Want to improve your public speaking skills? We’ve got three places to start.
Much like being forced to go into work during a polar vortex, many people detest public speaking. While a lot of great information on how to approach your fear of public speaking is available, there’s less focus on improving said skills once the fear of public vomiting has passed… mostly.
What are career-driven professionals to do when they want to enhance their rudimentary rhetorical skills? Well, here are a few places to start:
Maintain your rhythm
Pacing is an essential component of any good speech. Although you probably hated when your mom kept pumping the brakes during your first installment of “How to Not Make My Insurance Skyrocket,” audiences detest monotonous, unengaging speeches.
Variety and emphasis provide a healthy flow, allowing listeners to join you on your riveting rhetorical journey, rather than slyly logging on to Facebook to see which politician is leading the “Race to Be Racist” competition.
Speech patterns are developed over time and can be difficult to self-assess. Often, working with another person or videotaping yourself helps reveal monotonous (a.k.a. boring) speech patterns that may be hindering your effectiveness as a speaker.
Similar to driving, you don’t want to slam on the brakes; staccato stop and starts can confuse audiences as to where your concepts begin and end. Ease in fluctuations of rhythm and pattern smoothly, just as you would gently lean into a turn on the highway.
Before anyone gets overly enthused about the sound effect button on Windows PowerPoint, this tip references volume. Contrary to some parents’ opinions, shouting is not always the most effective way of making your point heard. (We get it, you love us.) (Click here to tweet this thought.)
A multitude of emotions can be conveyed through the simple application of sound and strength. For instance, if you want people to focus on a certain point, lower your voice and slow your pace, as opposed to shouting your assertion.
A well-placed pause can hold immeasurable power, both in establishing your point and showcasing your self-confidence. The change in tone and volume will catch the audience’s ears and draw them in to hear what you’re about to say, rather than turn them off.
Just as blue eye shadow isn’t intended for everyone, certain speech styles are more complementary to some than they are to others. For example, a dry, quick-witted employee could be viewed as awkward and lacking authenticity if they began a lecture with an upbeat and giddy demeanor.
Not funny? Don’t try to be. We all have our ways of being humorous and engaging, but these traits manifest differently depending on your personality and the position you hold in the room. Personalizing your presentations means being aware of your strengths and weakness while simultaneously highlighting your strongest attributes.
Best option: be true to yourself, with a combination of learned lingo and a personal touch.
Being driven to enhance your skill set is admirable, if not time consuming. Keeping up to date on the plethora of articles and advice available is the perfect place to start developing yourself into a better employee — and current or future boss. No matter how fresh off the farm or seasoned you are in your position, we all have room to grow.
Remember, there’s always room for a touch of “you” in every presentation you do.
Sarah Colomé, M.S. is an educator, advocate and the SOARS Booking Director for A Long Walk Home, Inc. Based in Chicago, Sarah has traveled both nationally and internationally as a competitive collegiate public speaker and teaches on topics related to social justice and diversity, health education, sexual violence and persuasive speaking. You can follow her on Twitter @sarahcolome.