Talk May Be Cheap…But Your Speech Should Be Priceless!
Take a moment and imagine if you will, any one of the following scenarios:
- You’ve been contacted to schedule an interview for a fantastic job opportunity.
- You’ve been requested by your employer to make a key presentation at a Board of Director’s meeting.
- You have a lunch appointment with a prospective client from a major account.
- You’ve been asked to fill in for a colleague in teaching a training session.
- You’ve been designated to represent your organization in either a live television or radio program interview.
- You need to mingle and socialize at a holiday party where you are a relative newcomer.
The list could go on indefinitely and you can probably cite many of your own examples. The common theme here is that YOU will be in the limelight and will need to communicate effectively, putting forth your best skills in the art of speaking. For a small percentage of the human race, this will be taken in stride and will be just another task in the course of your day. However, for the majority of us out there, these examples can create a host of reactions such as breaking out in a cold sweat, heart palpitations, unusual bodily tremors and an overwhelming desire to pull the bed covers up over your head for an undetermined period of time. All kidding aside, fears related to speaking in public, whether it be in a small or large group, have been said to be a fear greater than death, for some. If indeed you are among those who shy away from any of these activities or view them as dreaded events, you’re in luck because there are many tips that can ease your discomfort. So, read on and consider some of the following guidance, which should at least give you the confidence to take the first step and come out from under the covers.
Tips To Increase Your Confidence when speaking:
1. Obtain as much information as possible about your listener or audience and ensure that you know who they are and what their expectations are. Doing your “homework” in this manner will prove beneficial in assisting you in feeling more confident as well as coming across as having a sense of your listener’s needs.
2. Prepare an outline or notes to organize the information you need to convey, so you stay on topic and within the allotted timeframe. Jot your notes on index cards and try to use them to prompt or cue you with main points. This will help you to avoid reading vs. speaking to your audience. You can also use a highlighter to help draw your attention to key ideas or words.
3. Practice delivering the information you need to state by saying it aloud and into a tape recorder while standing in front of a mirror. Play the tape back and note what changes you want to make as well as what you did well. Then make another recording implementing the changes.
4. Whenever possible and when practicing, try to speak while standing up vs. seated as this will increase your volume and will also convey a more professional image.
5. Maintain excellent eye contact with your listener or audience so they feel connected to you as well as for you to assess their reactions to what you’re saying.
6. Have easy access to a glass of water, and take small sips to keep your throat and mouth lubricated when speaking for an extended period. Try to avoid caffeine. If you are speaking to a large group, use amplification (microphone) whenever possible. This will help avoid vocal strain.
7. Try to breathe from your abdominal area (diaphragmatic breathing) vs. your chest area alone, to ensure solid voice projection and more efficient utilization of the voice.
8. Be aware of your rate of speech and try to use variation. When presenting new or unfamiliar information reduce your pace to ensure listener understanding. Speaking too rapidly will frustrate a listener, while speaking too slowly may result in listener disinterest.
9. Ensure that you articulate your words so that the listener easily understands you. One way to ensure this is to avoid speaking rapidly and be sure you are not speaking with your teeth clenched. Also, remember to face the listener when speaking and discontinue speaking if you need to turn away (as is the case if you turn to write information on a flipchart or board).
10. Use gestures sparingly and only to enhance or clarify your message. Be aware that gestures used excessively can be distracting and take away from your message. Facial expressions are part of gestures, so be aware of how you are coming across and where appropriate be sure to smile.
11. Make your message dynamic by varying the pitch of your voice, rate of your speech and vocal volume. These adjustments in intonation will facilitate emphasizing a key point you’re trying to convey. Holding the listener’s attention is essential and often this is a function of how you say something vs. what you are saying. This is particularly important for conducting business over the telephone and has a significant impact on customer service.
12. Be attentive to your listener/audience at all times and be sure to ask them open-ended vs. close-ended questions to ensure their understanding and to give them an opportunity to express their thoughts. As an example, it is helpful to ensure that your listener comprehends what you’re saying by asking “what questions do you have?” rather than “do you have any questions?”
So, whether you’re interacting with someone one on one, providing training, participating in a small meeting or making a public speaking presentation, speaking confidently is one of the most powerful tools. Remember that effective communication is at the heart of professional, organizational and personal success. You can get yourself on the road to speaking to others with confidence because…Your Speech Should be Priceless!