A friend recently asked me for advice about an upcoming speaking engagement. She’s knowledgeable on the topic, confident, and certainly not shy, but most people simply are not comfortable speaking in front of an audience. I don’t mind it – never have. I suppose I get that from my dad, who can speak off-the-cuff to a couple hundred strangers on nearly any topic at a moment’s notice. Here are a few tips I’ve learned through personal experience as well as watching really good and really bad speakers over the years.
Dress attractively, but comfortably. If your high heels are killing you or your earrings are too heavy you’re going to be distracted.
If you tend to fuss with your hair, twirl your rings, or tug at a short shirt or low-cut top remove the temptation beforehand. Put your hair up or pull it back, take off your rings, and dress in something that never needs adjusting.
Slow down. Speak much slower than you would during a normal conversation so that every word can be heard.
Beware the monotone. Once you are able to slow down it’s natural to let emotion leach from your speech. Emphasize the most important words in the sentence and remind yourself to let your voice rise and fall naturally.
Don’t be afraid of silence. A short pause now and then is perfectly acceptable. It lets important points sink in, and catches the attention of any minds that may be drifting. And it’s much better than filling the silence with an “um”.
Smile, frown, furrow your brow, tilt your head, sigh. Use your hands (just a little, not a lot unless you’re pointing out visual aids). Show emotion and connect with your audience. Meet their eyes – don’t look over their heads at the back wall of the room. Really. They can tell.
Practice, practice, practice. Read books to kids. Sign up to be a lector at church. Chair a committee or run for an office in an organization you belong to.
If you really need to start off small sign up for webinars and/or Google hangouts that interest you.
How comfortable are you with public speaking? What details make a difference in your comfort level? What tips have or haven’t worked for you in the past? I’m linking up today with Angie for List-It Tuesday at Real Life at Home as well as at Crystal & Co‘s Mommy Solutions, so please stop by and check it out!