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7 Habits You Should Take Up To Be A Successful Speaker

7 Habits You Should Take Up To Be A Successful Speaker

Imagine speaking without notes and keeping your audience spellbound! Most of us dream of being such a successful speaker, but this will only come about if we work at it. Let’s get back to reality because, if you are like me, you may well have to master this skill, as very few people are born natural speakers. Here are seven habits that you should be concentrating on, so that you can get better and better.

1. Forget about interacting with your audience.

Apart from some questions at the end, interaction with the audience should be extremely limited. Lots of speakers ask for the audience to indicate with a show of hands what they think about a certain issue. The risk here is that they will get bored and may even resent having to take part in a circus act. Remember, it is your job to speak and they want to learn or to be entertained by you.

2. You are like an actor on the stage.

Ever watched a brilliant actor on the stage or in a film? He or she will act with great enthusiasm, commitment and will be entirely convincing. Public speaking is not so different. You command the stage and the audience are expecting their money’s worth. Give it all you have got.

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“It’s much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic. Figure out what’s important to you about your message and speak from the heart.” – Nicholas Bootman

3. Keep it brief.

“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” – Winston Churchill

Think of the last time you heard a really boring and ineffectual speaker. I bet you noticed the following:

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  • The speech lacked structure – it was not clear what the speaker was trying to achieve.
  • You were bored.
  • The speaker went over time.
  • He or she did not make eye contact.
  • The speaker used other people’s ideas and statistics.

Try to avoid these awful mistakes and you will be well on the way to success.

4. How to start your speech.

Forget the introductions and the thank-yous. It is much better to jump straight in and get your audience’s attention by using one or more of the following:

  • Ask a question to stimulate interest.
  • Tell an anecdote that illustrates the problem/aims/objectives/results.
  • Tell a joke if it is relevant. It is great to get the audience laughing. They will be much more receptive to what you have to say.
  • Use a quotation by a famous person.
  • Tell them what your end goal is. Say, “By the end of my speech, you will have a better understanding of X.” Or, “I hope you will be able to take away five action points to deal with Y.”  Or, “I want to outline the pitfalls when dealing with Z.”

5. You know your defects and you have worked to improve them.

Let us imagine that you are hesitant. When you were practicing, you noticed from the recording or from a friend’s feedback, that you use ‘uhm’ or ‘er’ far too much. These can get very annoying if they are too frequent. Practice until you get these down to a bearable minimum.

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If you know from school that your teacher told you that you are inclined to mumble and speak indistinctly, then practice breathing and also breaking up sentences into more manageable chunks.

If you are so shy that eye contact is always a challenge, practice looking for a sympathetic face in the audience, maybe somebody you know. You will need to make regular eye contact with all the attendees, not forgetting those at the back.

6. Forget about ‘I’ and ‘me.’

Many speakers talk a lot about themselves, their experiences, their successes and maybe their failures. The only problem is that if you don’t also mention ‘you’ and speak directly to the audience and involve them, you may lose their attention.  Instead of a long, boring personal anecdote, ask a question with ‘you’ in it. Works every time!

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7. Don’t flood your speech with statistics.

The temptation is to impress people with data and figures. Some speakers go to enormous lengths to provide lots of pie charts, graphs and the dreaded PowerPoint slides. It is no accident that people now joke about ‘death by PowerPoint.’ Less is better in this case. People just cannot take in all that information.

“The audience are likely to remember only three things from your presentation or speech.” – Stephen Keague

Gaining confidence in public speaking takes time. If you find that you cannot change everything overnight, start by choosing the habit that you think is most important in your situation.

“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you’ve got, and fix it along the way…” – Paul Arden

Featured photo credit: Tech Cocktail Sessions DC/ Tech Cocktail via Flickr

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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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