Monday, February 28, 2011

The Delivery

Here are some insider tips on public speaking from experienced speakers:
  • Speak while standing whenever possible.
  • Adjust your language to the audience. Don’t talk down to anyone, but do tailor your language and your references to the audience (for example, are you speaking to engineers or to artists?). A young audience has a shorter attention span than an older audience does, so you will need to sprinkle more spice into your talk—gestures, vivid images, jokes. Male audiences respond more to visual images; women, to verbal images.
  • People like people who are like them, so try to make a connection by mentioning early something that connects you to the audience. For instance, you could say, “Some people think that, because we are volunteers and are not being paid, that our work is somehow easier or somehow less important. We all know just how wrong that is, don’t we?”
  • Remember that you are more important than the material. The people are in the audience because they want to hear what you have to say and how you present the information. Otherwise, they could stay home and read the report.
  • Decide what points you want to make. Don’t try for more than four major points in a 20-minute speech. The usual technique is to make a point, give a descriptive example, then remake the point.
  • Speak with feeling. Try to communicate your enthusiasm for your topic to your audience. Keep your head up and speak clearly.
  • Control voice volume. Inexperienced speakers have a tendency to shout or to get louder as they go along. Think in terms of projecting. You can project your normal tone of voice without shouting and without sounding like a sideshow barker.
  • Take your time. Another common error of inexperienced speakers is a tendency to speak quickly, as if every second has to be filled with information.
  • Avoid rambling and repeating.
  • When you’ve finished, if there is no question-and-answer session, say thank you and sit down. Don’t wave or otherwise acknowledge applause.
  • If you are having a question-and-answer period, say so and raise your hand briefly to indicate the protocol for asking questions. Restate and, if necessary, rephrase questions. Don’t say “good question.” This gives the impression you are judging the questions.
  • Don’t refer to the questioner by name unless you are prepared to address everyone in the room by name.

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