Public speaking isn’t reserved exclusively for those who lead large events or have a role in the public eye. When starting your professional career, you’ll realize how important public speaking skills for work can be.
It might be a small presentation within the firm, a talk at a board meeting, or a debate at a conference. All of these occasions demand that you’re skilful at presenting your thoughts in front of others.
And mastering public speaking in these situations will give you a definite advantage.
Most of the skills you need to deliver a good speech from the centre stage, are the same as those that will help you deliver your message on a call or during a business lunch. And perfecting those public speaking skills for work will help you in every step of your career.
You don’t have to be a natural born speaker
Being good at public speaking isn’t magic. Few people are born with amazing charisma and the ability to spellbind an entire room.
But some people do get extremely good at it.
And how do they do it? They train. They expose themselves to situations where they have to talk, and they practice and improve specific skills each time.
If you put in some time to improve your public speaking skills, you will benefit in all situations where you need to lead the conversation.
Implement the tips below to quickly improve your public speaking skills for work, and go from quiet bystander to centre of attention.
1. Don’t be afraid of silence
You probably think you’re very clear and concise when you talk. But if you’re doing this mistake, you won’t even notice it yourself because it’s such an inherent part of your speaking pattern.
Most people are uncomfortable with silence. This shows especially when they don’t remember the next thing to say.
Instead of spending 30 seconds thinking quietly, they fill the air with “uuhhm” , “hmmm”, and other unnecessary sounds.
Don’t be afraid to use an artistic break after an important point. And if you don’t know exactly what to say, stay quiet while you think. That break seems a lot longer to you than to everyone else in the room.
2. Cut the filler words
For some people, filling the silence with unnecessary words aren’t enough. They’ll add it to the end of each sentence, or even worse, in the middle.
Those noises are not doing anything for your audience, and you need to cut this bad habit right away.
Sometimes, it gets so bad that others will squirm in their chairs because the sounds you make are so annoying.
And if that’s the mental balance you put people in when you talk, you won’t be surprised if they don’t even catch 5% of the message you’re trying to convey.
If I was going to choose only one thing to improve my public speaking skills for work, I would go with this one.
3. Speak so slowly you get uncomfortable
You probably have a natural tendency to speed up if you talk when you’re nervous. Most people do, myself included.
But if you do that, people will miss most of your important points.
You need to speak so slowly it feels uncomfortable to you. This is when your audience understands everything you say and has time to absorb the information as well.
4. Change your tone of voice
To make it even easier for the audience to follow you, try to adapt the speed, tone and volume to what you’re saying.
Most people are bad at focused listening over a long period of time, and changing your tone of voice when you reach an important point, might help them remember what you said.
No matter what, make sure to not speak in the same flat tone of voice the entire time. It’s the perfect conversation killer.
Your tone of voice can be decided and practised in advance. Include a note about increased volume, small breaks or slides you want to point to.
5. Use your hands to emphasize your points
When we talk naturally, we usually use our hands to gesticulate. But that natural flow disappears for many when they get nervous from speaking in public.
This makes you look unnatural when you talk, and a lot less engaging.
Practice using your hands more actively in normal conversations. This will help since you get more conscious of how you normally use your hands.
The most efficient way to train is to include hand movements when you practice before a presentation. You already know what you’re supposed to say, so plan your hand movements as well.
If you don’t know where to begin, look at some good youtube speakers and see how they use their hands actively. It can be pointing their fingers upwards, or just moving their hand flat thought the air to show that something is smooth or quiet.
6. If you’re standing, find a comfortable position
Your hands can move around to help people follow the conversation, but the rest of your body should normally not do a lot of acrobatics on stage.
One bad habit you need to get rid of if you’re presenting something while standing up is to jump back and forth between your feet.
Most people would never do that in a normal conversation, but in a nervous setting in front of a group, people shift their weight back and forth between their feet often. It might end up looking like you’re about to jump your audience.
You can move on stage if that’s natural for you, but don’t run around like crazy. Find a position that you’re comfortable staying in for a while.
7. The notes aren’t for you
If you have an important presentation, chances are you’ve created a killer slide pack to go with it. And you probably know what’s on those pages already.
So why do you need to stand with your back to the audience and read up from every single slide?
If this isn’t you, you’re already on your way to doing something right. The slides are not there to be read out loud by you. If you do that, the audience might as well just get the slide pack and go home to read it in peace.
Ideally, you wouldn’t need notes at all, but I understand it can be comforting to have them with you just in case.
If you need to do some training to memorise the keywords for you talk, read this article on how to remember anything using visualisation techniques.
8. Focus on the audience instead
When you don’t need to look down or back at your notes all the time, you free up your attention for the listeners.
It doesn’t matter if you’re on stage or in a boardroom, focusing on your audience will help you get your point across.
Get eye contact with different people and nod or smile at them. It will make them feel like they’re included in the conversation, and it will be easier for them to follow you.
If you’re really uncomfortable with eye contact, at least focus on something at the back of the room, and don’t look at your notes other than to get a quick reminder. It looks unprofessional, and like you don’t know your own material.
9. Make a videotape
You’ve seen examples of a few bad habits to cut out of your speaking pattern already, and I’ve told you to practice. The most efficient way of improving is to videotape yourself while you talk.
So many people are unaware of their bad habits and will have no idea that they nervously pace back and forth, or add a “So” before beginning every sentence.
Videotaping it a few times so you can see for yourself, will often give you an aha-moment. And it will be a lot easier to improve if you know what to work on.
For real-time adjustments, ask someone to sit in the same room as you and interrupt every time you do one of those things.
10. How to get your points across
When you want to improve your public speaking skills for work, you also need to improve your content. And there are a few techniques you can use to make it more memorable.
A simple way of catching someone’s attention is to add a bit of humour or a personal story to highlight the point. Only do that if it’s appropriate in the situation though.
But the most important change you can do to get your message across is to stick to just a few key points.
Start by saying what you’re about to tell the audience about, and don’t be afraid of repeating yourself at the end.
If you implement just a few of these changes the next time you’re about to speak in a meeting or at a seminar, you’re guaranteed to get your message across.
Further reading on how to improve your public speaking skills for work
If you want to improve further, I suggest that you watch more videos. For more reading, see the links at the bottom.
What are the best tips you have implemented to improve your public speaking skills for work?