Public speaking is something that a lot of us fear, yet it remains crucial to persuading people to believe in our cause. If we can’t speak confidently about why our organisation and related issues matter then why would anyone, be it a donor or volunteer, support us? The best public speakers are able to transform a room of people who know nothing about their work into passionate advocates for life in a matter of minutes. We’ve put together a selection of the best public speaking advice from leaders around the world so that you too can make a lasting impression on your audience wherever they may be.
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We are all expected to speak in public from time to time whether it is a team meeting or a presentation in front of an audience. Most of us are familiar with that feeling just before we give a speech, but with practice and the correct technique public speaking can become one of the best things you can do for your non profit organisation. Good public speaking skills can not only make a major difference to your organisation’s work, it can also enhance your reputation, boost your self confidence and open up new career opportunities.
Being a little nervous before speaking in public is quite natural. In fact, in some ways it is beneficial as it keeps us alert to the task at hand. So don’t worry and follow our top tips for how to overcome nervousness and become the best public speaker you can be.
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The most crucial element of becoming a great public speaker is to know your material. It is extremely difficult to speak publicly about topics that you don’t understand or are unfamiliar with. If you know your topic well then the speech will flow naturally. If you are comfortable with what you are talking about you will be able to relax without rushing or forgetting crucial bits of information. A relaxed speaker will be able to seamlessly include personal stories and humour that will help your audience to connect with your topic.
Many people find it useful to have the beginning of a speech planned and rehearsed. There is nothing wrong with practicing and refining your speech in the days and weeks leading up to a important speech. You may only get one opportunity to make that vital first impression and the more familiar you are with what you want to say the easier it will be to deliver. Most public speaking engagements, whether big or small, will be limited by time and it can be especially useful to time yourself in order to modify the content of your speech so that is an appropriate duration. It is important to get off to a good start and a well rehearsed, composed introduction will help to settle your nerves and put your audience at ease.
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For big speeches it can be really helpful to understand both your audience and the room itself. Don’t be afraid to greet audience members as they arrive at the venue as it is far easier to speak to friends than strangers. Take the chance to walk around the room and to trial any equipment such as microphones or projectors that you will be using. Don’t leave anything to chance when you don’t have to.
Relax. By now you should know what you want to do and how you want to do it. You know you are capable and the audience is keen to hear what you have to say. Begin by addressing your audience and introducing yourself. This will serve to both buy you time as well as calm your nerves a little. Pause, take a breath and try to channel your nervous energy into enthusiasm and passion for whatever it is you are talking about. If you don’t believe in it why should anyone else?
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Remember that your audience, whoever they are, be it a boss or an unfamiliar crowd, want you to succeed. The people gathered want to hear an engaging and stimulating speech and are willing you to succeed. Even the very best speakers will fluff a line or get a word wrong, don’t let this hold you back or get you down. Simply, recompose yourself and state yourself again, nobody will even remember it. Don’t apologise or worry yourself, everyone has seen it happen a million times and there is a strong chance that your audience didn’t’t even notice.
Concentrate on your key messages. What is it you want to say? What is it that you want your audience to remember more than anything else. Be sure to emphasise your key points and ideas. You can return to your key ideas throughout your speech to really drive your message home.
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Visuals can add an extra dimension to a good speech as long as they don’t detract from your message. A series of strong images that support your words can really help to drive home your message and leave a lasting impression on your audience. Try to avoid using too much text on any slides as it is difficult for an audience to listen effectively and read at the same time. If your visuals do include a few words you should consider pausing for a moment to allow your audience to read and digest the information.
Another great way of improving your public speaking technique is to take note of what other good speakers do. How do they present themselves? How do they open and close a speech? Take notice of their words, timing and body language and adapt what they do best into your own personal style. We can all learn from others but never try to be something you’re not. The more natural you are on the stage the better your audience will be able to connect with your message.
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One of the biggest assets of skilled public speakers is experience. The more that you speak in public, whether you think you’ve done well or poorly, the better you will be the next time. We are all always learning and the more exposure you get of delivering a speech in public the more confident you will feel each and every time you step up to that stage. Experience builds confidence so make sure the next time somebody is looking for someone to speak don’t be afraid to step up and volunteer, it will only make you better.
Lastly, don’t fear public speaking. Instead, relish the challenge. Don’t speak or present yourself as if you would rather be somewhere else, if you can’t be enthusiastic about your work then neither are others. Be confident in what you’re doing and it will resonate throughout the room. If you do well there are few better highs than coming off stage to a rapturous applause knowing that you presented you and your organisation to the best of your ability.
Do you have any tips on how to speak publicly? Can you share any stories where you have achieved something due to a good speech. We can all get better so please get involved in our comments section and share your wisdom with the rest of the fundsforngos community.