Steps to Effective Public Speaking – Vol. 1
By Mina Ayoub, Communications Executive at EFG Hermes.
You’re a genius. You’ve got all the facts, the knowledge. You’re well informed on a specific topic, maybe even more than anyone around you, but for some reason you can’t get your point across. Public speaking is an art of delivery. It can be as simple as speaking to a group of friends, to giving a talk or a lecture to a large crowd of people. Having the information is only half the step, being able to get people to listen to you is the second half and just as important. The problem is a lot of us don’t know how. Sometimes it’s because of the fear of it. It is easy to get nervous, to become too conscious of the attention you’re given and realize that it’s literally, all eyes on you. Maybe you start getting random in delivering your points and start feeling like you’re all over the place. If that’s the case, here is a simple model to follow to help guide you towards being an effective public speaker.
You’re suddenly aware of your dry throat, your heart’s beating out of your chest and your arms and legs start feeling numb. It happens to the best of us. The truth is, it’s not that hard to overcome, all you need to do is breathe. Sounds silly right? Luckily, there are a couple of breathing exercises that are designed to help the brain release chemicals called endorphins that act as calming agents.
- The first I like to call “The Diver’s Breath”. If you go diving, they tell you that when breathing through the oxygen tanks underwater, you should inhale all the way and then exhale all the way until you empty your lungs completely, unlike on land where we still keep some oxygen in our lungs while normally exhaling. Using the same process helps regulate our heart rate to relax you.
- The second method is one used by some Buddhist monks to meditate for even short periods. You inhale and exhale deeply for two seconds each time, repeat this for three times and on the fourth, you inhale for four seconds and exhale for seven seconds. Doing this for two or three times in a row will allow you to fall into a more relaxed state, helping you find your ground.
These exercises help your heart rate eventually sync with your breathing so you don’t feel so nervous before talking to a crowd.
- Know your audience.
As helpful as the skill of improvisation is, it’s always good to prepare what you’re going to say. This works for giving speeches and presentations as well as for speaking to a small crowd or group of friends. While doing so, it is important to know who your audience is. Knowing them helps you understand how to formulate your sentences, what approach would get them to become more attentive, what ratio of formality to informality to use, how much as well as what type of humor would be acceptable and sometimes what their stance on your point might already be. Knowing your audience will help both of you relate to each other easier and act as a first step to establishing the connection you need to be heard.
- Start with a debatable or even controversial statement.
Hit them with something that’s bound to get their attention. The best way to do it, in my opinion, is to deliver, in a strong and confident tone, a statement that isn’t offensive but creates healthy debate for the majority of listeners, a statement that flirts on the line sitting between the opposing opinions considering the topic. If you choose your wording right, you’ll notice, not necessarily a “pin-drop” quiet room, but a truly attentive one where everyone wants to know what you’re about to say next. Which is the exact kind of audience you want. How you start plays a big role in where the room’s attention will be directed.
- Be Political.
So you grabbed their attention. Depending on how you phrased your “controversial” opening statement, you probably need to calm some eagerly listening people. This is the time to ease your audience into listening to you. This is the time to present all your findings. Each story or topic has two or more sides, it would be a good idea to present each side alongside your findings in a factual rather than opinionated way to make sure you have everyone one your side. You want people to, regardless of what they think, to always want to feel like you’re somewhat on their side and more importantly to want to hear what you’re always about to say next.
- End with a bang.
You’ve said everything, delivered your part given them the best talk they’ve ever heard. Finally, it’s time to conclude by summarizing and briefly walking them through the points from start to end. Right before you leave, you end with a strong concluding statement that people walk away remembering and thinking about positively.