Basic Public Speaking

Basic Public Speaking

I was in ninth grade when I did my first public speaking.  I first did the program at my church youth group. I apparently did all right because a few weeks later, I was asked to make the same presentation to the Men’s group. It probably wasn’t because I was such a great speaker. I suspect the person who was supposed to do the program couldn’t make it and none of the men in the group wanted to do it themselves.

Being willing to speak in front of a group helped me develop my public speaking skills. We all have to start somewhere. And as with other skills, the more you speak in front of groups, the better you become.

Ten Guidelines for doing a great talk

1. Know your subject well. Don’t read it. Don’t memorize. Just speak naturally. Don’t think about making a SPEECH. You are doing a TALK. That’s more like a friendly conversation with a group of people. If you become a political, you should do a lot of talks, and only occasionally make a speech.

2. Know your audience. What are they expecting? What would they be interested in? Everyone enjoys a good story,  so if you can fit in a story that is really related to your topic, practice telling it.  Never just include a joke to make people laugh. Yes, many speakers do this and they shouldn’t.

3. Speak loud enough, clearly enough, and slowly enough for everyone to hear you. Maintain eye contact. Look at one person for at least a full sentence before looking at someone else.

4. Sure you’ll feel a little nervous. Everyone does. Try to turn your nervousness into energy.  Some people say they only do a good job when they feel a little nervous.

What you want them to see is that you are confident, and you are really excited about the subject. You will feel more confident if you are dressed up a little, but you don’t need to overdo it. Share your enthusiasm. Smile and look at people as you talk to them.

5. If you decide to use a visual like a chart, be sure to make it large enough for everyone in the room to see. Try sitting in the back of the room and see what it looks like.  If there is a black board, you might write in large letters, the title of your talk, and the three or four main topic. It’s like having your notes where everyone can see them. If you get lost, go to the next point.

6. If you are tempted to do a Power Point presentation,  Think twice. Most people have had to sit through so many of these that they have learned to hate them. Your audience is likely to look at the screen instead of at you. You want them to listen, not read what’s on the screen. Yes, there are a few occasions when there’s a good reason to use Power Point, particularly to display a few pictures or diagrams. Then turn the thing off.

7. You might begin by thanking them for inviting you to talk. Then you might tell them how you got interested in the subject. It is always a good idea to tell  them what you’re going to talk about. That’s like reading your three or four main topics. The topics might be questions that you will answer.

Tell your listeners if it’s OK for them to ask questions in the middle of the talk or ask them to please hold their questions  until the end.

8. Some speakers like to ask the audience questions. You might ask everyone who knows the answer to raise their hand or you can get one or several people to answer the question. If you are talking about global warming, you might ask three people to share something (not everything) they know about the causes of global warming.

9. Watch the time. Have a watch or clock or someone to wave at you when you have three minutes to go. Listeners will get fidgety if you go on too long. You might need to finish your last topic quickly, and then ask for questions.

10. Wait an hour or two after you give your talk and evaluate it. How did you feel. Do you think the audience learned something? Did they enjoy it?  What would you do differently if you did that talk again?

Every time you evaluate how well you did something, you find ways to improve.


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