What You Need to Know to Improve Your Public Speaking

    Από: Startup Team

Πηγή: freelanceswitch.com

Public speaking is hard: we’ve all heard that it’s the most common fear, above and beyond death. Everybody in the room is staring at you, which is enough to make most of us want to run.

There are some lucky people who seem to not experience that particular sensation or who even seem to be natural speakers, but for the majority of us, there are always steps to take that will make us steadier on stage.

Choose a Target Audience Early and Get to Know Them

You can’t be all things to all people, even if you can see a benefit to doing so. As you’re working to improve your public speaking, you need to focus in on the audience you’re trying to reach. If, for instance, you’re using speaking as a strategy to drum up business for yourself, look at what types of clients are going to be worth the investment of time necessary to give a talk.Knowing your market is an important step to improving your speaking.

Narrow down who your target audience is, so that you can make sure that you appeal to them. After all, there are major differences in the styles and presentations of motivational speakers who are reaching out to high schoolers than those speakers who give workshops to improve business practices in large organizations. Knowing your market is an important step to improving your speaking.

Once you know who you want to reach, make a point of getting to know them. Look at what sources of information they rely on and the opinions they typically hold. The more information you have about your audience, the better. You’ll be able to find plenty of topics to speak about in the questions they ask and the stories they tell, and you can make the process of gaining their interest less work. It’s like any marketing situation: if you know who you want to reach and where they’ll be, the process is always significantly easier.

You also want to know who you’re up against. Go to events geared towards the audience you want to reach and listen to the speakers who are essentially your future competition. You may not want to run your speaking career along the same lines they do, but you want to know, at least, what’s working for them and why. You may find spots for improvement, as well as entirely new opportunities you’ll want to pursue.

Go Out and Speak, Every Chance You Get

It would be nice if we could all get great at speaking to audiences before we actually had to talk in front of one of those audiences, but the reality is that it takes practice to acquire the skills you need to be an effective speaker. Practice in front of an empty room isn’t the same as the real deal, making it necessary to actually go out and find more audiences.

There are plenty of speaking opportunities out there for anyone willing to chase them, although you’re not going to start out without a lot of acclaim for your efforts. Speaking to local organizations is one of the best ways out there to get the practice you need: as long as you have something relevant to say, you may be able to arrange to speak just by contacting whoever is in charge of the group and offering to speak. I’ve talked to groups of high school students, local professional groups, and even just a handful of people at my local library. There’s no group so small that you can’t benefit from the practice of speaking to them.

Such groups are also a little easier to speak to: you’ve got training wheels on with them. Because these sorts of talks are relatively low risk, it can be a little easier to get yourself up there. You are building your reputation in front of these audiences, but they’ve seen some pretty bad speakers. You would actually have to try to be the worst speaker who has ever gotten up in front of them. Don’t take that as an excuse to do less than your best, of course, but use the knowledge to make yourself more comfortable with speaking.

One of the reasons that organizations like Toastmasters are so effective is because members have to speak to the group on a regular basis. There can be a definite benefit to joining a group that puts you on the spot to speak regularly if only to get some of that low risk practice. Such groups also make a point of offering feedback, which is necessary to be able to improve.

While feedback can be scary, make a habit of asking for it at each event you speak at, even the small ones. It’s ideal to film any talks you give, even if you just have a friend record it on her phone — that way, you can compare your efforts and see where you’re improving, as well as continuing weak spots.

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