On a daily basis, we speak to and with a lot of people. Most of these interactions are limited to a person or a smaller group of people on the personal and sometimes also the professional level. However, there are times in our lives when we need to speak to an audience, perform and get our thoughts and feelings across. This type of interaction is also commonly known as public speaking.
Public speaking first came into picture with the ancient philosophers of Greece. They even elevated it to the level of a fine art. Moving forward to Hitler and Gandhi’s iconic speeches, although on two opposite ends of the spectrum, they were both very influential public speakers.
In the modern times, public speaking has a lot to do with psychology and fine leadership and social skills.
Public speaking is almost unavoidable. Whether it is during class presentations, work meetings or pitching business ideas to possible investors, public speaking becomes a chore that one has to experience sooner or later in their life. It is thus important for us to master the art of public speaking rather than trying to avoid it.
Importance of Public Speaking at the Workplace
The importance of public speaking at the workplace is currently on the rise. Employers today look for employees who can communicate effectively and work well with the other employees and while giving orders in public.
Public Speaking skills are not just necessary while making presentations, but can also be very useful when speaking in conferences, initiating networking conversations, during training events and sometimes even inter-organizational conversations. A poor public speaker can make a very solid proposal seem less effective. On the other hand, a person who is skilled at public speaking can help the audience overlook and digest smaller flaws and to realize the organization’s potential.
A powerful public speaker is thus a valuable asset to any organization.
Some Important Public Speaking Attributes
Confidence: We have always heard confidence is the key to success in motivational speeches, movies and in advertisements now and then. But with regards to public speaking, this actually holds true. A lot of what the audience perceives you as is based on the way you carry yourself, how you say and what to say. A few ways to build your confidence through practice are practicing body language, vocal toning and dressing well. This also leaves a good impression in the eyes of the audience.
Clear Articulation and Composition: Apart from just being able to carry yourself well, it is also of importance to have a good flow while you speak. The terminology ‘good flow’ here refers to being able to connect your ideas well and smoothly move from one piece of information to the next. Articulation also refers to the way you express your thoughts, the language you use, your go-to vocabulary, your vocal ability that could be heard, and pitch and your intonation. Often, people appreciate and value speakers who are precise and straightforward, the ones that come off as transparent and charismatic. Using unnecessary verbal pauses and fillers like “um…”, “aa…”, “so…” is certainly not appreciated.
Assessing and Responding to the Needs of the Audience: The type of vocalization that is effective also depends on the type of audience that you’re speaking to. Some audiences enjoy a more fact-based presentation more while some others could be moved by an emotional appeal. Humor can be an effective tool with some audiences while it’s taken as being unprofessional or unnecessary in certain situations.
Working with Technology: In today’s world of growing technology, it is important to be well-versed with the internet, media and digital tools. Presenters often have to make use of PowerPoint presentations, look up keywords and run programs while they’re presenting on stage. Being able to work well with technology gives you an edge over the rest of the crowd.
Following are a few other common practices that make a person a better public speaker:
Organizing a logical flow of speech and having a rough outline of key ideas you want to convey through your presentation.
Doing pre-hand research on the topics that you’re going to be presenting and having a knowledge of current events/ recent trends in that field.
Having a grand opening to grab the attention of the audience.
Avoiding a monotonous presentation is very important. Modulations can be brought through intonation and activities.
Preparing examples and real-life instances that relate to the topic of presentation.
Summarizing key points at the end of your talk so that the presentation is more consolidated and solid.
Maintaining proper eye contact with the audience and changing glances from time to time.
Practices for becoming a Better Speaker
There is a combination of three Ps in psychology to master the art of public speaking. These are Plan, Practice and Perform.
PLAN: To plan is to be thorough with the content and flow of your presentation. Proper planning before the actual presentation helps to minimize errors and have a clear flow of what can be improved. Presentations are much better received when they’re clear and fluent from the speaker and the presentation!
The classic plan of action would be to have an introductory part, followed by defining and characterizing the topic of presentation. After this comes the main discussion part which can contain examples, activities, more explaining and so on. This would ideally be followed by a concluding statement after which there is room for a quick Q/A session.
PRACTICE: Practice is an indispensable component that a lot of people ignore as trivial repetition. One can simply not become a comfortable, confident speaker without practice. Practicing a speech multiple times not only facilitates quicker memorization of the material but also helps in improvising and modulating the speech in order to make a greater impact.
The term flexibility takes us to our next topic i.e.
We can even go one step further by having a dummy run, which means practicing your presentation in front of a smaller dummy audience. This helps better the presentation and also ease any pre-performance nerves.
PERFORMANCE: After proper planning and thorough practice, the only task that remains to be performed is the actual presentation. The main focus of the speaker here should be to engage the most with his/her/their audience. A presentation is always more effective when it's delivered patiently but precisely. Using sentences and connectors like “I feel like”, “this is just”, “it's just”, “it might be”, etc. indicate confusion and uncertainty and are best to be kept away.
Thus, identifying and rectifying these minor issues through the way is a great starter pack on how to build yourself into an effective public speaker.
The art of public speaking can be easily cultivated through proper use of the psychological tools of communication and leadership and also with consistent planning and practice. For nervous speakers, a good thing would be to start small by practicing public speaking in meetings or with a smaller group of colleagues before taking on the large-scale stages.
Public speaking is indeed an indispensable skill in the modern world and is much valued in the corporate world to craft one's professional dreams and identity!
Hope you found this article helpful. If you or your organization is interested to learn more about such attributes and behavioral skills at the workplace, feel free to get in touch with us at RGB Training Services!