when speaking is noticeable and it tells how confident you are.
To sound smarter and more professional, make sure your body language reflects that. It doesn’t have to be over the top. Try this: stand or sit up straight and watch your hand gestures. You can use them to draw attention when explaining key points. However, be aware that too much hand movements can be distracting to your audience.
4. Focus on your audience
When people are paying attention to your speech, it’s only right to show them the same respect and focus on your audience. Plus, they will lose interest quickly if you seem distracted. For example, you aren’t having any eye contact with anyone in the room or you have too many pauses during the presentation. All these small gestures give you away easily, especially when you’re in front of a group of people.
Next, understand your audience beforehand is helpful to determine how you should craft your speech. For example, If your audience are not from the tech space, it won’t be a good idea to use tons of jargon or technical terms. Instead, focus more on giving an overall view of the topic.
5. Control your pace and tone
It’s hard to define the perfect pace or tone to have in order to be a good speaker. But, you should always be mindful of your talking speed and not speak too fast. Carmine Gallo, author of Talk like TED, stated that 190 words per minute is the ideal rate of speech for public speaking.
If you speak too fast, you sound anxious and your audience would have a hard time trying to understand. If you speak too slow, your audience would be bored. To adjust your pace, try write up about 190 words and practice reading it out over the span of one minute.
Changing your speed from time to time adds a little spice in your talk. More so, you can change your speaking speed to give emphasis to important points. Key is, you have to avoid being monotonous so that you don’t sound dull.
Not everyone is born a good public speaker. It’s okay if you are not quite there yet. But hey, good speaking skill doesn’t come overnight. Keep practising and you’ll definitely see improvements over time. It’ll be worth it when you manage to nail the important presentation and impress your boss at work!