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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

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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