So a lot of you have asked me this question, how do I become a better presenter? Not that I am an expert on this topic, I mean, I’ve never really won any speech contest (came a close second for a few times), but the fact is that, I’m content, satisfied even, with my ability to speak in front of people, and these tips are what, I think, will make you satisfied with your public speaking abilities too.
Now, I won’t start with the usual, “Be confident,” or “Look them straight in the eyes.” They will come in due time, but there are more pressing matters at hand. Before using those tips, you have to make sure you can:
- Impress yourself with your own speech:
Many of you are looking to improve your public speaking ability by seeking out feedbacks from others. It’s a good start, but it won’t make you love your speech anytime soon because some would say your speech is too boring while some would say it is not serious enough.
The thing is people have different definitions of what a good speech is. Your task now is to find out what sort of speech you admire the most. Is it a motivational and factual speech like Obama’s or are you more impressed with people who can inject laughter and puns into their speech?
To ease your task, you can just go ahead to TED.com and sample a few of the speeches. They are conveniently categorised with adjectives such as jaw-dropping, informative, funny, etc. I’m sure you can figure what adjective you want your speech to be described as. This process may take a long time and a few adjustments. Don’t be afraid of liking the wrong speech. Just go with what your heart is telling you right now. You can always change later.
I, myself, like funny, yet informative speeches. When I failed Springboard Speaking Competition, I was completely okay with it. I mean they wanted someone who can spew out inspiring stories, while I was there, laughing at my own jokes.
Choose the type of speaker you want to be, and hold on to it. The only person you are to impress is yourself, and interestingly, once you like your own speech, you become more confident while delivering it. It’s like at least you’ve got your own back, you know.
You think there would be a shortcut to this, don’t you? Well, there isn’t. And also remember, short cuts don’t always cut deep. If you really want to equip yourself with the ability to talk confidently in front of people, you’ve got to work your ass day in and out to earn it. Now that you’ve figured out the type of speech you want (you can always change it, relax), listen to them. Your brain can’t be creative if it doesn’t have any data. Feed it hundreds of speeches; and while you’re at it, imitate the speaker.
But wait…, you say, wouldn’t that make me a copy?
Yes… For now. No artist has become original without first copying the masters. Copy the shit out of those speeches. Mimic their hand movements, observe their stance, re-use their phrases, tweak them and create your own phrases. Practice in front of a mirror, or a friend, or your dog, whoever suits you.
Now, those are pretty general advice.
Say, you’ve figured your favorite type of speech and have been practicing for a few weeks already. You’re quite confident and you just got invited to give a presentation in class. It’s time for you to shine! Just fly up there, sprinkle your fairy dusts, and expect a good outcome?
You’re right; that’s not how it goes. You’ve gotta be prepared, especially if you’re new or not very skilled in this.
Lucky for you, here are some tips.
- Say what you mean:
Nothing throws the audience off more than a boring hunk talking about a boring subject in which the speaker is not even interested. When you plan your speech, it is of the utmost importance to choose a topic you like. Even if that’s out of your control, at least choose the style, the words, phrases, and content you like. I know it’s hard to stand up for what you believe in. You fear there will be haters, but believe me, the feeling of being brave enough to say what you mean outweighs the haters, always.
DO NOT try to talk about what you a.do not care about or b. know nothing about. No matter how good you are, people will still smell the fakeness and most tragically, you will hate yourself for the fakeness after the speech.
Also, a lot of Cambodian students read scripts that are written by their friends because they think they are not capable of writing themselves out of insecurities. If I were them, I’d decline to present at all until I’ve written my own scripts. Grades be damned!
Be true to yourself and your own abilities; that’s the first step to improvement.
The first time I went up on stage for a speaking competition, I spent the previous day rehearsing word to word until I felt quite sure I got it all right. Yup. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you are not feeling very confident, write the freaking speech down, and rehearse from dusk to dawn. You’ve got yourself to impress, you know! While you’re at it, also practice some common body language that will help speak for you.
- Stand straight or do a power pose. Watch this TED talk on a research about how people feel more confident as a result of their body language.
- Boom your voice. Practice speaking loudly and clearly to capture the audience’s attention.
- Do not be afraid to make eye contact (I like to think that people are very very interested in what I have to say, so to stop my self-doubts while on stage. It helps when you really believe you’ve got something interesting to say; hence, the previous points)
- Do not focus too much on your internal feelings: giving a good speech, to a certain extent, is to get yourself out of the way. If you spend too much time on your inner monologues, chances are you will forget what you are about to say. Focus on your content, and explaining it to the audience. After all, that’s the purpose of public speaking, isn’t it?
- Do not cross your arms: this is a turn-off signal. People will feel annoyed even if they don’t know why. Put your hands on the side, or move them around the way you like (jazz hands also work, if that’s your stroke.)
- And finally, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until your confidence goes up.
Last but not least, after a talk, do not beat yourself up for missing this part or that. It happens to the best of us. As long as you stay true to your soul, and impress yourself, everything is fine. You will get better by the by.