Making Good Speakers Great

Simple Speaking Skills

I’ve taught public speaking skills for over fifteen years and have presentation tips coming out the you-know-where. But being an expert has it’s own set of problems, specifically, a tendency to get too deep and too detailed. I’m reminded of this every time I coach a speaker and they get major results from suggestions that seem very minor. Then I have to smack myself on the head and tell myself, “Doh! Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Here are some simple speaking skills that keep showing up and bringing value to my clients.

When someone asks me for presentation tips, the first thing I say is, “Rehearse.” You wouldn’t believe the improvement that comes from this simple strategy. Nor would you believe how many people don’t bother to do it. They say they don’t rehearse because they want to sound natural, but they just end up sounding unprepared. Rehearsal allows you to time your material, tighten up the language, smooth out transitions, and get used to how the whole thing sounds and feels. Every run-through makes it better. Why would you throw away that benefit?

One of the easy public speaking skills is finding the proper format for your notes. All too often, people try to speak from pages containing whole sections of dense text.  As a result, they can’t look up because they’ll lose their place. Then they become expressionless and there’s no connection with the listeners. Use at least 14-point font with lots of white space on the page. One of my clients places 3-4 lines at the top of the page, 3-4 lines at the middle of the page and 3-4 lines at the bottom. The rest is white space. He never has to worry about losing his place and feels much more secure and confident as a result.

When it comes to delivery, one of the simplest speaking skills is to stand on both feet. Sounds pretty basic doesn’t it? But it’s the first thing I look for when I’m coaching a presenter. Standing on one leg makes you look careless. Bouncing makes you look nervous. Rocking and swaying make you look uncertain. On the positive side, standing with both feet on the ground makes you look taller and stronger. You feel more solid and confident. And there’s a very good chance your voice is stronger, deeper and clearer.

I’ll finish my list of presentation tips with this: Take your time and speak with short phrases. The ability to be deliberate and control the pace of your presentation will solve a multitude of problems. Too many speakers are unconsciously pushing themselves. They end up going too fast, running out of breath, making unnecessary mistakes, speaking in a monotone and making themselves even more anxious and nervous. Get rid of that stupid rule about speaking whole sentences in one breath. Give yourself permission to breathe several times per sentence. You’ll feel much more in command.

Public speaking skills don’t have to be complicated to be effective. Sometimes simple presentation tips have a profound effect. If you make a habit of implementing a user-friendly format for your notes, rehearsing your speech as often as possible; if you practice the ability to stand on both feet and speak slowly and deliberately, I guarantee you will see noticeable progress in the quality and impact of your presentations.

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