How To Develop Your Public Speaking Abilities

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As a college student, you are going to need to learn how to communicate effectively in front of a group of people. However, if you are like most students, the thought of getting up in front of an audience and giving some form of speech or presentation probably frightens you. But the truth is that it shouldn’t. One of the main reasons people fear public speaking is because they worry they will make a mistake and a bad impression.

Being prepared and knowing what you want to convey without having to memorize your speech where you sound like a robot is going to be essential to the success of your presentation. So if you are interested in improving your public speaking skills, here are some things to keep in mind when delivering your speech:

Set The Tone

In public speaking, you only get one chance to make a first impression. In a presentation you may have no more than 10, and at the most 30 seconds to make an impression on your audience. The opening to a presentation is in many ways the most critical part and it always pays to plan it particularly carefully.

“In the opening, you need to set the tone for the presentation, attract the attention of the audience and orient them to the topic” suggests John Rogan of Motivation Speaker, a public speakers bureau who works with some of the leading inspirational speakers from around the world. “From the very beginning you also need to start developing rapport, or a connection, with your audience.” There are a variety of techniques you can use.

Using Humour

It is tempting to start a presentation by telling a joke or a funny story. If you are good at telling stories or jokes, and you get all the words right; and if the audience understands and appreciates the joke, then this can be a very successful way to get going.

But the risks are high. If you are nervous at the start of a presentation, it is easy to forget the punch line. You also run the risk that some people in the audience may not understand or enjoy the joke.

Tell An Inspiring Story

“People love to hear how you overcame an obstacle or challenge” suggests Sean Adams of Motivation Ping. “It makes you more relatable and human which helps your audience connect with you.”

When people have been taken on an inspirational journey, they are more open to hearing your ideas and see you in a different light. So if you can tell an inspiring story, do so. Just make sure to keep it brief.

Keep It Safe

Unless you are a highly skilled presenter, you will probably be safer using an alternative means of opening your presentations. You could present an interesting news item, some facts that are not well known, or a quotation. These are all safe ways of making an impact at the start. Asking the audience a rhetorical question is an excellent way of gaining their attention.

Whatever technique you choose, keep it simple and safe so you get off to a positive start from which you can continue. There are few things worse than a joke that falls flat at the start of a presentation, leaving everyone embarrassed and the presenter lost for words.

You can have the greatest message in the world, but if you don’t know how to deliver it through a strong presentation, then your message will never be heard the way that you want it to be.

Check For Proper Grammar & Punctuation

One of the first steps is to make sure that you have thoroughly checked all the text in your slides/presentation piece, all of your handouts and even use any type of grammar software to help check for errors. If you are writing your project on your computer and have access to the internet, then use an online dictionary and thesaurus to help correct everything (I personally like to use One of the best ways to ruin your presentation is through poor grammar and careless written material.

Rehearse Your Presentation

“Practice as much as you can so you don’t sound stiff or rehearsed” suggests Dan Smith of Keynote Speaker, a professional speaker agency who works with some of the top keynote speakers.

It’s also best to practice in a small group of friends or family prior to your main presentation day. Ask your friends and family for their honest opinions and to constructively criticize with sincerity. Make brief eye contact to keep your listeners awake.

Focus on relaxing,staying calm and remaining very confident during your practice. Yes, you need to breathe and pace your speech to help relax your nerves.

Benefiting The Listeners

Not all, but a lot of people at times are very selfish and do not want to listen to anything that will not benefit them. So it’s very important to keep in mind that the listeners want to hear something that’s beneficial to them. So make sure that your main message to deliver is not only beneficial, but very beneficial and important.

Confident Vocal Delivery

Use a moderate tone as you speak. You don’t want to sound too loud, obnoxious and you don’t want to sound too weak either. You want to sound very confident in knowing that what you have to say is very important. Make the audience feel this importance of your message through a strong and relaxed voice.

Adding The Finishing Touch

You need to look at your project as three pieces: An Introduction, A Mid-Section (a.k.a. Body) & a Strong Motivating Ending. The Strong Motivating Ending part usually resides in the last 2-3 paragraphs. You need to make sure that you bring your benefiting message back in at this point and summarize that important aspect of your entire presentation (emphasizing is great!) You want to make the listeners feel motivated in the end of your speech to take action in what your main purpose was for. Always ask if anyone has any remaining questions and answer them with enthusiasm!