How to Speak in Public

The basic principles of public speaking are fairly simple to understand. While delivering a speech might seem like a difficult prospect, the truth is, itís not rocket science-unless of course your speech is, in fact, about rocket science. Moderation of tone, projection of voice, and a firm knowledge of subject are the keys, and it is possible to turn a speech about even the densest of subjects into a success.

Know your audience. If you are speaking to a class of fifth graders on career day, youíll use a very different tone than you would in speaking to the senior members of an executive board about the benefits of new customer relationship management software. Tailor your vocabulary selection, your points of interest, and your tone to engage that specific audience.

Research your subject Although this might seem obvious, many people fall into the trap of assuming they know enough about their subject to avoid researching it. This is particularly true when the subject is not technical. Donít make this mistake. There is as much to be learned about the company for which you work as there is about biomedical science. Research will provide you with interesting facts, firm statistical figures, and a general idea of the current tone of articles about your subject-a tone you can piggyback off of when making your speech.

Practice your tone Even the driest of subjects can become interesting when your voice conveys the excitement you feel, the importance it carries, and the emotion it should excite in others.

Project your voice, but donít shout While this isnít as important if you have the benefit of a microphone, practice assuming that you will not have access to this technological wonder. As you rehearse, ask yourself if people in the back of the room could not only hear your words, but understand them as well. Remember, projection involves speaking clearly as well as audibly.

Make notes. This doesnít mean that you should write the speech out word for word, but even the most professional of speakers knows that having notes to jog his memory is essential at times. You know your speech to the point where you don't need to read your speech word for word. Use note cards, a single sheet of paper with a general outline, or bold headlines at the tops of slides to help you keep your speech on the right track.

Use pauses This will slow yourself down if you are rushing, it will build anticipation, and allow the audience to reflect and take in your speech. Writing the word "Pause" your note cards will help you to remember when to actually pause.

Make eye contact with your audience A good rule of thumb is to pick a listener in the room and keep eye contact with them for 5 seconds, then move on. If it's a small enough audience, make eye contact with everyone. If it's a larger audience, be sure that you spend time making eye contact with all of the sections of the room.

Engage your audience. Use humor to help smooth awkward moments. Share the excitement you feel. Enjoy the chance you are being given to share your knowledge and demonstrate your leadership abilities.

With a a bit of practice, a bit of research, and an attitude that your speech is an opportunity to make an impression and have some fun, youíll be well on your way to wowing your audience - whether itís an audience of eager children or cynical executives.

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