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Public speaking is an essential skill in almost every field and industry — yet it's also one of the biggest fears cited by most people. Considering how intimidating it can be, it's vital to take time to master the art of public speaking. Rather than avoiding it, you need to accept that you will likely need to present information, give a speech, or simply talk to a large group of people during a meeting at some point, and it's better to be prepared than to be scared.

What Creates a Great Public Speaker?

Great public speakers are not born, they are made. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these are the qualities that you need to focus on if you want to become an excellent public speaker:

  • Confidence — Confidence is key to the success of any presentation, as you will need to seem comfortable with the information you are presenting and assured of your expertise in the field.
  • Enthusiasm — Your excitement about the topic will resonate with the audience. If you are enthusiastic and energetic, your audience will feed off that and feel the same way about the information.
  • Authenticity — Your authenticity is key to earning the trust of your audience. They must feel confident that you are providing them with accurate information.
  • Professionalism — The way that you dress and the way that you present yourself will also factor into your audience's ability to trust and respect you.
  • Adaptability — No matter how much you prepare for a public speaking engagement, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Being able to read the room and adapt or pivot as necessary will allow you to successfully navigate any event.
  • Awareness — At all times, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Keep a pulse on the audience—are they interested and engaged? Monitor your own actions — be mindful of your voice level, enunciation, and ability to concisely present the information at hand.

What Are the Techniques?

Fortunately, even if you feel that you do not naturally possess all the traits of a captivating public speaker, you can work to hone and define these qualities to improve your public speaking skills.

These are some of the proven techniques that you can implement to become a more powerful public speaker:

Practice Makes Perfect

According to Richard Rogers, practice is one of the most effective techniques to improve your public speaking abilities. After you have come up with your presentation ideas and compiled them in an outline, the best thing you can do is practice your presentation as much as possible.

Many public speakers start by running through their speech or presentation in front of a mirror. By practicing in an isolated or private environment, you will feel less intimidated by your surroundings as you begin to master your words and improve your body language. The mirror provides you with visual feedback and allows you to assess your demeanor as you deliver your speech.

After you have practiced plenty of times in front of the mirror, you can move on to practicing in front of a select audience. You could practice in front of your partner who can give you honest yet trusted feedback, or you may set up a smaller presentation in front of a few co-workers who can help you fine-tune your message. By creating a focus group of trusted individuals, you can improve your presentation for content, clarity and time.

Ultimately, practice is the best way to build the confidence required to deliver a presentation that resonates with your audience.

Impactful Display and Presentation

In the world of public speaking, sometimes words alone are insufficient. By creating a presentation design that includes visual aids and other multimedia tools, you can supplement the information you are presenting and better connect with the audience.

Visual aids that are commonly used as part of the presentation design include:

  • Slideshow Presentations — These digital presentations can help the audience move from one idea to the next, ultimately serving as an outline of your speech.
  • Photographs — Photographs are compelling props that allow your audience to connect with your presentation on a deeper level.
  • Physical Props — In some cases, physical props can be used to highlight your point or showcase the product you are presenting.

According to LinkedIn, visual aids are a powerful tool — but they need to be used as a supplement and not become a distraction to your speech as a whole. In many cases, less is more when it comes to visual aids and design presentation.

Becoming the Storyteller

By transforming your speech into a story, you will be able to connect with your audience in a powerful way. Storytelling has long been a part of the human experience, and crafting a narrative will naturally encourage your audience to listen and stay alert throughout the entire presentation.

These are a few of the benefits of using a storytelling approach when speaking in public:

  • It allows you to connect with your audience on an emotional level, making your content more relatable to their lives.
  • It adds a sense of authenticity to your speech, which is key to earning the trust of your audience.
  • It allows you to be more persuasive throughout your speech or presentation.

You can become a storyteller by sharing personal anecdotes from your own life or giving your audience real-life examples that they can better relate to. By adding a human element to your speech, you are sure to make a lasting impression on those you are speaking to.

How to Get Over the Fear of Public Speaking

It is believed that more than 75 percent of people have a fear of public speaking, and that fear can present itself in a variety of ways. Symptoms that people experience when they are nervous about public speaking include dry mouth, sweating, increased heart rate, nausea and stiff muscles, all of which are uncomfortable and have a negative impact on the presentation as a whole.

Yet it is a reality that most people are going to have to stand in front of a crowd and complete a presentation at some point in their lives, so it's essential to work toward overcoming that fear.

You can get over your fear of public speaking by:

  • Organizing your thoughts and presentation ideas well in advance.
  • Practicing as much as possible.
  • Enrolling in a public speaking course.
  • Taking advantage of opportunities to speak in front of a group of people.
  • Visualizing yourself doing an amazing job throughout your presentation.
  • Connecting with familiar faces in the audience to calm your nerves and center yourself.

Why Engaging the Audience is Important

When you give a presentation that is effective and impactful, your audience will remain engaged from the moment you begin through to the end. Keeping your audience engaged is critical to the overall success of your presentation, as it's the only way to ensure that you’ve communicated your message effectively.

Adding an interactive element to your presentation is one of the best ways to keep your audience engaged. Interactive sessions help to break up the presentation and provide you with an opportunity to collect feedback and refine your presentation in real-time.

You can increase audience engagement by:

  • Adding a question-and-answer session at the end of your presentation.
  • Taking a short break for small group discussion, giving the audience an opportunity to digest what has been said and discuss their thoughts.
  • Incorporating volunteers into the presentation.
  • Conducting polls during the presentation to receive and react to live feedback.

In today's world, building an inclusive and welcoming presentation is critical. In most cases, you will be presenting to a diverse audience filled with people of all ages, cultures, backgrounds and traditions. As a result, you must always avoid making assumptions about your audience. One wrong assumption will leave a portion of your audience feeling alienated or even offended. As you work to build your presentation, be mindful of the language you use and verify it is respectful and inclusive of your entire audience.

Tips for Public Speaking

These are a few of the best public speaking tips that you can implement quickly to create a compelling and memorable presentation:

  • Know your audience and meet them at their level.
  • Practice your speech as often as possible in advance.
  • Know your first line and your last line by heart. Do not reference notes during these pivotal moments.
  • Always make eye contact with your audience when delivering your speech.
  • Strategically pause to give your audience a chance to absorb the information and connect with it.
  • Be kind to yourself. Your speech may not always be perfect, but you can focus on the progress you have made along the way.

Hone Your Public Speaking Skills at University of the Cumberlands

At University of the Cumberlands, we offer a wide range of degree programs and options that allow you to select an educational path that incorporates your interests and strengths while preparing you for your chosen career field. All our degree programs are hands-on, skills-based programs that provide you with opportunities to sharpen your public speaking and presentation skills.

Request more information about our degree programs today.