By Marcus Grodentz, Toastmasters International
When presenting or giving a speech to a business audience you need to arouse their interest and get them involved right from the start.
Public speaking is an art and requires a number of supporting skills. Let’s look at some key aspects of speaking that will help you to raise your game.
It is an old adage but nevertheless true. What sort of talk are you giving? What do you want it to achieve?
Know your audience
This is important because to some extent that dictates the type of language you use. Many speakers use technical terms or acronyms unfamiliar to their listeners. That means that you lose them. They are too busy figuring out the technical stuff to keep listening to what you have to say.
Begin at the right moment
If you are giving a talk whether in person or online don’t jump straight in. Wait. Wait until your audience is settled. Wait until they are all looking at you and then and only then start talking.
Any TV or film drama you watch starts with a cliff-hanger of some sort. It can last several minutes. Only then do the titles roll. Start your talk with something dramatic. Grab attention. Get your audience engaged. Then take your audience on a journey that arrives somewhere. You need to make sure that your ending has some relationship to where you started. Complete the circle. Leave your audience feeling complete.
The language you use is important. You have the whole lexicon of the English language to help illustrate and describe your story. For example, there is a world of difference between ‘taking an opportunity’ and ‘grasping an opportunity.’
Vocal variety is another key element. How many talkers go through their entire story at the same pitch. It becomes monotonous, even tedious. Varying the pace of your story and the pitch of your voice is another weapon in your arsenal of techniques.
If you have something dramatic to say you might want to speed up and perhaps raise your tone. If you have something sensitive, you can slow down and lower your tone. And, if you have some important information to share then take a pause.
Allow your audience time to absorb and digest it. Pausing is also a great way to cut down on the number of times you say Um and Ah.
One of my pet hates is the use of PowerPoint as it is almost always unnecessary. Speakers use it as a prop to hide behind. Death by PowerPoint is the hallmark of a poor speaker in my opinion.
Visual props are good but only if they are an integral part of your talk. If you are a speaker then you want your audience looking and concentrating on you. That is the whole point of being a speaker.
Incorporating body language into your talk raises it to another dimension. If we were meeting in person, we would never dream of giving a talk sitting down. With covid and lockdown restrictions we now meet often on Zoom. Because we are on Zoom it is apparently OK to give talks sitting down. I am from the school which says if you are a speaker you stand. It actually isn’t that difficult to rearrange your desk and camera angles to enable you to do that. It just takes a little effort. Sitting down with your face filling the screen robs you of the ability to use your body and to take advantage of your screen stage. What you do get is the occasional disembodied hand.
If you are unable to stand for any reason, then you can move your chair further back from the camera so that the audience can see more of you and that again enables you to take advantage of using body language to engage with your audience.
It is essential to rehearse your talk – and to time it. You need to know what you want to say and how long it will take you to say it.
Many of us fall into the trap of being average speakers. But to build your career and your business it is worth honing your skills. By doing so you can increase your confidence and raise your speaking to a new level. Then you and your audience will reap the benefits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marcus Grodentz is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org