5 tips for becoming a better speaker

Need to make a speech at your company's annual holiday party? Look no further than these tips from expert speaker Cam Barber about improving your speaking skills.
Cam Barber

Need to make a speech at your company’s annual holiday party? Look no further than these tips from expert speaker Cam Barber about improving your speaking skills.

Public speaking can define you as a leader and can give you credibility. It’s important to take advantage of speaking opportunities as they allow you to influence more people and get your message across the way you want, so remember to leverage this opportunity any chance you get. Some people struggle with speaking in public and let their fears take over. Here are Cam’s top five tips for becoming a better, more confident speaker.

1. Understand the main challenge to public speaking
The biggest public speaking challenge is preparation. Most speakers are overwhelmed with the task of sorting their ideas. They find it hard to think clearly. They have no message. Knowing that you need to have a simple, logical method to prepare is an important start.

2. Use the message first technique to cut preparation time in half
Always start your preparation by clarifying your message. It should be 1-2 sentences only. Then test it out loud to be sure it’s compelling. How do you ensure your message is compelling? Research your audience by considering their wants and needs and their questions or concerns. This helps you a look inside the mind of your audience so you can craft a vivid message. The message then guides the rest of your preparation making it much easier to decide how much information or examples you need to persuade them.

3. Use your natural style to dissolve anxiety
Public speaking anxiety is normal. Our goal is not to eliminate nervousness – it’s to eliminate the thoughts that magnify it. The cure is to take away the idea about ‘performing’ and simply focus on communicating your idea. When people realise they can drop the performance and be themselves, much of their anxiety dissolves. Speakers are always more effective when they feel natural and comfortable. Knowing this helps reduce stage fright and public speaking anxiety.

4. Get great at the start and the end of a presentation
The most important thing when starting a speech or presentation is to make it clear to the audience where you are taking them. Human attention wanders. The way you open a presentation plays a big part in capturing it. Tell them the title of your talk (and make sure it’s interesting) and let them know the 2-4 key areas you will cover. The universe has no end. This is why we crave a great end to things. In movies, books and presentations. Plan your ending. Your last words can crystallise your message and activate your audience.

5. Know how to navigate disasters
Most presentation ‘disasters’ aren’t as bad as we think. And the way we handle them determines whether the audience sees it as a problem or not. Recently, the director of the Transformers movies, flubbed his lines and got so embarrassed he walk of stage. It made (embarrassing) front page headlines. If there is a problem, you stop. Smile and name the problem. Then the audience is smiling at it too. Now you are viewing the problem together. That’s a connection with your audience. Many presenters are so polished and rehearsed but make no connection with their audience. Even if the slides don’t work, smile and explain the 3-4 key ideas from memory. They might cheer you for a shorter presentation.



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