Over the past decade, I’ve worked hard to improve my public speaking skills.
Throughout that time, I’ve observed there are five essential categories that, when mastered, can elevate any speaker head and shoulders above the rest.
In this month’s column, I will break down those five elements and explain why each is so important.
Good speeches are usually built with a beginning, a middle and an end. But the best speeches, in my opinion, have a strong opening statement, a middle that builds on that idea, and then a conclusion that references the idea that was mentioned in the intro. This type of “full circle” speech takes your audience on a ride and concludes with a level of cohesiveness that makes it feel as though everything fit perfectly together.
As an example, if you were delivering a speech about gambling addiction, a powerful intro/beginning could be:
I placed all of the money I owned on red and took a step back from the roulette table. I watched as the little white ball bounced around the wheel, and I knew that, wherever it landed, my life would be changed forever.
This is an impactful speech opening that is likely to capture the audience’s attention and leave them wondering what happened next.
The middle/body of the speech could then talk about the problems associated with gambling addiction, and how serious of a problem it can be.
The speech could conclude with:
After bouncing around for what seemed like an eternity, that little white ball finally landed on a number: 11. It was black. All of my money was gone. And it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me, because that was the day I decided gambling would no longer control my life.
Eliminate filler words
Filler words are the unnecessary words and sounds we add between sentences as an alternative to silence. Words like “uhh,” “ahh,” “umm,” “err,” “so,” and “but” are commonly injected into speeches because amateur speakers feel uncomfortable with the sound of silence. But these filler words can be distracting for an audience, and can take away from the actual speech itself.
The first step in eliminating filler words is to understand which filler words you use. This can be accomplished by recording yourself practicing a speech, or doing a speech in front of a friend or family member and asking them to point out any filler words you use.
Within the Toastmasters program, there is an “ah” counter assigned to each meeting, and the purpose of his/her role is to inform club members how often they used filler words when speaking.
Once you’re aware of what your filler words are, you will begin to catch yourself using them when talking and it will act as a reminder to replace those words with silence.
Leverage body language
There have been several studies done that indicate body language has a bigger impact on the way a message is communicated then the actual words spoken.
This makes sense. If I was to say the sentence, “I’m having a great time,” with a low, monotone voice, while rolling my eyes and crossing my arms, it would be clear that I’m not actually having a great time. But if I’m smiling and I add excitement to my voice, it indicates I’m being honest and truly am enjoying myself.
Purposeful body language adds depth to a speech and helps keep your audience engaged.
Incorporate vocal variety
Vocal variety is one of the most underrated aspects of public speaking, but can play a huge role in keeping your audience interested in what you have to say. By increasing or decreasing the volume of your speech, you can quickly recapture your audience’s attention and bring them in with what you have to say.
Likewise, you can adjust your speaking pace by speeding up or slowing down. If you’re talking about running late to an important meeting and you were running to catch your bus and you almost missed it, you should pick up the pace to match the story. Or, if you hear some terrible news about the health of a loved one, it’s more impactful to lower your voice and slow down the pace of your speech.
Humour does two powerful things, it relaxes you (the speaker), and perhaps more importantly, it relaxes your audience.
Whenever an audience begins listening to someone give a speech, they often wonder whether or not it’s going to be an enjoyable experience. If the speaker can make them laugh, especially early on, it relaxes the crowd as they realize it’s going to be an entertaining speech to listen to.
If you can make your audience laugh, it gives you an instant boost of confidence as you realize the audience is enjoying themselves. Your goal should be to inject humour within the first minute of your speech.
If you can master these five areas, I truly believe you will become a phenomenal public speaker.
I hope these tips help you tackle difficult audience questions you may face in the future.
If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel and if you’re interested in my course, Mastering The 5 Essentials Of Public Speaking, check it out here.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.