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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
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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.

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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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