Guest Post: Eight top tips to turn you into an impressive public speaker

View of the terraces and house at Bowood in Wiltshire.
View of the terraces and house at Bowood in Wiltshire.
This post, supplied by Bowood Resort in the U.K.,  has a number of useful hints.  However, I don’t agree with their point about not apologizing.  Depending on the audience and situation, it may be okay to let them know you’re nervous, and it may even elicit sympathy.  After all, it’s human to be nervous. 

It’s one of the most common human fears; it has been unanimously voted as one of the biggest fears of all time, up there with flying. But public speaking doesn’t need to be scary.

Here are some tips from Gill Cooper, Hospitality Manager for Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, UK. Bowood Estate has been hosting important meetings with some of the nation’s foremost thinkers, opinion leaders and innovators for hundreds of years, in some of the best meeting rooms Swindon and the surrounding countryside has to offer.

  1. Know your material – It sounds silly, but make sure you know what you are talking about. No one likes a liar or a bluffer so ensure all the material you are talking about is true and factually correct. Obviously, a little exaggeration makes a good story but make sure you won’t be found out if you tell a little white lie. Read up on all of your material and make sure you know every fact and figure inside out. After all, knowledge is power.
  2. Practise makes perfect – It goes without saying that practise makes perfect. The more you practise your speech or presentation, the more comfortable you will be with it and the more confident you will feel delivering it.
  3. Get acquainted with the room – Try to arrive at the venue earlier than everyone else, allowing you time to familiarise yourself with the space. Work out where people will be seated; will they be able to hear you from your position? Try and work out the acoustics by talking loudly from different points of the room. This will help you to understand how your audience will hear you.
  4. Chat to the audience – If you arrive at the venue early, try to chat to your audience before your speech when they are milling around. Ask them why they have come to attend the event and what they hope to get out of it. This will help you understand what your audience wants to take away from your speech/presentation.
  5. Relax – Easier said than done, but try and relax. Public speaking is not a life or death situation and should be enjoyed. Remembered, people have come to see you.
  6. Speak slowly – No one wants to listen to someone talking at machine gun fire speed. Slow down. You may feel like you are talking ridiculously slowly, but it will reach your audience at perfect speed.
  7. Don’t apologise – Don’t start your presentation/speech by announcing how nervous or frightened you are. This will make the audience feel uncomfortable and they will then expect a nervous performance from you.
  8. Try and enjoy it – Public speaking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it gets easier with practice. Try and enjoy your experience, remember, the audience are there to see you for a reason!

How Public Speaking Can Help Your Career

Credit- Studio Tdes, The Daily English Show
Credit- Studio Tdes, The Daily English Show

Ace That Job Interview or New Business Pitch

Whether you’re an employee looking to further your career,  an entrepreneur or a business executive targeting new clients, there is nothing like a job interview or a new business pitch to put your communications skills to the test.  How you come across to a potential employer or client can be as important– if not more important– as your business ­­­skills themselves.

Employers and clients not only look for your skill set; they want to know your personality.  And, sometimes it just comes down to the chemistry between you and the interviewer(s).

It’s understandable if you have the jitters when it comes time for the job interview or business presentation.  After all, it’s important to your career and to your business growth.  Here are some tips to help you prepare for that big job interview or business pitch.

Before the Interview

  • Expect to be nervous. It’s only natural when there is something at stake.  So,  expect some amount of nervousness.  Go with the flow, and accept that your nervousness may be excitement and anticipation, rather than fear and dread.  And remember that the interviewer has as much at stake as you do, in hiring the right person for the right job.
  • Carry yourself confidently. How you carry yourself is as important as the clothes you wear for that interview or presentation.  Look in the mirror and view yourself both standing up and sitting down.  Remember that first impressions count, so the way you enter a room for that first introduction or handshake is important.  When sitting down, remember to sit up straight, but not stiff.  Practice your stance beforehand. Notice your interviewer’s  body language, and take a cue from that.  If they are sitting erect, do so.  If they tend to lean forward, you may want to slightly do so as well.
  • Be prepared. Anticipate questions your potential employer or client might ask.  Rehearse your answers in advance.  According to Career Coach, Vivian Van Lier, “be clear about your unique value or personal brand to a prospective employer or client.  Know what differentiates you from your competition.”
  • Rehearse your answers. Be sure you are comfortable with your responses in advance of the interview.   There is no substitute for advance practice.

On the spotSpeaking for Interviews_You're Hired speech bubble

You’re prepared for your upcoming job or new business interview.  You’ve reviewed anticipated questions, rehearsed your answers, and are aware that, when the actual time comes,  you may be a little nervous.  That’s only natural.

You’re aware of the value you can bring to the new company or client, and you know how to carry yourself with poise.  Here are some additional pointers to help you through that big interview.

  • Breathe deeply. Practice taking deep breaths when yourehearse your answers, and before you begin speaking at the actual interview or presentation.    Breathing deeply helps you relax, helps slow down that beating heart rate, and also helps improve voice quality.
  • Don’t race your words. When people are nervous or excited, there is often a tendency to speak fast. This signals, “I want to get it over with.”  Unless you have been allotted a specific time frame for your interview or presentation, take your time.  You will sound more authoritative, and in control.
  • Be energetic and enthusiastic. But don’t overdo it.  Too much enthusiasm could signal that you’re desperate for the job.
  • Let your personality shine through. Be your real and genuine self; and not who you think the interviewer or potential client is looking for.  If the fit is there, it will come through.  If the chemistry isn’t there, know that it wasn’t meant to be, and that there will be other opportunities.

