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If public speaking is a regular part of your role as small business owner, and you are like many people, it may be one of your biggest fears. Fortunately, it does not have to be that way. There a few easy ways to ease your public speaking fears and improve your skills at the same time. Here’s are some things you can do to improve your public speaking:
1 Prepare, prepare, PREPARE! There is almost no worse feeling than being unprepared. If you haven’t done the legwork before a public speaking engagement, you may feel flustered, nervous, and incompetent. These worries will be evident to your audience, so prepare as much as you possibly can. Write down or type out your content, and frequently rehearse using your notes; also, make adjustments where necessary. For example, if you find that you continually lose your place when reading from your notes typed on an 8 ½” x 11” sheet of paper, switch over to note cards, on which you can write just a few bullets before getting rid of that card. Find a system that works for you. You may also consider recording yourself on video to get a sense of your own body language, and how you appear to others.
2 Show confidence. This is easier than it may seem, especially if you have adequately prepared. You know the material, you are a successful leader, and you have been given the responsibility to speak in front of a group of people. Take pride in this role by holding your head high, making frequent eye contact, and speaking in a strong, clear voice. Give yourself a positive “pep talk” before going in front of the group, and tell yourself that you are well able to give your speech effectively. What you tell yourself matters!
3 Focus on key points, but provide personal stories to balance them. Your main focus should be on the key points, or main ideas, of your speech. If you nail those, the rest won’t matter as much. However, it is also important to give your audience a way to relate to you personally. So be sure to provide a few personal stories that will illustrate your main points. These are the things that people often walk away with as a result of your talk. So choose 2 or 3 of your main points, and plan a brief story you can tell that will illustrate those points.
4 End with a call to action. You don’t want your speech to fall flat because of a boring conclusion. End with a call to action from the audience. Doing so helps give your speech purpose and drives your point home. For example, if you are speaking to a team of employees about improving customer service, an effective call to action might be, “Ask your next customer for their honest feedback before you let them leave. Then the next, and the next, and so on. Make this your new protocol.” Concluding with a call to action also helps your audience figure out where to start.
With careful preparation, self-reflection, and a firm grasp on the content, public speaking can become yet another skill you master. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from others either in a practice setting or after the real thing. This will help you continuously improve your skills!
What else would you add to our list? Please share your ideas below!