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10 Things You Can Do Now To Make Public Speaking Effortless

10 Things You Can Do Now To Make Public Speaking Effortless

Have you ever wondered how some well-known figures make public speaking look like child’s play? As we know, it is not like that at all. Remember that over 50% of UK senior management feel nervous about speaking in public, so you are not alone!

“People think actresses find public speaking easy, and it’s not easy at all; we’re used to hiding behind masks.” – Jane Fonda

My first venture into public speaking was when I had to give a speech at my brother’s wedding, as I was his best man. This was an enormous challenge for me as I had struggled through adolescence with a speech defect. After an operation and speech therapy, my brother’s wedding was my first match in the public speaking arena. Happily, all went well!

Public speaking is an important life skill because if you can master this, you can cope better with job interviews and giving presentations. Here are 10 things you can adopt now to make it all sound smooth and effortless.

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1. Prepare the speech.

This seems pretty obvious but many people skimp on this. If you are giving a presentation or seminar, preparation will be crucial. You will also have to practice and decide how much use you will make of the following:

  • All written out or just notes?
  • Will you use PowerPoint slides?
  • Are you aware of your breathing while practicing?
  • Are you familiar with the venue?
  • Do you know what equipment is available?

2. Research your audience.

In my case this was easy, as it was family and friends. Anecdotes about my brother were expected and appreciated. But when you are in front of a business audience, it is important to know their background. Are they colleagues, middle managers or trainees? Finding out about their business experience and their companies will be very important. Armed with this information, you can make a passing reference to their company’s history or profile, which they can relate to.

3. Don’t read your speech.

There are several reasons why this could be disastrous:

  • You may bore the audience
  • You will almost certainly not succeed in getting their attention
  • You will never make eye contact
  • You are at risk of mumbling or failing to speak clearly.

4. Think beyond the words.

Let’s face it. You are communicating a message or information, or entertaining. Or it may be a combination of all three. The words you are using are merely a vehicle for conveying your ideas. They are not sufficient on their own. You also have to use the following:

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  • Gestures
  • Body language
  • Tone of voice
  • Speed of delivery
  • Pauses
  • Emphasis.

Get the combination of all these right and you will make a great speech.

5. Practice makes perfect.

You need to get really familiar with the contents of your speech. If you lack confidence, the best way to do this is to try and memorize the main points, and you can use a list of notes for this. You have to go over and over it again, timing yourself so that you do not go over the time allocated. If you prefer, you can also use cards with the main points on them, just in case you forget. A good idea is to number the cards, just in case you drop them!

6. Avoid the PowerPoint death sentence.

People refer to ‘death by PowerPoint’ because these visuals, while an excellent tool, can become deadly boring, especially if you read what is written on them. Your audience can read too!

It is important to keep the number of slides to a minimum. It is a visual aid and it is not supposed to substitute for you. Go for facts and figures, charts, graphs, or something visually stimulating such as a dramatic photo.

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There are many true statements about complex topics that are too long to fit on a PowerPoint slide.” –  Edward Tufte

7. Personalize what you have to say

People still love stories. An anecdote or two can work wonders. Tell them about your personal involvement in a project and what went right or wrong. Jokes are great too, although these should be kept to a minimum. All these things are important for bonding with your audience.

8. Being nervous is good

“Adrenaline is wonderful. It covers pain. It covers dementia. It covers everything.” – Jerry Lewis

You may think that all those irritating and embarrassing symptoms of butterflies in your stomach and a tremor in your voice and hand is going to mean you fail.

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But look at it this way: These are just minor things that are happening because your adrenaline is flowing. This is giving you more energy, more determination, and also a much sharper you. Concentrate on these aspects so that you can power up rather than become a frightened mouse. These are primeval instincts to help you fight. Forget the flight bit. It will all be over soon.

“I don’t get stage fright, I actually love the energy, I love the spontaneity, I love the adrenaline you get in front of a live audience, it actually really works for me.” – Brooke Burke

9. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

While remaining upbeat and confident, there’s no harm in being aware of what could go wrong and to have a contingency plan up your sleeve. Here are some common situations you may encounter:

  • Make sure there is a glass of water on the lectern. When your mouth becomes impossibly dry, this is a life saver.
  • Check to see that everything is working beforehand and that the PowerPoint is all set up. Do a trial run, if possible.
  • If you forget the next point, refer to your notes. These should be brief and clear, with main points highlighted.
  • You will not be judged on your quivering voice. You are not doing an audition for a Hollywood film, so concentrate on getting your message across.

10. Observe and learn from the experts

When practicing your presentation or speech, watch people speaking on YouTube. Observe people who you think are great communicators and whom you admire. Watch how they use pauses for effect. Study their speed of delivery and also their body language. Remember that they started out like you and were probably just as nervous and phobic about the whole thing.

One comforting thought is that one journalist noted that President George Washington, in making his inaugural speech, was as nervous as hell. He was “so visibly perturbed that his hand trembled and his voice shook so that he could scarcely be understood.”  Nobody ever judged George Washington’s achievements by his public speaking!

Have you any tips about how to make public speaking easier? Tell us about them in the comments.

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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