When Swami Vivekananda began his speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893, with ‘Sisters and Brothers of America’, the audience was already hooked. He got a standing ovation. His simple but effective words went straight to the heart of people.

Masters of public speaking have proved time and again that a speech is not just a string of words. It is the sum total of the speaker’s personality, the language they use, the content they deliver, their manner of reaching out to people, and so on.

What is public speaking?

Public speaking is giving a speech to a live audience. It is a kind of oration delivered face-to-face by an individual to a group of people. The objectives of public speaking can be diverse: to entertain, educate, inspire, or motivate the listeners.

The ancient Greeks had great public speaking skills. They used them extensively to praise, persuade, influence, strategize, and oppose. The Greeks termed the art of public speaking as ‘rhetoric’.

The philosopher Aristotle defined rhetoric as the ‘faculty of discovering in any particular case all the available means of persuasion.’

The importance of public speaking

Public speaking skills help you make a good impression in various situations. For instance, everyone in the office gathers to listen intently when it is announced that Satish is going to give a talk.  Be it at a corporate conference, an award ceremony, virtual training, client presentations or a farewell ceremony, Satish always manages to hit the right chord with his delivery and content.

Good public speaking skills are important because they create opportunities.  Among two equally talented aspirants, one who knows the importance of public speaking and has public speaking skills will be promoted. An executive with poor public speaking ability will find it hard to engage clients and may lose their boss’ goodwill.

Having excellent public speaking skills can enhance the quality of your personal life as well.  Imagine the feeling after delivering a memorable speech at a close friend’s wedding.

In public speaking, there is no hiding from the audience. The way you speak in public has a bearing on your personal and professional reputation. That’s the reason why people are anxious and stressed about public speaking.

But there is good news. By observing inspiring orators, you can pick up tips for public speaking. Plus, there are experts who train people in the art of public speaking. So if you have a fear of public speaking, tackle it with focus and precision.

Tips for public speaking

Here are some tips for public speaking that you can use to become a more impactful speaker:

  1. Organize your material

Reva had a charismatic personality and great oratory skills. But her speech was never structured and her points were scattered all over the place. Even if you are a good speaker, never take your speech for granted.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of your speech? What approach are you going to take? What is the core idea and message you want to deliver? Once the answers are clear, organize your material accordingly. Research and write an engaging speech.

  1. Plan a well-structured speech

Communication planning is an integral part of the art of public speaking. Keep the beginning of your speech interesting to capture the audience’s attention. You could start with an alarming statistic, an interesting quote, an anecdote, or a news headline.

Try and see if you can structure your speech in story format.  Stories captivate people.. Use your own experiences to enlighten people.

  1. Perfect it with practice

One of the most important tips for public speaking is to practice constantly. You can’t give a compelling speech with full confidence unless you practice. Find opportunities to give a speech in front of others.

As an aspiring public speaker, put yourself in situations that require public speaking. Satish may now be a master at public speaking but he started off as shy and reluctant to express his thoughts in public. He pushed himself to participate in every group discussion in his office. Gradually, he developed into a very good public speaker.

  1. Overcome your fear

Often, it is the fear of public speaking that holds people back from developing an entirely new facet to their personality. Make the effort to overcome it—think of how this can be another arrow in the quiver of your professional and personal skills. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most effective public speakers in history, had stage fright. He had said that his vision became blurred and he trembled even when he had to give a small speech. But he overcame his fear because it was getting in the way of his purpose and passion to see an independent India. He has stated that his ‘hesitancy in speech’ led him to speak short but meaningful statements.

Channel the spirit of great leaders who overcome the fear of public speaking to inspire the masses with their words. Be wise in choosing your topic. Choose topics that you are passionate about so that you will be able to present with insight and impact. Deliver a concise but strong message which is to the point.

The secret of good public speaking is forgetting about the preconceived notions people may have of you and remembering the core message of your speech.

  1. Get feedback from others

Practice your speech in front of people you trust. Ask the person to listen to your speech attentively and give honest feedback—both appreciation and constructive criticism.

Rati practiced her speech in front of her parents. They were frank with their opinions and suggestions. They asked a lot of questions. This dry run helped Rati in analyzing her speech and gaining confidence for the real thing.

Keep your eyes and ears open for the audience’s reactions and responses. Accordingly, you can tinker with subsequent iterations of your speech. Analyzing feedback is one of the crucial public speaking skills.

  1. Be yourself

Let your personality reflect in your speech. If you stand for what you are and what you think, the audience will find you credible. Audiences instinctively trust authenticity.

If you are a fun-loving person, use humor, funny quotes, or anecdotes in your speech. If you are a music lover, you can use a song lyric or narrate an anecdote from music history. If you are an environment person, connect the topic to your ideology. Even if you haven’t written the speech yourself, adding a personal touch is important to truly connect with the audience.

  1. Master communication techniques

Once you know the importance of public speaking, the next step is to master the technique.

  • Practice your speech in front of the mirror as if you are addressing someone
  • Observe and make appropriate adjustments to  your body language, including facial expressions, gestures, appearance, hand movements and so on
  • Do not be stiff or stressed. Keep a relaxed, gentle expression and let your movements indicate your calmness
  • Record your speech on a mobile phone or video camera. Listen to your voice and see how you can improve your delivery, including pauses and intonations
  • Take appropriate pauses. Do not rush your speech or make it too slow
  • Smile only whenever required. Do not look too serious or too casual
  • Find a good coach or mentor to help you polish your public speaking technique

  1. Include the audience

Remember the role and importance of public speaking. Keep in mind that you are speaking “to” the audience and not “at” the audience. Nervous speakers look at the audience as an abstract entity while successful speakers think of them as living, breathing individuals, and make every effort to impart a participatory feel.

Use collaborative words. Ask questions and seek answers. Let the audience feel respected and involved in your speech. In a nutshell, connect with the audience.

  1. Use emotion to your advantage

The best public speakers evoke emotions in their audience. Barack Obama’s speeches were shot with the spirit of pride and respect for “The American Dream”. They struck a chord with audiences across social strata. Tapping into emotions such as excitement, awe, power, passion, love, trust, security, and patriotism improves the chances of a speech being received well by the audience.

So if you are afraid of public speaking, abandon your fear of being judged. Improve your communication skills with these tips for public speaking. Harappa’s Speaking Effectively course teaches you how to connect with the listener and present your points in an impactful manner.

In this course, you will learn about the PAM Framework, which stands for Purpose, Audience, and Message. It is important to determine whether your purpose is to inform, instruct, or inspire. Being mindful of the audience and clear about your talking points is crucial. This will help you craft an appropriate message. The PAM Framework will help you prepare and organize your thoughts before any speaking engagement. This course has been designed to enable you to communicate convincingly, speak concisely, and navigate your workplace confidently.

Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about topics related to the Communicate habit such as the Importance of Communication, Communication Cycle, What is Report Writing, Writing Skills and Personality Development.

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