Tips to improve your public speaking skills

Like it or not, public speaking is one of your responsibilities when managing your small business. As the owner, you’ll be expected to address the staff, lenders, investors, partners, key stakeholders and even the media.

If the thought of talking to a large group of people is terrifying, relax because you’re not alone. Speaking while all eyes are on you and a captive audience is hanging on your every word isn’t a task for the faint of heart.

However, you can’t let your fear stop you from giving the occasional speech. When it’s time for a presentation, you have to push your doubts out of your mind and do an excellent job. To help you prepare for your next public speaking event, here are a few helpful tips you should keep in mind.

Dress to impress
You could give the best speech of your life, but if you’re not dressed properly, your words will fall on deaf ears. According to YFS Magazine, listeners’ first impression of you is partially based on what you wear, so you’ll have an uphill battle with your presentation if you aren’t clothed in professional attire.

You should look your best when giving a speech. Pick your best outfit well before the event and visit a tailor if alterations need to be made. Having your clothes ready will also boost your confidence for your presentation.

Prepare on your own
Speaking in front of a crowd isn’t something you can do at a moment’s notice. Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group, told Entrepreneur Magazine that it takes practice to perfect your speech, especially if you didn’t write it yourself.

“Start practicing your speech well ahead of time at home. Try to get comfortable with the material and learn where you should be forceful and where you should use a lighter tone. Above all, you should prepare to be yourself. Often when someone delivers a speech that was written for them by somebody else – politicians come to mind – it sounds too suave and premeditated,” said Branson.

One way to improve rehearsals is to film yourself so you can get a feel for how you’ll look and sound. Watch the video carefully to determine how you can tweak your speech and improve your cadence to ensure that you sound natural without boring listeners.

Alternatively, you can practice in front of a small audience comprised of your friends, family members and trusted advisors. Ask for honest feedback and constructive criticism because you need to hear what others think if you’re actually going to improve.

Have confidence
The Direct Selling Education Foundation points out that confidence can make a world of difference when giving a speech. You need to own your position as the group leader by taking the reins of the situation. Make eye contact with audience members and speak in a measured tone to demonstrate that you aren’t nervous.

What about if you’re terrified? Fake it because almost every other speaker does as well.

“The writer Mark Twain, who knew a thing or two about making a good speech, said: ‘There are only two types of speakers in the world: 1) the nervous and 2) liars,'” said Branson.

Everyone’s been in a situation in which they’ve had to act as if they were comfortable without actually being so. The best action you can take is to relax by taking a few deep breaths and slowly work through the material.

Take a drink
It’s difficult to make it through an entire speech without making a few mistakes or losing your train of thought. However, even the smallest flubs can ruin your presentation and cause audience members to think ill of you. In some cases you’ll have to buy yourself time to get yourself back on track and focus on the topic at hand.

The best way to take a moment for yourself is to stop and take a sip of water. The audience understands that you need to quench your thirst after speaking without a break, so members won’t think anything of the occasional sip from a glass. If you’re ever stuck during your speech, wait for the natural end of your current talking point and then drink. The few seconds it takes to raise your glass, drink from it and then return it to the podium should be sufficient for organizing your thoughts.

Learn from it
There’s always going to be another speech, so you should start getting comfortable in front of an audience. What’s more, you should view every presentation as a valuable experience that will help you grow as a professional by improving future discussions.

How do you prepare for public speaking?

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