Public Speaking - 5 Tips
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Know that public speaking is the number one human fear.
So if you have ever been or are a bit nervous about giving
presentations in public, realize you are not alone. Most
people have the same problem.
In a survey from the Book of Lists, people were asked, “What
are you most afraid of?” Public speaking was the number
one answer. In fact, fear of death was sixth on the list.
In other words, you are not alone.
So we congratulate you on taking the first step to improving
yourself in this area. Let’s talk about the Ten Tips and
how they can begin to help you right away.
Tip No. 1: Eye contact
When the majority of people are up in front of a group they
start their physical activity by rapidly scanning the room
with their eyes. They spray the audience with their vision.
Look: adrenaline is already shooting through your body,
you’re anxious and nervous. Spraying the room with your
“aerosol eyes” simply compounds the problem. It makes it
worse. Very quickly your brain becomes overwhelmed with
all of this visual input: different faces, different colors,
different clothes, different countenances.
What you need to do is find an anchor and to lock in on
one individuals eyes. You need to slow down, get your bearings.
You will then have a chance to channel your nervous energy.
In other words: look at just one person, look at their eyes,
speak to one person at a time. Then pause, and find the
next individual. Instead of speaking to a group... have
a series of one-on-one conversations with the individual
members of the audience. And if your eyes aren’t locked,
your jaw must be!
Tip No. 2: Gesturing
What do you do with your arms, your hands or your feet and
the rest of you body? Typically men put their hands in their
pockets. We often see the fig leaf position, or the ‘phone
booth’, in which presenters hug themselves with both arms.
You will also see people do all kinds of nervous fidgeting
with their hands, with their arms. They really don’t know
what to do. What we suggest is that you do use your arms
and hands, but that you use gestures to specifically emphasize
the things that you are talking about.
If you are speaking about a big opportunity, let’s see how
big that opportunity is. If you are speaking about an increase,
let’s make sure that your gesture reflects that specific
increase by its altitude from the floor.
Use emphatic gestures and use gestures to describe things.
Then when you are not using your arms or there is no need
to, simply allow them to drop naturally to the side into
what we term the neutral position.
Tip No. 3: Inflection and volume
Have you ever been to presentation where the presenter spoke
in a monotone, “It’s- great-to-see-everybody-Thank-you-very-much-for-coming-today-I-have-some-exciting-news-for-you.”
You want to increase your volume, and increase your voice
inflection, which means the variance in the pitch or the
tone of your voice. It is more interesting, more exciting
to listen to a presenter that has passion and feeling in
their voice. Speak to your audience with belief and you
will soon see they will share that belief.
Tip No. 4: Humor and jokes
We receive a lot of questions about this. “Should I start
with a joke?” Should I loosen things up with some humor
in the beginning?”
Let me ask you...How many people do you know who can actually
come into a room full of strangers and pull off a joke?
It is what we call a Break Even / Lose proposition. If it
works you haven’t gained much: if it doesn’t work you can
lose your audience for the entire presentation. It’s risky
It’s a high stakes gamble. We suggest if you like using
humor, feel out your audience first. If you feel humor might
be appropriate, use humor. But using humor up front can
be very, very difficult. You are at your highest state of
nervousness, your audience is sizing you up and remember
first impressions last forever. Many audiences feel that
using humor or jokes in business signals you are not taking
The type of humor that is most effective is self deprecation.
Make fun of yourself. We are not suggesting you call yourself
an idiot or the audience may say to themselves “He sure
is” and you’ve lost them. Just don’t take yourself so seriously.
A lot of times we will joke about the fact that our writing
isn’t that good or my ability to draw is awful. Typically
if people have been with us in a two day seminar, they already
know that. So go ahead and make fun of yourself. It is a
safe form of humor to use.
Tip No. 5: Designing visuals
How many times have you been to a presentation where the
presenter is literally confused by her own visual? They
look up at the screen and they say, “Well what you have
here is, well, gee, I’m not sure, well what I meant is…”
– what is that presenter doing? They are essentially saying
that they haven’t taken the time to simplify and become
familiar with their own visuals and now they expect you
to look at it and understand it.
The point is to keep your visuals simple in design. You
don’t want an unsolved mystery up on the screen. Make sure
that it is very clear and keep in mind that people read
from top to bottom and left to right. Design your visuals
to be read that way.
Make those visuals easy to understand. Your talk doesn’t
need to be simple, but the visuals you use to cue your audience
to hear what you’re saying do.
About the Author: J. Douglas Jefferys is
a principal at PublicSpeakingSkills.com,
an international consulting firm specializing in training
businesses of all sizes to communicate for maximum efficiency.
The firm spreads its unique knowledge through on-site classes,
public seminars, and high-impact videos, and can be reached
through the Internet or at 888-663-7711.
Published - April 2009
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