As a good leader in an organisation, you may not have to make formal presentations, but there will be plenty of times when good speaking skills could advance your career.
If you learn how to speak well in meetings and in groups, you open many doors of opportunity. Conversely, if you fail to learn some essential skills, many doors will remain closed to you.
You never know when you will be asked to speak in public. When you do, you will have a chance to make a favorable impression on a senior executive or team members. While everyone is always hoping for a big career break, it is only those who have prepared for opportunity well ahead of time who will be able to benefit from one when it finally shows up.
The good news is that speaking well in public is a learned skill, and through preparation, practice, and persistence, you can overcome timidity, shyness, and nervousness. Fortunately, too, there are resources like the Presentation Training Institute that can help you improve business communication.
6 Ways to Become a Better Speaker
While some people may appear to have a natural gift for speaking well in front of an audience because of their extroversion, making a good presentation is actually a learned skill.
Here are some of the primary ingredients in an effective talk:
Prepare ahead of time, doing plenty of research to pepper your talk with interesting facts and figures. The most boring speeches are those where the speaker fails to inform or inspire the audience with interesting information.
- Play the part.
Pay attention to how you dress and your use of body language. There is a distinct difference between listening to somebody who is sharply dressed versus somebody who has no idea how to dress well. Body language, too, has a subconscious impression on listeners. Stand strong with your shoulders back and your chest out and look people in the eye. If you find it difficult to keep your arms by your side, use strong gestures rather than keeping your arms pinned behind your back or crossed in front of you.
- Start and Finish Strong.
A fascinating talk always starts with something to intrigue the audience and lock in their attention. Just like the first few lines of a good book grabs you making you want to find out more, a good speech grabs you with a startling fact or interesting story.
There are many ways to open your speech in an interesting way:
- You could quote a statistic.
- You could refer to a little-known fact.
- You could share a personal story.
A powerful opener will help you get instant attention, provided, of course, if what you have to say resonates with your listeners.
As you are winding up your speech, try to finish on a high note, say something to inspire people to take action or think more deeply about what you’ve said.
You can’t hope to become a confident speaker without practice. Even if you are a world authority in your field, your words will come out awkward, hesitant, or stilted unless you have practiced often.
The best way to practice is by joining a speech club or organization. Toastmasters, for instance, helps aspiring speakers get plenty of practice and learn from feedback.
Another way to get plenty of practice is by finding speaking opportunities. For instance, you could join a volunteer group that serves your local community where speaking is part of the job description or offer to lead team meetings.
- Engage with your audience.
When you speak to a large group you may feel a sense of isolation. You can end this feeling of discomfort by creating a degree of participation, engaging with your audience as you speak. Ask them questions, and encourage them to ask you questions.
- Speak confidently.
The use of certain words or phrases can make you sound as if you lack confidence and are unsure about what you are saying. They diminish your perceived authority.
Here are some weak words that you should avoid using:
- “I think…”
- “I just want to mention…”
- “It’s possible…”
- “I’m not sure, but…”
Another way to sound as if you lack confidence is by speaking too quickly. It’s fine to pause to gather your thoughts as listeners need the space to absorb what you had to say.
Above all, don’t read from notes. This is possibly the worst way to win over an audience. You will not sound natural, sincere, or authentic. It’s not important that you express your spoken words exactly the way you wrote them down in your speech; simply have a mental map of the main points and feel free to improvise as you go along.
You won’t sound confident if you come across as a whiner instead of as a proactive solution-finder. Think and talk in a positive way rather than make your speech into a litany of complaints. Focus on solutions to inspire people rather than harp on lingering problems.
Finally, transform your nervous energy into dynamic energy, speaking passionately about your topic.
Benefits of Speaking Well
There are numerous benefits of speaking well in an organization, particularly if you speak to large groups in your organization.
Here are a few opportunities that might arise:
- You might be offered a different position in the company with better opportunities.
- You might get promoted to a higher position in your current role.
- You might raise awareness about something that needs to be addressed.
- You might inspire your team to perform much better than ever before.
By preparing your public speaking skills ahead of time, you will be ready to meet opportunity when it comes.