Hear ye, hear ye! Friends, ladies and gentlemen, lend me your ears…
The art of public speaking has long been a fundamental skill of every noble person. For without the art of persuasion and discourse, societies wouldn’t be as progressed as it is today. And although this current generation has been endowed with technological advancements, the art of speaking has relatively remained the same. The only primary distinction that can be made is of cultural influences (frankness of Western cultures, suppression of views with Oriental cultures). Other than that, its fundamental goals have remained intact – get your message across on a level that your audience can understand.
Now before you go out on stage, ask yourself this, what do you want your audience to know? If there’s only one thing that they could take home with them after listening and watching your presentation, what would it be? What would you like them to do afterwards? How would you want them to feel? Let this be your guide on how you should deliver. Regardless of the elements I’ll be enumerating, you should be able to formulate your own goals by answering those questions.
First, let me straighten out one crucial step before I talk about the elements that can affect your delivery:
I believe that this is will either define you or destroy you. But then again, there are known speakers who are unprepared yet have delivered wonderful speeches. So, would it really matter if you are prepared or not?
If you know your topic in and out, you shouldn’t have any problems talking about it, right? If you’re a novice, then you should get your facts down because this is also the only thing you could do to that reduce anxiety and fear. But, sometimes being too prepared has its disadvantages. Your speech will come out sounding like it was memorized. Don’t get me wrong, it never hurts to come in overprepared. Just don’t make it sound boring. Most people forget to “rehearse” their own personality. It’s charisma that ignites emotions. If you unfortunately don’t have it, then don’t worry because here are other elements you can work on that will extremely affect your delivery.
No matter how complex your speech may be, there’s always a simplified version of it. What’s the use of handouts? All the technicalities could be provided on paper, but that doesn’t mean that you should talk the walk. If you’re a doctor talking about a medical breakthrough or perhaps even a scientist building a rocket, there’s a way around all of the technicalities to make it more understandable. The same goes for all of us “real life presenters.”
So, how do you know when you’re not talking human? Take a look back at you speech and see if you’ve “decorated” it with non-sense, jargon, and words that are difficult to pronounce. Which would you prefer: sounding smart while having your audience left clueless, or talking like a normal person and be understood? It may sound “intelligent,” but you’ve only covered it up with a mindlessness message. Remember, talking in common tongue is never a sign of unintelligible or unprofessional. Plus, it requires a less conscious effort to communicate.
Whether you’re the tortoise or the hare, what’s important is not speed, it’s the distinction and variability. If you talk like a monotonous robot that doesn’t vary its speed, your audience will surely walk out on you or would rather fall asleep. Likewise if you’re incomprehensible, the results will certainly be the same.
If you want a guide on how fast or slow you should talk, look at the master presenter himself, Steve Jobs. He doesn’t follow any set rules! His rate varies from 80-200 wpm (words per minute). According to the National Center For Voice And Speech (NCVS), a normal conversation ranges from 110-150 wpm. If you like listening to audio books, its rate is somewhere between 150 and 160 wpm. This is said to be the ideal rate. If you want to find out your own speed, just read a text for a minute or two on your pc and highlight the text to determine the word count (on MS Word).
If you’re worried about the time limit, don’t be. Just focus on delivering a good speech. If you need more time, the audience and organizers will more than happily be willing to let you finish. I have seen a lot of TED speakers go off the stage after their time was up, but was allowed to continue for an encore.
One of the fundamentals that presenters forget is that they’re not there speaking in front of a crowd, they’re there talking to each and every one of them. How can you do this? Engage with them as if you’re talking to one of your closest friends – make eye contact, observe and react to their non-verbal cues – and not as if you’re on the radio not seeing who you’re talking to. Ask them how they feel and let them know that you care. The moment you stop “talking” to them, they’ll start talking to their seatmates or pull out their phones to amuse themselves.
Do you hate it when someone asks a question and you couldn’t hear it, then the speaker goes ahead and answers the question directly? Where’s the engagement there? As a common rule in answering questions, repeat it (if the person asking it wasn’t using a mic) and answer to the whole audience; not just to the person who asked it.
Who doesn’t love a funny guy? Well, this only works when you improvise. If you’ve practiced your joke to try to be funny on purpose, then you’ll only be hurting your speech more by trying to be someone you’re not. You’re definitely not a stand-up comedian! Just stick to your message; you’re audience will be more motivated by the content of your speech and not by your antics.
You’ve finally made it this far. Congratulations! You’ve concluded our mini presentation basics series. Just remember, as I have always said, keep your core message intact — you can never go wrong if you stick to your message.
Have fun and enjoy this experience! And if you’ve learned a thing or two from reading this article, why not check out the previous posts on presentations basics? Here are the links…
Part 1: Planning – 5 Tips For A Successful Presentation
Part 2: Storytelling – The Art of Storytelling Lies In Success
Part 3: Designing – Project Runway – The Presenters Guide To An Awesome Design
We’ll be looking forward to hearing your success and reading your comments.