10 Tips for Improving Your Speaking Skills
You write well. Why would you need to improve your public speaking skills?
If you plan to become an expert, write a book, or give a radio interview, webinar, or podcast, you will need to improve your public speaking skills.
If you want to influence or pitch your work to community groups, trade associations, or other decision-makers, you need to improve your public speaking skills.
But, as a B2B copywriter, you can easily communicate through your writing. So is it really that important to sharpen your speaking skills too?
Speaking is an excellent way to attract clients, and it can position you as an expert in front of your prospects. Whether you speak in front of a group, give a radio interview, or present a webinar, learning the skill of speaking will be beneficial to your copywriting business.
Now, you may be asking, “Well, isn’t speaking the same as writing?”
Not quite … speaking is different.
Communication involves reading, writing, thinking, and speaking. Yet, if you've ever tried to eloquently say exactly what you thought, it probably didn't end well. Even speaking the written word doesn't sound the same as speaking without forethought.
Speaking is like a muscle. You have to exercise your voice to keep it in top form.
Just having a friendly conversation with your neighbor doesn't equate to being able to concisely influence a group of people with your polished points.
Let's look at 10 tips for improving your public speaking skills:
Before you start preparing your speech, make sure you know your audience. As in copywriting, you need to find out what makes your audience tick.
What are their problems or concerns? Which topics would they find relevant? What would be the appropriate attire for this occasion? Where could you find out more information about their industry, workplace, or position? You will never err by knowing too much.
Once you're done researching, you can whittle your approach to exactly what you need in order to help your audience the most.
At the very least, write a speech outline. Make a statement. Support it with three items: stories, quotes, current events, etc. Repeat as necessary for the duration of your presentation.
Instead of drowning your statement or your stories in tangents or inconsequential details, be specific and concise using only the key points. Organize your material in a logical flow. Logical doesn't necessarily mean chronological.
Review your outline as though you were the listener. If it seems to be off in any way, re-work the order until it makes sense.
I wouldn't recommend memorizing your speech. A few people may be able to pull this off. I, however, inevitably draw a blank at some point if I try to memorize. Concentrating more on your audience instead of on your next words will make your speech sound more conversational and fluid.
Practice for your speech ad nauseum. It's okay if your words differ from one time to the next, so long as your points and stories remain clear.
A great way to practice is to join a Toastmasters club near you. You'll forge connections with many great people as a bonus. The Table Topics portion of a Toastmasters meeting focuses on extemporaneous, or off-the-cuff, speaking. Participating in Table Topics regularly will increase your ability to handle any question or comment. You may even discover how much fun it can be.
- Always start and end your presentation on time. Arrive early for a live audience in order to meet some people and do some on-the-spot research. Who's considered to be the super star, the jokester, the diplomat, or other main social characters in the group? If you demonstrate you value the audience's time, you will enhance your credibility and your likeability.
- Make it easy for your audience to listen to you. Listening is very hard work, especially with so many distractions like cell phones. Speak in a conversational manner. Skip the ahs, ums, and excessive filler words like so and and. If you're using a microphone, speak into it, not away from it. Having met a few people will actually increase your confidence. Those "strangers" will now appear as friends.
- Always be service-oriented. It's not about you. It's about your audience.
- Admit when you don't know something. Resolve to find out later. Doing this will keep your credibility intact.
- Pause strategically. Pausing can indicate a period at the end of a sentence or emphasize a particular point. A pause gives a listener a chance to reflect on what was said and give you a chance to think ahead. Too many pauses, however, will make your speech drag.
Repeat any questions from the audience. Be mindful that some listeners may not be able to hear what was asked by a participant, so repeat the question before beginning your answer.
Q&A sessions can be unpredictable. You never know when someone might want to hog the discussion or take over your speech. Don't let the audience decide how your presentation will end. Instead, watch the time. Wrap the Q&A up when you need to. Then conclude your speech your way.
- End strongly with a call-to-action. What do you want the audience to do, think, or feel? Don't assume they'll get your point without you stating it directly.
People will more likely remember the beginning and end of your speech along with snippets of any well-told stories. Just as copywriters focus on headlines, for a speech, pay particular attention to your opening, any stories, and your close. You want people to think it was worth their while to listen to you. Be authentic, and have fun with it.
In fact, maybe now would be a good time to start rehearsing your elevator pitch. Join Toastmasters to make your public speaking ability second nature. Never ever pass up stage time. Consider each speaking event as an opportunity to showcase your expertise and to advertise your services. And it will become more natural the more you do it.
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