As a seasoned speaker, you’ve already mastered managing pre-speaking engagement jitters and you know how to engage a crowd quickly. But perhaps you’re in search of new strategies and ways you can demonstrate more credibility, "wow" your audience, and improve your already effective public speaking skills.
Take a look at these six less-familiar tips that may help you further master the art of public speaking:
1 - Check Your Audience Lens: Who You Focus on Might Be Subjective
Speakers naturally tend to make unconscious, millisecond decisions about the chemistry valency of the audience, but what are they? You may be unconsciously perceiving audience members you view as attractive as being happier and more receptive to your words and presence than those you view as unattractive, according to an American Psychological Association study. This typically leads speakers to focus on the more attractive, emotive faces in the crowd, another study notes.
Gender can also play a role in a speaker’s perceptions of their audience, according to a related APA study. Speakers in the study showed a clear preference in their opinion about whether females in the crowds were happy or angry.
The problem with this when presenting to a group can be that you gauge a false sense of engagement based on the relatively few who appear more emotive within the group, according to a Harvard Business Journal article. To read the room more accurately, try making a conscious attempt to scan both non-emotive and emotive faces.
2 - Avoid Overuse of Acronyms and Jargon
The audience is there to learn from you. Don’t assume everyone in it is familiar with all of the acronyms, mnemonics, and jargon used in your industry. Know your audience and the level of knowledge they have on your topic to decide which acronyms to use and when to use backronyms or apronyms, which are essentially acronyms spelled out in words.
Using unfamiliar acronyms and the like can alienate audience members who don’t know what the letters represent, according to the APA Dictionary of Psychology. Conversely, don’t use acronyms that are commonly known to your audience and risk offending the attendees.
If you’re using a slide deck to complement your talk and you’re uncertain whether your audience knows an acronym, you can use the full term on a slide (Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation, for example) and add the acronym in parentheses (LASER in this example).
3 - Avoid Uptalk
“Upspeaking” or “uptalking” is a mode of speaking in which the speaker uses a rising intonation at the end of statements, making them sound like questions. It can convey unprofessionalism and a lack of conviction for the statements you make. To make sure you’re not guilty of uptalking, try recording several statements and playing them back to yourself.
4 - Develop Acronyms to Emphasize Key Speaking Points
Creating acronyms that reflect a main speaking point can help your audience retain specific information and inspire curiosity. A good way to illustrate this is by creating a slide that boldly features the first letter of each statement in a vertical list to form an acronym. A common example of this is the cheeky acronym “KISS”:
5 - Hydrate and Warm Up Before Speaking
The commonplace vessel of water within speakers’ reach on stage may do more than wet parched throats. Upping your fluid intake on the day of your speaking gig may help maintain the sound quality of your voice by keeping your vocal cords in good working order, according to a 2021 study on the effects of hydration on the voice.
Vocal folds or vocal cords are composed of dual smooth muscle bands in your larynx. Air passing through the vibrating cords creates your unique voice sound. The water you consume before speaking helps regulate the natural fluids in your vocal cords on a cellular level, the study says. Humid air, natural or from a humidifier, can also play a part in helping maintain voice quality.
Vocal exercises for speakers
Before speaking, it’s important to warm up your voice while drinking water. To warm up, try full-body stretches, exaggerated yawns and sighs, lip trills, humming, and singing the alphabet. Humming a tune can also help you warm up your voice for a speaking engagement.
6 - Speak With Lasting Influence
Don’t equivocate when you are charged with delivering a difficult statement. Pulling back on your statements or retreating through qualification can hinder clarity on important messages you need to relay. Speak with confidence and clarity. Call it as it is by being direct and using solid, accurate information to convey strength and courage and drive the message home.
Occasional use of superlatives is fine but take care not to go overboard using words like “incredible,” “awesome,” and “amazing.” It can dumb down your talk. If you can’t picture famous public speakers, such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Winston Churchill using those words, don’t try them on your audience.
You probably know that using “but” negates anything positive you might say before it. For example, when a listener hears “I appreciate your efforts, but . . .”, the “appreciate” part of the message can get lost in the anticipatory dread of what’s to follow. The same can be said for using “except.” Instead, you might try making a statement and following it up with words such as “conversely” to relay opposing or reversed facts.
Consider using these six strategies to take your professional speaking engagements to the next level.
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