How To Become An Excellent Public Speaker
“My own secret to effective public speaking is to consider it merely a way of sharing my thoughts, the public speech being, in real terms, only a modified form of conversation.”- Yomi Garnett
The Amazing Secret To Verbal Brilliance
Whether you are speaking publicly for the twentieth time, or whether you are doing it for the first time, for most people, it remains an exercise they approach with some trepidation and nervousness. Most people seem to think good speakers are in possession of some secret knowledge that makes them skillful in speaking. Nothing could be further from the truth. I speak, and I write for a living. This means that I’m constantly on the lecture circuit, all the year round, speaking to groups of people of very disparate backgrounds, and of every conceivable description and disposition.
Indeed, I do have a secret. It is, however, so simple as to border on the ridiculous. My secret is simply this: By a conscious act of my will, I regard each episode of public speaking as being no different from any other form of ordinary, day-to-day discourse. To put it in even simpler terms: I consider it merely a way of sharing my thoughts with other people.
Insist On Speaking Only Plain English
At any speaking engagement, anyone who is not truly communicating with his audience is merely engaging in ineffectual talk. Put in other words, the essence of the public speech is to communicate and not to impress. Make every effort to avoid the inflated word. The right word, which, more often than not, is the one with which your listeners are quite familiar, is most often a very simple word. For some inexplicable reason, most people have a tendency to throw in words that are either not in common usage, or even words that have only recently gained a certain popularity. I have just thrown in a perfect example with the uncommonly used word “inexplicable.” The word “unexplainable” would have sufficed, wouldn’t you agree? It would appear that people do this either to sound current and up-to-date, or simply to impress the audience. Unfortunately, some of these “big” words do nothing to improve our ability to communicate.
The human ego is also a factor in the tendency towards fancy language, with some speakers thinking that the bigger the words they use, the more important their subject matter and themselves appear. Try your utmost best to avoid pompous language. You will be better received and better understood if you avoid “trendy talk.”
Avoid “Empty” Words
These are also called ‘vacuous’ words, and they are words and noises that add nothing to what we are trying to say. They merely clutter up what we are trying to say, and this means they also clutter up what the audience is hearing. People use these words because they serve as ‘oral crutches,’ and can be handy when one is stalling. However, if we become dependent on them, falling back on them each time we need to cover up our inadequacies, our speech will always limp along, almost as if it was truly on crutches! The worst offender is “You know.” Another offender is “Basically,” while yet another is “Whatever.”
Sample sentence: “When you called, I was out shopping or whatever.”
Noises have also crept into our speech. Offenders include: “ehm,” or “ahm.”
How To Break These Bad Habits
1. Listen to yourself carefully. Simply pay scrupulous attention to the words coming out of your mouth as you speak.
2. Think ahead to what you are going to say. Plan out your second sentence in your mind as you are saying the first. Quite often, most people get into the middle of a sentence, and then have no idea how they are going to end it.
(3) Enlist someone, your spouse, or a good friend, to tell you when you use a vacuous word.
Ensure That You Are A Master Of Your Subject Matter
If you take on a subject you are not entirely familiar with, you immediately subject yourself to avoidable risk on two fronts:
(a) Your audience may get bored if they are better informed on the subject than you are.
(b) You may become ill at ease because you are not at ease with your subject.
To organize your thoughts more easily, and more effectively, you should find this simple speech structure very useful:
• Tell them what you are going to tell them.
• Tell them what you came prepared to tell them.
• Tell them what you have told them.
If right at the beginning, you let your audience know where you are taking them, they are more likely to readily follow you through the body of your speech. At the end, attempt to summarize your most important points in slightly different words from the ones you used at the beginning.
Preparing your speech can take any of various forms:
(a) You can write out the speech and read from it, word for word. You will have to practice so well that you can glance up frequently to look at your audience. You simply cannot spend all the time with your eyes on the paper.
(b) You can speak from an outline.
(c) You can speak from notes on file cards. The advantage of this is that you can be quite spontaneous and not have to stare down at the script. But, remember that speaking is like dressing. Whatever you are comfortable with is what you should do.
