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Business // Thinking Smart
David S. Chang

How To Be A Better Public Speaker

According to surveys, the greatest fear in the world for most people is speaking in public. The second greatest fear is death.

In other words, people would rather die than speak in public!

Many people may not have to give speeches to large groups, but at some point in their careers, they may have to speak in public to their peers, bosses, assistants or other groups they are a part of.

Good public speaking skills can significantly boost your reputation as a subject matter expert, help advance your career and create opportunities. In addition, it can help get your point and ideas across by being a more effective communicator, negotiator, and in some cases entertainer!

For this two-part series we will cover tips to help you overcome any fears and become a better public speaker.

This week is about the preparation of a great speech.

* Know your subject. Great speakers know their topic inside and out. Having your material down cold helps you feel more comfortable in front of your audiences. If a speaker is not familiar with the subject and continues to forget what to say, the audience will not be engaged. If you know your topic, it will help you be more natural in delivery, enabling you to interact with your audience and help put them at ease.

* Know your audience. Who are you talking to? Giving the best speech of your life won’t matter if the speech doesn’t connect with your audience. What are the demographics and biases of the audience? When I am asked to speak, I want to make sure my topic is important to them and tailor the speech so they will get something out of it. It may be helpful to arrive earlier to get to know the audience. Speaking to people you know is easier than speaking to stranger.

* Know your surroundings. As part of your preparation, make sure you understand the venue you will be speaking at. Do you have access to a computer and projector? Do you have a podium? Are you on a stage? You may even want to visit the location to get a layout of the room or auditorium. Depending on the group, don’t be afraid to make any requests for any equipment you need. Knowing the size of the room will also give you an idea of how intimate and how energetic you will have to be to engage them.

* Know yourself. Practice, practice, practice. Winston Churchill was known to practice in front of the mirror for every speech he gave. He practiced his pauses, enunciation, and even hand movements. Don’t be afraid to get advice from others and get helpful critiques. Some people even videotape themselves to see how they would be viewed by the audience and make the necessary changes. Some speeches you may not want to leave anything to chance.

Next week we will cover the structure of great speeches which will help set you apart!

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