Table of Contents
LEARN & LISTEN: Know your subject well.
STRUCTURE: Know how to structure thoughts in a well crafted message.
UNDERSTAND: Understand your audience and provide a real benefit.
INSPIRE: Create a deep emotional impact and fill the audience with inspiration.
As a designer, public speaking is an important business skill to have. Knowing how to properly address an audience can help you inform clients and coworkers, as well as make a strong and convincing case to present and sell ideas and projects in a persuasive and meaningful manner.
Mastering Public Speaking
The ability to present information, instill motivation, and sell ideas is not only important but essential to make forward strides. However, For most people, public speaking doesn’t come naturally. The National Institute of Mental Health states that 73% of the population fears public speaking – ranking it higher than fears of death, spiders, and heights.
This statistic illustrates a real need among people to learn an important life skill. This article aims to teach the skills needed to master speaking and remove the fear associated with it. To start, we’ve broken down the art of public speaking into four areas of skill development:
- Central Idea
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”
– Winston Churchill
The first thing you’ll want to do is determine your presentation’s central idea. The central idea is what you want your audience to remember after they have forgotten everything else about your presentation. Your central idea should be inspiring to your audience. It is the main benefit that you want to provide, and the glue that keeps the entire speech together. When determining your central idea, keep in mind that the audience is only there for themselves – they need help with a problem and they are seeking answers. They are looking to you to provide them.
The central idea needs to be simple, conveyable in a single sentence, and fall within one of the following categories:
An aha-moment where an idea appears in an instant
An existing idea that is improved upon
A new angle on a topic people take for granted
An unusual or progressive idea about advancements or the future
“Grasp the subject, the words will follow.”
– Cato The Elder
After deciding on your central idea, you’ll want to structure your thoughts into a well crafted message. A good rule of thumb, is to structure your speech the same way that you would structure a written paper – you will need an introduction to the topic, a body to present the facts and your main points, and a conclusion to wrap up your ideas.
When forming your introduction, grasp your audience’s attention right away by stating what benefits the audience will gain through your speech. In other words, let the audience know upfront what’s in it for them. This will help keep them engaged throughout your speech.
Next, use the main body of your speech to present important information and build rapport with your listeners. How you make the audience feel is extremely important. Telling stories that share your personal experiences or provide comic relief will arouse both positive and negative feelings in your audience and help you form an emotional connection with them. You’ll also want to gain the audience’s trust and build intellectual credibility by providing them with evidence or supporting materials such as facts, statistics, historical examples, or quotes from authoritative figures when speaking. If you connect with your audience and build credibility, you will gain their confidence.
“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
– Mark Twain
Practice, practice, practice to prepare yourself for the big moment. Preparation will help you familiarize yourself with your central idea and the stories you want to share with your audience. The more familiar you are with your speech, the more comfortable you will be presenting it. Studies have shown that a speaker’s anxiety levels begin to drop significantly after the first 30 to 60 seconds of their speech. So, I always suggest rehearsing the first 60 seconds of your speech repeatedly to help overcome that initial bump. You can also record and watch yourself present the speech to help increase your comfort level, and pinpoint and correct any errors that exist.
Apart from practicing, I also recommend preparing your body – if you get your body in a good mood, your mind will follow. Exercise a few hours before the presentation, stretch your neck muscles, do relaxation breathing, and avoid stimulants such as caffeine or sugar as these increase anxiety and stress levels.
By the time you are ready to actually present your speech, you should be well prepared and confident. During the presentation itself, remember these four important tips:
- Start with the Benefit: state the benefit to your audience upfront
- Tone of Voice and Style: smile, speak slowly with enthusiasm, and keep it conversational yet authoritative.
- Stick to Time: stick to your specified time – if you go over, the only thing the audience will remember is you going over your time!
- Inspire the Audience: your goal and focus should be to influence, motivate, and transform your audience.
“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Public speaking is a skill worth honing. Speaking is an opportunity to grow in leadership and influence. Knowing how to effectively get your message across can differentiate you in the workplace, and help you influence people’s thoughts and change lives.