It’s all about having a conversation between you and your prospective employer or client.  If you can relax and enjoy it, so will those on the other end.  And, who knows, it may be the job or client of a lifetime!

Top Speaking Skills for Interviews, Part II

Communications Skills for Job Hunting and New Business Success

Speaking for Interviews_You're Hired speech bubbleYou’re prepared for your upcoming job or new business interview.  You’ve reviewed anticipated questions, rehearsed your answers, and are aware that, when the actual time comes,  you may be a little nervous.  That’s only natural.

You’re aware of the value you can bring to the new company or client, and you know how to carry yourself with poise.  Here are some additional pointers to help you through that big interview.

  • Breathe deeply. Practice taking deep breaths when you rehearse your answers, and before you begin speaking at the actual interview or presentation.    Breathing deeply helps you relax, helps slow down that beating heart rate, and also helps improve voice quality.
  • Don’t race your words. When people are nervous or excited, there is often a tendency to speak fast. This signals, “I want to get it over with.”  Unless you have been allotted a specific time frame for your interview or presentation, take your time.  You will sound more authoritative, and in control.
  • Be energetic and enthusiastic. But don’t overdo it.  Too much enthusiasm could signal that you’re desperate for the job.
  • Let your personality shine through. Be your real and genuine self; and not who you think the interviewer or potential client is looking for.  If the fit is there, it will come through.  If the chemistry isn’t there, know that it wasn’t meant to be, and that there will be other opportunities.

It’s all about having a conversation between you and your prospective employer or client.  If you can relax and enjoy it, so will those on the other end.  And, who knows, it may be the job or client of a lifetime!

This is the second part in our two-part series on public speaking, comportment, and interview skills. Read Part I here.

Top Speaking Skills for Interviews, Part I

Credit- Studio Tdes, The Daily English Show
Credit- Studio Tdes, The Daily English Show

Communications Skills for Job Hunting and New Business Success

Whether you’re an employee looking to further your career,  an entrepreneur or a business executive targeting new clients, there is nothing like a job interview or a new business pitch to put your communications skills to the test.  How you come across to a potential employer or client can be as important– if not more important– as your business ­­­skills themselves.

Employers and clients not only look for your skill set; they want to know your personality.  And, sometimes it just comes down to the chemistry between you and the interviewer(s).

It’s understandable if you have the jitters when it comes time for the job interview or business presentation.  After all, it’s important to your career and to your business growth.  Here are some tips to help you prepare for that big job interview or business pitch.

  • Expect to be nervous. It’s only natural when there is something at stake.  So,  expect some amount of nervousness.  Go with the flow, and accept that your nervousness may be excitement and anticipation, rather than fear and dread.  And remember that the interviewer has as much at stake as you do, in hiring the right person for the right job.
  • Carry yourself confidently. How you carry yourself is as important as the clothes you wear for that interview or presentation.  Look in the mirror and view yourself both standing up and sitting down.  Remember that first impressions count, so the way you enter a room for that first introduction or handshake is important.  When sitting down, remember to sit up straight, but not stiff.  Practice your stance beforehand. Notice your interviewer’s  body language, and take a cue from that.  If they are sitting erect, do so.  If they tend to lean forward, you may want to slightly do so as well.
  • Be prepared. Anticipate questions your potential employer or client might ask.  Rehearse your answers in advance.  According to Career Coach, Vivian Van Lier, “be clear about your unique value or personal brand to a prospective employer or client.  Know what differentiates you from your competition.”
  • Rehearse your answers. Be sure you are comfortable with your responses in advance of the interview.   There is no substitute for advance practice.

Personalize Your Presentations

How do you spice up a presentation? Add a personal experience, anecdote, observation or a quote that appeals to you. Then apply it to the situation at hand. This will help capture your audience’s attention and help them identify with you.

Some examples:

  • “Fishing is the biggest participant sport in the world.” So, today I would like your participation as we go fishing for-….
  • “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”- Vince Lombardi. Today we would like to tell you why we should win your business.
  • The much loved film, March of the Penguins: “What can we learn from penguins? The importance of a group and working together. The film depicted how penguins huddle in a group, working together to protect themselves from the elements, and promoting the greater good. Like the penguins, teamwork helps promote the greater good.”
  • Studs Terkel said, “Unless there is memory of the past, there is no present.” I’d like to start off with a little history…

Think about anecdotes in your everyday life that you could use in your own speaking. What anecdotes have worked for you?

Preparing a Power Point Presentation

Powerpoint cover slide for one of our  courses
Powerpoint cover slide for one of our courses

As we all know, there is nothing more dull than a poor Power Point presentation. So, here are some hints on how to liven up your presentation.

First, ask yourself  about the audience.  Here are some questions I posed to myself for a client presentation in front of an audience of about 100 people:

What do I know about the audience?

  • Why is the audience there? This audience was participating in an annual meeting, so some  members were more vested in what I had to report than others.
  • What is your purpose? Mine was to demonstrate the value of my public relations program.
  • Are you part of a larger program or the main attraction? My presentation  was part of an overall meeting with other presenters preceding and following mine.

Given the above, I knew that I had to make my presentation engaging as well as informative.

My solution:

  • Grab audience attention by starting with a video clip or visual. The combination audio/visual speaks action.
  • Build suspense. Rather than start at the beginning of the report , I used an excerpt and said, “We’ll tell you more about it later.” This creates a sense of anticipation
  • Spice up the slides with visuals and colorful charts. There were a lot of statistics to report. To add interest, I used visuals and colorful charts.
  • Minimize slide content. To keep the pace moving, limit the text on each page to no more than three major points, avoiding long explanations.

Originally posted August 10, 2010.