How to Be a Better Speaker

My first-grade son is working on presentations each week (in French, nonetheless), so we’re trying to help him be a better speaker. I guess it’s working, because he got a “check plus” on his last assignment! Here are some tips you can use, no matter what grade you’re in.

Sheila moderating social media panel at AWC Austin

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Even if you’ve talked on a topic before, go over it a few times for each presentation  you have. I make a point of going through my entire presentation, slides and all, to ensure that I know what to say on each and allow plenty of time for questions and comments throughout. The more you practice it, the less you have to use your notes.

2. Don’t Read Notes

Speaking of those notes, don’t use them. Consider them your safety blanket, but you should know your presentation well enough to not use them much. If you’re new to public speaking, you may want to start out using them, but the less you do, the more confident you’ll appear, even if it’s not true.

3. E. Nun. Ci. Ate.

I talk really fast when I’m excited. Which is all of the time. But I have to make a deliberate effort to slow down when I give a speech or teach a seminar. I have a very different tempo when I’m speaking in front of a crowd. Q&A? That’s a different story.

I was in plays in high school, and we learned this alliterative tool to help us speak clearly onstage (I actually didn’t know its origins until I looked it up here):

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison with a life-long lock
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big, black block

So now before a presentation I say this, fully stretching my lips and enunciating every word. Not in front of the crowd. In private.

4. Have a Good Presentation

You probably don’t want people staring at you for 45 minutes, so you’ll need an appealing presentation to divert attention away from you and onto the topic at hand.  Sounds like my next blog topic. Keep the text short and include images for appeal. Ensure that all text is the same size and font.

5. Teach ‘Em Something

The point of sitting through a seminar is to get out of work learn something. So give them something they didn’t have when they walked in, knowledgewise. People love actionable items, so give them something to do as soon as they get back to the office. Make them as excited as you are about your topic.

Photo: Flickr user TheSeafarer. Creative Commons 2.0.

About Susan Payton

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing copy, blog and article writing. She is the blogger behind The Marketing Eggspert Blog, and also writes on Small Business Trends, Growth University and BizLaunch. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing. Susan Payton on Google+!