Top public speaking tips - Business Works
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Top public speaking tips

Philippa Hammond, Owner, Speaking Well in Public Speaking well in public is a vital business and personal skill that can enhance your professional and social standing and yet people can be more nervous of public speaking than of spiders and death says Philippa Hammond, owner of Speaking Well in Public.

The ancient Greeks, of course, had a word for the fear of public speaking glossophobia, or 'tongue terror'.

I've trained public speaking and presentation skills for business for over ten years now. I've worked with firefighters who'd rush into a burning building to save your life, but ask them to make a presentation and they visibly shake with nerves. It's not about courage, it's about stepping out of the comfort zone and doing something out of the ordinary.

My ten tips for successful public speaking will help you to feel more confident, project confidence and inspire confidence in yourself and your business.

are you there to inspire, to inform, to entertain?

Tip 1: Planning and preparing will help develop your confidence and ensure that your speech or presentation is a success. Ask the organisers what they want to achieve by having this presentation are you there to inspire, to inform, to entertain?

Tip 2: Focus: Decide on your aim and objectives for the presentation. If you can't state the aim of the presentation in one sentence, you haven't focussed your thinking yet. Find out about your audience's needs, so it's relevant to them. Ask 'what does this group of people need to hear from me right now?'

Tip 3: Gather, prioritise and structure your material. Brainstorm all ideas initially, not editing or censoring any ideas at this stage. Then when it's all laid out, start to prioritise into essential, useful and nice-if-we-have-time. Be ruthless with editing to time - you can always send the extra material later.

Tip 4: It's usually better not to read word for word verbatim. Better once you've written the presentation to make brief speaking notes from it, with bullet points and key words to trigger your memory. You may like to use A6 cue cards to refer to tag them together and make sure they're numbered.

your best visual aid is you

Tip 5: Use a visual aid to make it more interesting and memorable. We really do retain more if we've seen as well as heard the information. It doesn't have to be Powerpoint; we've all seen audiences droop in their seats in the half-dark as the presenter drones on over the hum of slide after tedious slide - keep it short, keep it relevant and remember your best visual aid is you and how you come across to the audience.

Tip 6: All performers and the public speaker is a performer know the value of rehearsal. It will increase your confidence, ensure a smooth performance and iron out the glitches. Make sure your first and last words are off pat and not read out, as these are the bits they'll remember best.

Tip 7: Deal with nerves. Even though you're prepared and rehearsed, you'll feel nervous - everyone who has ever stood up in front of an audience has felt nervous. Some confidence-building techniques:

  • Relax: drop tension from your shoulders, raise your head a little, and your mood will lift.

  • Breathe: from the diaphragm, not from the chest, to calm your heart-rate and control your voice.

  • Engage: Remember they want you to succeed, so make eye contact and smile.

The best cure for nerves is just to get on with it and to take every opportunity you can to speak in public. You don't want to get rid of nerves entirely actors know that adrenaline, excitement and that sense of occasion are the fuel you need to power your presentation.

Tip 8: Work on your vocal skills to develop an interesting voice. Try some breathing and projection exercises to develop control and energy.

Tip 9: Dealing with the audience can be difficult, especially if the message is unwelcome or controversial. Prepare for questions in advance. If you practice answers to the six worst questions you can imagine being asked, chances are the ones you are asked won't be nearly so bad.

Tip 10: Always ask yourself and those you trust the question 'How did I do?' 'What was I pleased with?' 'What would I do differently if I were to do it again next week?' Seek out and accept feedback positively, working on your message and delivery for improving your next presentation.

For more information and advice on public speaking skills for business, please visit:

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