Skill of the Month — Public Speaking
It takes time and practice to master a skill, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Funny how it works like that, huh? Each month, we’ll share a mini-lesson with you that serves as a teaser for a much more in-depth skill that you can find Skillshare classes on. This month, we’re starting off with tips from author and national book tour pro, Katherine Preston, for being a great speaker.
Whether you’re a Skillshare teacher, a study session facilitator, or a group discussion participant, these tips will help ensure you’ve got a basic understanding of what it takes to get your message across. Check out the following classes in NYC to learn more and to practice this invaluable skill:
- So, Tell Me About Yourself: How to Craft & Share Your Story, Wed. 10/19
- The Art of the Cold Call, Thurs. 10/20
- The Art of the Pitch, Mon. 11/14
10 key points for an inspirational speech:
- Be authentic, vulnerable and passionate.
- Speak in stories.
- Stick to the rule of 3.
- Convey 1 strong idea.
- Know your audience.
- Have a clear structure.
- Know your material.
- Smile and have fun.
- Stick to the time limit.
- Get comfortable with silence and slow speech.
Lastly, don’t worry about perfection, it’s overrated. Passion and authenticity are far more important. Good luck! See below for a more in-depth explanation of each essential element of an inspirational speech:
- Be authentic and vulnerable: don’t worry about being a ‘good’ public speaker. This is the easiest one for all of us. If you’re nervous that’s ok. We have all heard perfect speeches and they can be terribly boring. So, instead, of trying to be perfect, think more about connecting and letting people see your humanity. For example, when I speak I tell people that I stutter, that I’m a bit of an expert at it. I don’t try to hide my speech, rather I’m open about who I am. Other ways of being vulnerable are laughing at yourself and telling the audience any quirks that you have, perhaps you pace the room, or speak as fast as the road runner, or gesture like a character from the sopranos. You can always admit your nerves, it will actually give you a chance to connect with your audience because no doubt most of them would not want to be in your shoes. You can tell them that you are nervous because this speech is so important to you.
- Speak in stories: In her TED talk about looking past limits, Caroline Casey draws in her audience by telling us a scene from her childhood. She sets up an expectation and then subverts it. We may not be blind but we can intimately relate to that childish optimism and naivete and the moment when our view of the world changes. Her story is also memorable. Have any of you read the book ‘Made to Stick’? It is a great book and it begins with the urban legend of the kidney heist. Dave is at a hotel bar, an attractive women buys him a drink, next thing he remembers he has woken up in the hotel bathtub, his body submerged in ice and sees a note saying to call 911. He does so and reaches around to feel a tube protruding from his back. The operator tells him an ambulance is on their way. He has been the victim of a gang of organ thieves. Try and forget that story quickly. Now your story does not have to be half as gory as that but you can try to make it as memorable by drawing on emotion, simplicity, unexpectedness and a couple concrete images.
- Stick to the rule of 3: Whether it is three key points of breaking up your talk into three section, it is a simple rule to stick to. People can remember three things.
- Let’s take that last point even further - convey one strong idea. Think about what the purpose of your speech is and what one sentence you would like your audience to tell their friends once they leave. If I wanted you to remember one thing for today it would be that perfection is overrated and authenticity is central to a great public speaker.
- Know your audience: Who are they, why are they listening to you, what do they hope to take away? Remember that public speaking is a privilege not a right. They have given up some of their precious time to hear you speak so make it worth it to them. React to them, understand if a subject is or is not working.
- Have a clear structure: I have been told multiple times that the greatest speakers don’t have their speeches written beforehand. That they know their material so well that they can speak without notes. If you are Martin Luther King or Gandhi, this may be helpful advice. Personally I think it is rubbish. For us mere mortals it helps to have a speech prepared, to know exactly what you are going to say. So I would recommend that you structure your speech as you would structure a story. Have a beginning, a middle and an end. Write down your speech and then practice it over and over and over again. Say it so many times that you have bored yourself, your significant other, your housemate, your neighbors and your pets. Practice in front of the mirror, or even better in front of a friend. Take their compliments and their criticisms to heart. Once you have it memorized, write down the beginning of each paragraph on an index card and practice saying it without looking at your notes once. Once you feel comfortable that you know it, accept that you will forget at least 10% of it when you stand up to speak. Be ok with that.
- Know your material: We have all experienced the crippling panic of stage fright before. So what happens if you totally forgot what you were going to say? You improvise. And the only way to do that is if you know the subject. Once you start talking your fear will subside somewhat and you may even remember some more of your planned speech. This is also obviously very important for Q and A sessions.
- Use humor, if you can: Laughter makes people feel good and when your audience feels good they are much more receptive to you. With humor you have to work out how comfortable you feel. Someone like Sir Ken Robinson is half motivational speaker, half stand-up comic. He is very good at it but most of us might not be so funny, I’m certainly not. So use your own sense of humor, don’t be afraid to pause if the audience starts laughing. Most important laugh at yourself, have fun with it. Because, if you are comfortable, and having a good time, your audience will be too.
- Stick to the time limit: Know how long you have and stick to it. We have heard talks that ramble on endlessly and by the end we have no doubt started thinking about everything from my shopping list to my weekend plans. They have lost our attention.
- Get comfortable with silence and slow speech: Changing the tempo of your speech is a great way to get your audience’s attention. Pausing makes you look thoughtful, confident and credible.
This blog post is part of the Skillshare Magazine: Edition 1.Tweet
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- thinksocreative said: Great post. This is such an important skill set to have.
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