Peter Murphy asked:
Some people seem to have it all – good looks, smarts, and to top it off they are well versed in the secrets of great oral communication. Maybe you want what they have – well, your looks can be changed with medical help, and you can become smarter with the right training. The same is true with oral communication – you can become a better speaker in a group situation or when speaking to an audience if you know the right way to go about it.
The key to improving your speaking skills is to practice on a regular basis. The first stage involves preparation.
1) Analyze the situation of your immediate audience. What do they need? What do they want? What are the distinctive features and attitudes of this audience?
2) Assess yourself – what do you hope to achieve by speaking to this particular audience? Is there something you want or need from them? Or is there something you can provide to them?
3) Select the content that you would like to impart to your audience. Format the content according to the kind of audience that you will be speaking to – meaning, will you use visual aids or will you be providing hand-outs to your listeners? Should the speech be long or short? Will the audience’s attention span last that long?
4) Organize your speech.
The second stage in making a speech before a small group or a larger audience is the presentation proper.
1) Make it a point to be friendly towards your audience from the start. Start with a greeting, a smile, maybe even a wave. The point is to make them feel friendly towards you in return.
2) Follow up with a bit of small talk that should get your audience to open up to you. Perhaps you could use a short anecdote, or a story from your own life that the audience can relate to. Don’t make this too long though or your talk will go off on the wrong tangent.
3) When you think the audience (and you) are ready for the presentation, start the presentation proper.
4) Do not digress from any pre-set plans you have made for your presentation. You might find yourself lost for the words in the middle of your speech with a mind that has suddenly gone blank. The reason you prepared beforehand is so that you will not digress. If you must digress, keep it short and sweet so that you can find your way back to the main topic soon.
5) Stick to the time allotted for your presentation. The reason for this is because you only have a limited level of energy stored up – going on and on is exhausting to hear but even more exhausting to do. So try to stay within bounds. Also, there may be another person who will deliver a speech – you don’t want to infringe on his allotted time.
6) Be prepared to answer any questions at the end of your speech. Your little talk may have made your audience think hard about the topic so don’t leave them hanging at the end. This is also your chance to make a lasting impression on your audience – don’t give it up.
There are also some other things you should bear in mind when giving a talk that may affect the impression you will leave on the minds of your audience. Here they are:
1) Gauge the acoustics of the room properly – you may need to raise your voice if the sound system isn’t too good.
2) Change the nuances of your speaking style as you go along to match the points you raise in your speech. This means avoiding a monotone manner.
3) Maintain a clean appearance. If you look grubby or ill, the audience will most likely react negatively.
Many other factors come into play when you are making a speech but these tips should help you address many of them already. Remember, good oral communication can be taught – you just have to know the right way to go about it.