Many positions across all experience levels and industries involve some level of public speaking. Practicing and improving your public speaking skills can help you make advancements in your career and potentially identify a new strength for your resume.
There are several various skills that make a great public speaker, some of which include:
- Body language
- Connecting with the audience
- Interesting presentation
Here are several examples and tips to keep in mind as you work on improving your public speaking skills.
Work on your delivery
The way you deliver a message is important when speaking publicly. While the content of your speech may be perfect, the audience needs to be able to both hear and understand the information you are sharing. Here are some examples to help you improve your delivery:
Cut out the filler
Cut out filler words like “um” or “ah,” which might distract from your message. Bringing an outline of general ideas in your speech can help you avoid stumbling on your words when you’re not sure what to say next. You should avoid memorizing a script, however, which can be harmful if you forget or skip a word or phrase.
Speak slowly and enunciate
Speak more slowly than you would in normal conversation to ensure your words are heard clearly. Be careful to articulate your words.
Include occasional pauses to give the audience a moment to think about what you’ve just said. A pause can be especially useful right after you’ve made a point, explained something or asked a question. (Example: Pause for a moment after asking, “What type of leader do you think you are?”)
Use the correct tone of voice
Work on your tone of voice. Speak loudly enough for the group to hear. Use varying pitch to draw the audience in rather than a monotone voice. Listen to public speakers you admire or popular TED talks to hear examples of engaging voice modulation.
Use body language effectively
When speaking in public, body language can help support your speech as nonverbal communication. Keep your shoulders back and spine straight with a gentle smile. Move around the stage calmly, moving with the flow of your presentation. Avoid standing behind items like desks or tables, but do not be distracting to the audience by moving too much. Here are some additional body language tips for public speaking:
- Stand with a relaxed, upright posture. Avoid swaying or rocking back and forth.
- Gesture with your arms and hands to make a point or describe details of your story. (Example: Open your arms out to the group as you say, “This is something we’ve all experienced at one time or another.”)
- Move to different areas of the stage occasionally without turning your back on the audience. If you’re at a podium, angle your head and body toward different parts of the audience as you speak.
- Match your facial expression and overall energy to the tone of what you’re saying. For most professional presentations, you want to exude a pleasant, energetic disposition.
Connect with the audience
Making the audience feel included in the speech can keep the group engaged and help them connect with the information you are presenting. Here are some simple ways to connect with your audience when speaking in public:
- Make eye contact with the audience. Look at various audience members throughout your speech.
- Ask questions to encourage input from your audience. Call on audience members to hear their answers or ask for a show of hands. Listen thoughtfully or jot down notes to incorporate their responses into your presentation. (Example: “By a show of hands, who here has a hard time writing performance reviews for their employees?”)
- Use vocabulary, metaphors and examples that your audience can relate to. If the audience includes people from a variety of backgrounds, don’t use industry-specific language that some members might not understand.
Make your presentation interesting
Even a tedious topic can become interesting when it’s presented in the right way. Rather than just listing off information, look for ways to make your speech or presentation more engaging for the audience. Consider using some of these public speaking tips:
- Start with an exciting opening line like a surprising statistic or a funny anecdote. If you’re not personally familiar with the group you’re speaking to, you may also want to open with a short introduction about yourself.
- Include a personal story or a joke that ties into the topic you’re covering. Inject some humor or light moments into the presentation.
- Use visual aids like charts, graphs or photos to illustrate your points. Make sure your slides aren’t too text-heavy since this can distract the audience from what you’re saying.
- Create a callback phrase or ongoing theme to connect ideas throughout your speech.
- Outline what you’re going to talk about so the audience knows what to expect. (Example: “Today, I’m going to talk about three key factors for marketing success: positioning, promotion and analysis.”)
A good public speaker will be prepared when giving a speech or presentation. One of the best tips for how to improve public speaking skills is to practice frequently. Plan out what you’ll say in advance and read it aloud over and over. Start by practicing on your own, then ask a friend or coworker to provide feedback. You can also record yourself rehearsing the presentation to help identify and improve any potential problems with your body language or delivery.
When you feel very familiar with the material, you’ll be less likely to stumble over your words in front of an audience. Practicing often helps to reduce any anxiety you have about speaking in front of a group. While some level of nervousness before a big speech or presentation is normal, feeling fully prepared due to frequent practice can boost your confidence when the time comes.
Even if a job doesn’t require speaking at conferences or leading company-wide meetings, being a skilled public speaker can help advance your career. From managers and sales representatives to teachers, there are a wide variety of roles where communicating effectively and confidently is essential.
Use these tips to practice your public speaking skills and become more comfortable talking in front of a group. Whether you’re looking for a new job or you want to improve your standing in your current position, becoming a better public speaker is a smart career move.