Many people don’t realise that public speaking is indeed a skill. To some, it comes naturally. But for others, they must battle an array of factors, such as stage fright, in order to be a successful and engaging speaker. Here, industry expert Katrina Percy offers some hints and tips to help you become the best pubic speaker you can be, and discusses why such skills are important.

Why is public speaking important?

Regardless of your industry, you’re likely to be required to speak to a group — this could be either peers, clients or experts in your field. For this reason, public speaking skills are among some of the most important skills you can have in your professional career. If you can speak confidently in front of an audience or group, then you are showing those people an element of confidence. This trait is highly sought after in business, as it provides the listener with the reassurance that you know what you are doing. Confident people can speak freely in front of one or 100 people and are more likely to secure professional opportunities than those who steer clear from public speaking.

Of course, not everyone feels comfortable doing so straight away. So, what can be done to nurture and develop these skills?

Speech writing

It’s crucial that your speech is engaging, interesting and has an end goal. You certainly shouldn’t try to ‘wing it’. Make sure that you’ve properly prepared what it is you intend to say and be sure that it’s in a style you’d be comfortable presenting. You may find it helpful to write down your full speech and practice it. However, there are occasions where it can be more beneficial to write down an introduction and key points, so you know that you will cover all the important points in your speech.

Writing down your content allows you to organise your mind. Doing this will help your speech follow a proper structure, which in turn should make it more successful. Like a book, it’s important that your speech is clearly segregated into sections, so that there’s a clear start, middle and end. By maintaining a structured speech which flows well, your audience is likely to stay engaged, thus meaning they are more likely to buy into your thoughts — and product, if you’re end goal is to sell.

Writing your speech down allows you to follow this pattern more easily, and this will help you gain credibility from the audience — so long as the information is relevant, of course! It will also allow you to pick out points which you need to flesh out your idea and topic. You can do this by adding supporting materials, such as statistics and examples that back up your points. Again, this builds credibility. For example, did you known that the first 15 seconds are crucial, so a strong start is required if your speech is to be successful?

Dealing with stage fright

Of course, even the best written speech needs to be delivered correctly. You can’t simply write down the perfect presentation and then stutter through it, hoping your audience stays focused. While the words may be powerful and informative, not presenting them in an engaging manner can see the whole point of the speech missed.

Stage fright can be a major factor in losing the audience’s attention. In fact, three quarters of us have suffered from speech anxiety prior to public speaking. It’s natural to be a little apprehensive about presenting your speech. However, it is something you can manage with the right tips.

Be sure you practice your presentation, both individually and in front of friends or family. Why not try videoing your presentation and watching it back, asking yourself if you would be engaged if you were in the audience.

Practicing in front of people you are comfortable around will also help you to relax and limit your feelings of worry and doubt. Once you have to present your work, you should greet each person on a personal level — if this is possible. This is because you are naturally more at ease talking to people you’ve already interacted with.

It’s important to feel at ease too, so be sure to take a deep breath and relax. Don’t try to rush through your presentation. Going at a steady and natural pace will not only help you feel better, but it will provide a better experience for your audience.

So, what are the main points to remember when it comes to public speaking? You should:

  • Find your own style. Everyone is different. Be sure to play to your strengths. Being natural will help you win over a crowd and build a rapport with the audience.
  • Be prepared. Write a speech and practice, practice, practice.
  • Stay calm. Relax. Panicking will come across as if you don’t know why you’re there and aren’t confident in the message you’re trying to portray. Confidence is key.