The ability to stand before a large crowd and successfully communicate a message or an idea is now one of the most prized skills of the international job market.
We’re not just talking about standing face-to-face in front of a physical crowd, the concept has changed to include live broadcasts, webinars, or virtual conferences – which might mean addressing hundreds or even thousands of people around the world.
It’s no secret that many people feel nervous about speaking in front of an audience. A study by Chapman University in 2014 showed that the fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias, with 25% of the research sample saying speaking in front of a large crowd caused them stress and anxiety.
However, both educational institutions and employers view having great oral communication skills as one of the most important features they look for in candidates to fill positions in universities or companies. As the importance of being eloquent on social media and engaging in virtual conferences and meetings increases, this skill will only become more valuable.
The good news is that the art of public speaking is not a talent with which some are born, and others aren’t. It’s a skill that anyone can learn, practice, and master over time. The only obstacles you need to overcome are those that may be in your mind.
As top Public Speaking Coach Kevin Abdul Rahman explained: "The biggest game you will ever play is the game in your mind. Control your mind, and you will dominate the world."
Are you ready to improve your public speaking skills? Here are five smart tricks from the experts who made this skill their own.
Work on your voice
Your voice is one of the most important tools you have, yet it’s often overlooked by people who want to improve in public speaking.
Author and Human Development Coach Brian Tracy highlights a range of practical tips, including the importance of talking slowly.
He says: "When you speak more slowly, your voice has more power and authority. Your listeners have an opportunity to absorb and reflect on what you're saying. Powerful people speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and express themselves with confidence.”
Science agrees on the power of the voice! A study conducted by Yale University in 2017, proved that the reason you believe, admire and trust a person is down to their tone of voice.
Use your own experiences
Whatever topic you’re talking about, mention some examples from your own experience in the form of stories or funny anecdotes to hold the attention of your audience. For example, if you were speaking about how to shine in your career perhaps you could talk about a terrible job interview you once did and the life lesson it taught you. This will immediately bring you closer to your listeners and communicate that you’re a normal, flawed human being.
Find a stage persona
It might seem strange to think of public speaking as a theatrical performance, but experts encourage you to develop a stage persona to give you more confidence and distinguish you from other speakers.
The fun thing is you may discover something interesting and exciting about yourself in this process, making the whole experience one of happiness instead of tension and pressure.
Watch these Misk Talk clips with American businessman and motivational speaker Chris Gardner who transformed from being a homeless man into a strong personality capable of inspiring others.
Fool your mind
There is an interesting and very effective way to get rid of your phobia of public speaking. You can trick your mind into believing you are just having a normal conversation like any other day!
British businessman mogul Sir Richard Branson uses this smart trick to calm himself before a big talk. He says: "Picture yourself in a living room having a chat with your friends. You would be relaxed and comfortable talking to them, the same applies when public speaking."
Focus on your audience
Top public speaking coach Dr. Nick Morgan says people get so wrapped up in the speech or presentation they’re preparing they forget the audience they’re talking to.
He says: “Honing your understanding, awareness and interest in your listeners will have a surprising effect on your speaking abilities. Most speakers are so caught up in their own concerns and so driven to cover certain points or get a certain message across that they can’t be bothered to think in more than a perfunctory way about the audience. And the irony is, of course, that there is no hope of getting your message across if that’s all the energy you put into the audience.”
If your room is a group of C-suite executives, speak to them in a professional language they will understand. If your listeners are teenagers, make references they can relate to.
Your audience is human; they have interests and jobs just like all of us. Relating to them is how you can really drive engagement and ensure your message sticks.
Accept that the errors are possible
When you do public speaking – whether at a live event or on a platform like Zoom – there will be times when things don’t go to plan.
There may be technical difficulties, timing issues, or you may just ‘go blank’ for a moment and forget what you were going to say next. These problems are all very common and they offer a great chance to make a few jokes. Everyone can relate to life going off the rails for a moment!
The more you can accept the idea of adapting in the moment when things go wrong, the easier it will be to brush problems off. You’ll even learn to enjoy the spontaneity!