10 Tips to Becoming an Effective and Engaging Public Speaker
You are an expert in the field of forest management and resource conservation.
As guest speaker at the Boy Scouts’ jamboree however, you now find that despite your expertise and the importance of your talk, your audience seems uninterested; even slightly confused. Here lies the big difference between knowing a subject matter well and communicating it to others effectively.
These 10 helpful nuggets should help you get your message across.
Be aware of the general demographic of your audience. The factors of age, educational attainment and economic background should dictate the level at which to design your talk. Your doctorate gobbledygook won’t be helpful to the rural agricultural workers waiting to hear you. In the same light, a graduate school audience may become bored with a simple linear presentation. Younger audiences may need conceptual statements to be broken down into concrete examples they can relate to.
In some instances, an image can speak more clearly than words. When appropriate, present photos to depict important aspects of your topic. When dealing with abstract ideas or the relationship between processes, show them a diagram to physically represent the interactions involved.
Allow a slight pause, for the audience to absorb a visual. Once they’ve had a few seconds to take it in, you can continue speaking and they’ll be ready to listen to you again while mentally connecting the visual aid to your point.
Everyone loves a laugh, so it may be helpful to inject some humor into your speech. Before doing so however, analyze the subject matter and check if it won’t be inappropriate.
If you choose to employ humor, make sure to remain tactful. Stay away from slanted jokes that may offend certain sub-sectors within your audience, such as gender, religion, race, politics and economic status.
Keep the comedy in check. Well-timed snippets may help you establish rapport with your audience, or make monotonous stretches a bit lighter. Too many laughs however may divert the audience’s focus from your key points.
Looking at members of the audience in the eye keeps them involved in your talk. Research has shown that information is more easily received when the listener has both visual and verbal contact with the speaker. Make sure to distribute your attention to audience members in different parts of the room.
While the topic is all too familiar to you, it may be a new subject to your audience. Speak slowly and clearly, at a pace that allows your audience to follow your meaning. Make sure you speak loud enough to be heard by the person at the back of the room. For emphasis, briefly pause before and after important ideas or say key points twice before elaborating.
Nothing beats knowing what you’re talking about inside and out. Research your facts and make sure you have a good grasp of the issues involved. Have a comprehensive understanding of your topic. Where it applies, be aware of both sides to a polarized discussion about your subject. Anticipate questions the audience might raise.
To further nail down the message behind your speech, encourage questions and clarifications through an open forum after your talk. Before you begin the forum, set a time limit or a predetermined number of questions you can accommodate. You may want to discuss this beforehand with the organizers
to make sure that you can fit everything within the time allotted for you.
Before you end, summarize your most salient points and repeat the ideas you want your audience to take home with them. You can outline a summary in the form of a hand-out to be given to the audience afterwards. Don’t pass the hand-out into the audience before or during your talk t because you want them to listen to you first and not just be reading distractedly.
With these 10 pointers in mind, you’re on your way to becoming a much sought-after resource person, known both for your expertise in your field and your skill in communicating. More importantly, you can be sure that your message is getting across to your public loud and clear.