I don’t know a single person, even a seasoned professional speaker, who doesn’t get at least a few nervous butterflies before they speak. But I’m also aware there’s a big difference between a few excited butterflies and paralyzing fear. Let’s review some of the main areas of delivery and strategy and provide exercises you can do to practice and improve.
First, make “eye contact” by scanning the top of heads in the room. If you have a room of 25 plus, the only people who’ll realize you’re not making direct eye contact with them are the person you’re looking at and potentially the ones next to him. Next, graduate to the forehead. Get comfortable with the forehead, and then make your way slowly to the eyes. It’s systematic desensitization.
Enunciation and pronunciation
How you articulate and pronounce words is important because people need to be able to understand you. But if you get a little nervous, you probably tend to speak faster and faster, until you’re not enunciating well and your clarity is going to suffer. Your audience won’t catch everything you’re saying and you’ll lack maximum effectiveness. Following are some ways to help with your enunciation and pronunciation.
The second tip has to do with pronunciation. In music class, I learned that the singers who have lyrics you can actually understand have something in common — they pronounce the consonants clearly, especially the final consonant of each word.
Paralanguage is everything other than the words in your speech. It’s your rate, tone and pitch. The rate is the speed at which you speak. The tone is the relative volume of your voice — are you loud or soft? The pitch is the natural highness or lowness of your voice — think high notes and low notes. The three combined convey emotion, confidence and power during a presentation.
The use of space in your presentation is important. Most people take a presentation space at face value — that what they see is what they get — or they walk into a room, see a podium and immediately gravitate there.
Gestures and movement
With the exception of a few extraordinary speakers, most presenters don’t do their best standing perfectly still. It’s hard to convey emotion if your body is rigidly standing in a single position.
Quick practice tips
The best way to improve on your public speaking is to get out there and do it! Then get it on video so you can review your delivery style.
To practice before a presentation, first record your presentation with just audio. Pay attention to the paralanguage and the enunciation and pronunciation. Also note the feeling. Does your voice elicit emotion? If not, focus on improving that.
Finally, watch the video with the sound on. This is where you bring it all together and see exactly what others see and hear so you can improve.
Brandon Hardison – Champion Strategies