The Art Of Public Speaking

Suggestions on how to improve your public speaking skills, including preparation, practice/rehearsal,personal appearance and dealing with stage fright.

Sooner or later, we all are called upon to get up in front of a group of people and speak. This can be either a harrowing or pleasant experience. The following tips are designed to make public speaking less stressful. Less stress means a more relaxed and confident you and makes a better impression.

· Be prepared. Know your subject. If possible, make up index card with notes or key phrases to refer to during your speech. Do not put the entire speech on the cards and read it word for word. You will look stiff, sound uninteresting and bore your audience. If you can choose the topic you are to speak on yourself, opt for something you enjoy as a hobby or which you have read a lot about because it interests you. Your passion for the subject will come through in your delivery.

· Know your audience. Many people overlook this important strategy. Knowing who you will talk to can help you to tailor what you will say to that group. Let's say, for example, that you are going to speak to a group of senior citizens about ways to maximize their investments and earn more money for retirement. Since your target audience is older and has less time to wait for long term investments to pay off, you will want to discuss plans that are short term but at the same time have good yields. This same talk given to a group of people in their twenties would emphasize the benefits of long term strategies.

· Practice/Dress rehearsal. Do several run-throughs of your talk. Gather any props you will use, such as photos or charts. If you are using a multimedia presentation, make sure your equipment is operating correctly. You might even get a family member or a friend to observe your rehearsal and give you constructive feedback. Use a video camera and tape yourself in your run-through. Most people are uncomfortable watching themselves on tape but as painful as this may be, it can provide you will a point of view you cannot get any other way. Don't be overly critical but do look for any major gaffes. You will want to practice your speech as many times as it takes to become comfortable and natural with the material and visual aids. Your speech should flow and practice will make that happen.

· Image. Always look your best when addressing any group. If the group will be casually dressed, you can wear a nice business casual outfit of khaki slacks, a polo shirt and loafers. But that's about as casual as you should go. Jeans, t-shirts, wrinkled, dirty and/or torn clothing is not appropriate when speaking in front of a group. Make sure your hair is clean and neat. For women, makeup should be applied in moderation. You want people to listen to what you are saying rather than to be preoccupied with how you look.

· Stage fright. Everyone who has spoken in front of a group has experienced stage fright at one time or another. The good news is that once you begin your talk and warm to your subject, the stage fright usually goes away. Occasionally someone will experience stage fright to such an extent that it cripples them and they cannot continue, but that is very rare.

You may find it helpful sit quietly for a few minutes before your speech and gather your thoughts, breathing deeply. Visualization techniques, such as athletes use, will train your brain not to be afraid and mentally walking-through the exercise many times will imprint on your subconscious that there is no other option but success.

These tips can help assure that giving a speech or a presentation will be as pleasant for you as it is for your audience. Good luck! You're well prepared and ready. Break a leg!

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