Yes, you did read the title correctly, I enjoy public speaking and I am an introvert! I am not sure where it started because as an introvert, I was a quiet child. I gave my first public speech in church at 9 years old about honesty. It was very brief, but I knew that I had done a good job. It was easy for me to speak in church because I know my church is true. I have a knowledge of that topic so it wasn’t hard. This is something I think people need to understand- if you know the topic you are presenting on and I mean really know it, not just the skim of it-your presentation will be so much better. I am in the process of writing a presentation for a group of students in the next few weeks. I am still learning ways to improve my speaking skills. Recently I attended a SCACE Conference for work and heard Deb Sofield speak about speaking. She is excellent and I already knew several of her tips and learned some as well. So here are my public speaking tips with help from Deb and others.
Know Your Audience-
The most important thing is to really know your audience. It makes a difference! I learned this week that I will be speaking to a group of 8th grade girls, I originally thought that I was going to be speaking to our new students enrolling in the fall. I had to change up my presentation to fit that audience. Know as much as you can about your audience. Make your speech about them- what they will learn, why it’s important for them to hear what you have to say. If you let them know what’s in it for them- then they will want to listen to you. Let them know the time frame that you will be speaking so they can be prepared. If possible, make it engaging and involve them. No one wants to just sit for an hour.
If you are presenting data, present it in a way that is applicable to them and why they need to know. I am not a data person so I need to know the purpose of the data and how it will help my college and most importantly my students.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
When you are putting together your presentation have a road map that shows what you will be discussing. Start with a hook and catch their attention and have a ending that summarizes what was discussed. Remember that we learn in 3’s so have an overall purpose to the presentation, 3 points to share, and an ending. This format will help you say what needs to be said without overdoing it and saying too much. If you use a visual- don’t just read it, use it as a background but know your stuff. The audience can tell when you don’t. Remember the audience is rooting for you- they want you to be great! Use webcam to record and watch yourself, this will help you notice things that you do that may be habits. I look up when I’m thinking and blink a lot, I hadn’t noticed that until the webcam! Rehearse your speech but don’t sound robotic. Rehearse it so that it becomes natural and like a conversation.
That Accent of Yours and Standing Up Straight
Speaking of speaking, watch your tone and inflection. Women have a tendency to go into high pitch when we get excited or nervous. Don’t phrase your sentences like you are asking a question as if you are unsure of what you are saying- women do this too right? I am a southern girl so I say Y’ALL a lot. I have to remember to use proper grammar and never use slang. My southern accent does come out, but using proper vocabulary helps it not stand out as much. It’s also about body language. Using gestures and being animated can help convey your passion, just don’t let it become a distraction. Stand up straight with your chest out. Take up physical space and use the room. Think of Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer and how he walks into a room with confidence. He’s not a big man, but he uses space to help him be in control of a situation. When you get nervous put your fingertips together as if you are holding a ball in your hands, this helps you to balance.
No one wants to listen to a robot- show your passion and emotion. Tell stories, take the audience on a journey. Bring them in. If you are presenting facts, tell what the facts will do for others, show your enthusiasm for your data, and be knowledgeable. If you can, be funny and inject humor. Be careful so that you do not offend anyone, if you are unsure of a joke, don’t tell it! Have fun! You were asked to speak for a reason and this is your time to shine.
Again prepare for this when doing your presentation and think of questions you may be asked. Write them out and answer them. There will always be someone that wants to be difficult, don’t ignore them or get offensive. Tell them that their question is interesting and you would love to speak to them after the presentation. Then move on to someone else. Answer to your best ability and if you don’t know the answer say that you will find out and follow up with the person.
These are tips that have helped me and improved my speaking skills and I hope they will help you as well.