At last month’s Web Summit, we had the pleasure of listening to David Nihill, author and founder of FunnyBizz Conference, present his top tips on public speaking.
Regardless of whether you’re client-facing or spend most of your working life at your computer, the ability to speak and present confidently and effectively is important for everyone – especially when you have an interview for your dream job coming up.
Yet, 20% of the UK would describe themselves as being “terrified” of public speaking to the point of suffering from glossophobia - a total fear of speaking in front of a crowd. Even Warren Buffett confesses to being a glossophobe in his early career, as do Julia Roberts and Prince Harry.
Whether you need to practice your public speaking skills for a job interview or a business presentation, take a look at our nine tips for perfecting the art of public speaking.
1. Start with a story
Use the techniques of comedy writing; have a set-up, a punchline, a bit of background and a main point to finish on (and pause before delivering it for maximum impact!).
2. Use the rule of three
Presenting three examples is a proven way to engage your audience, add credibility to your points and improve your overall speech (see what we did there?). Bonus marks if you can squeeze in a bit of alliteration, too.
3. Memorise the first 30 seconds
Nailing the start of your speech will settle your nerves and put both you and your audience at ease.
4. Cut the fluff
Score each of your main points between one and five, with one being pointless and five being awesome. Now be brutal and cut everything that scored just one or two.
5. Avoid filler words
We’re all guilty of using meaningless words and phrases when talking, but too many can become distracting and weaken your speech. Try to avoid phrases such as ‘um’, ‘like’ and ‘right’ – David recommends speaking 20% louder to help them to disappear.
6. Use a memory palace
This is a good one for visual learners. Transform your points into a series of memorable images. Then, if met with a temporary mind blank, recall the images and let the mental associations prompt it to all come flooding back.
7. Acknowledge the obvious
Leaving the obvious unsaid can be distracting and awkward – take control and use it to your advantage instead. To use David’s example: “If your fly is undone, say it”. Some of the most engaging speeches immediately put the room at ease by making a joke out of the obvious.
8. Control your ending
Never finish with questions – instead say 'I'm going to take a few questions before I make my conclusion'. As David put it, U2 don't invite people to come up onstage to play a bit of flute once they finish a gig!
9. And remember, the audience is on your side!
No one you’re speaking in front of wants you to fail. They’d love to see you give a brilliant speech and will be willing you on to do so. Use that positive energy to keep calm and thrive under the pressure you might feel.
With these tips under your belt, we reckon you’re ready to go out there and deliver the perfect public speech. Good luck!
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