On a broader note, you should do the following:
• Practice your speech several times to get familiar with the content, and become familiar with its style and pacing. You can either do this in front of a mirror, or ask someone to act as your audience for the rehearsal.
• Time yourself during your rehearsal. Find out how much time you have been allotted, and adjust your rehearsal speech to fill that time.
During Your Speech
1. Look at your audience. Be sure to look up from your notes, and each time, make eye contact, looking at a different part of the audience, so that the entire group feel they are being addressed.
2. Identify your points of emphasis. On your notes, highlight the ideas or phrases you wish to stress. This will achieve two things:
(a) Your emphasis will be where you intended it.
(b) It assures that you will not be speaking in a dull monotone that can put your audience to sleep, especially after a meal.
3. Assume the erect posture. This does not mean a parade ground stance, but certainly precludes hunching over the lectern, since this will constrict your breathing, making you uncomfortable. Adjust the microphone to your height so you don’t have to stoop. Talk in a nicely modulated tone into the microphone, and avoid shouting into it as this will make it harder to hear you. Make sure your mouth is in range of the microphone.
4. Inject a dose of humor into your presentation. Unless you are declaring war, always keep it at the back of your mind that, for most people, having to listen to a speech is almost a curse. Refuse to stay serious if you don’t have to. Even if your subject matter is a very serious one, your listeners will still appreciate a shot of humor. You have to be careful, however, as you are not likely to be a professional comedian, and tailoring your joke to your talk should be safe enough.
Once more, remember that public speaking is really only a modified form of conversation. So, when you talk in your natural style, you can be certain that people will understand you clearly, and that is what is important.
Know Your Audience
This allows you to establish a certain rapport with them as early as possible. Knowing who they really are, and their interests, will allow you to identify with their points of view much more easily, which in turn will allow them to bond with you as you speak.
Be Brief! Boil Down Your Message to The Bare Essentials
It is not very easy to be brief on a subject in which you are an expert. But the best public speakers always know when “to get off.”
America presents good examples of the utility of brevity in public speeches. The inaugural addresses of new presidents can sometimes be very long. On March 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison was sworn in as President, an exercise that eventually led to his death! This is what happened. He spoke for over an hour at his inaugural, in freezing temperatures. He caught pneumonia and died a month later. In contrast, the world will always remember John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech of January 20, 1961. Apart from a few other poignant words, he said: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Instead, ask what you can do for your country.” That speech remains one of the best remembered and most quoted in contemporary world history, and it lasted less than fifteen minutes!
Winston Churchill topped Kennedy’s record for uncommon brevity in speech, when, at the zenith of his public career, on October 29, 1941 he gave a speech at his alma mater, Harrow School, a respected boys school just outside London. This was what he told the boys: “Never give in. Never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Then he sat down. That was the great man’s entire speech.
The lesson here is to keep our speeches simple, even if they are not as short as Churchill’s. We should avoid convoluted sentences. Our speeches are important to us and to our audiences. The ability to talk effectively was central to the successes of these world leaders, as is the case with so many successful people in every profession. Brevity is the first thing we can learn from them.
The Right Attitude To Effective Speaking
Talk should not be seen as a challenge, or a grim obligation. It is mankind’s greatest past time, being the way we make connections amongst ourselves. Besides, it’s also one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. Think of every conversation, and every speech you have to make as an opportunity to learn something new.
Finally, regardless of your ability as a speaker, remember this:
1. If you feel you’re not good at it, you can be.
2. If you feel you’re good at it, you can be better.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Yomi Garnett is a physician, author, public speaker, and a world-class Ghostwriter. He is HOST of the popular Internet Radio Talk Show, DREAM THE LIFE, LIVE THE DREAM, on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network, in Phoenix, Arizona. Eminently regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished Ghostwriters, Dr. Garnett is President/CEO at The Global Institute For Human Excellence, Chancellor/CEO at Royal Biographical Institute, ROBIN, and Host of The Garnett Interview- America’s First Celebrity Newsletter Interview, an Online, High Profile and Social Media-propelled Interview series. He is Author : “365 DAYS OF WISDOM: A Daily Companion For The Soul In Search of Enlightenment.”
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