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5 Steps to Becoming a Better Public Speaker

1. Speak about what you know

Many years ago when I started as a writer I was given a very good piece of advice: “Write about what you know”. It was, in fact, one of the best pieces of advice I have ever had and I try to stick to it. The same piece of advice I am going to give to you is to present and speak about what you know.

Never present or speak on something you know nothing about. It will become very evident very quickly to your audience. In the modern world of business ‘time is money’, so if people give you their time, they want you to deliver the goods with regards to public speaking and presentations.

Remember, people get bored, annoyed, angry and resentful listening to someone spouting off about something that they obviously do not know very much about. They also have the same reaction when someone has not done their research properly, even if they may know a great deal about that particular field. Turning up unprepared to a presentation without the correct information is discourteous and an audience can become hostile.

2. Be accurate

When you give presentations or a public speech, be absolutely sure that the information you give out or refer to is as accurate as possible. Your reputation depends on your ability to be accurate.

If you get information wrong it makes you look unreliable, people will not take you seriously in future and you lose credibility. People also get angry with you for not knowing what you are talking about.

Also, inaccuracy costs people if you are giving information that they rely on and it turns out to be wrong. The person who relies on that information can suffer embarrassment or even injury or loss of some kind because of your mistakes.

If you are at work, presenting reliable information is in your best interests, so do your research and find the best information you can to present to your colleagues. This means you can deliver that information with integrity. The information people give you may not always be accurate but what you need to do is make sure that you present information you believe is accurate.

Some of the magic phrases to use are:

As far as I know…
According to the figures…
According to the research…
The material I have found says…
The best information available says…

People do not generally expect you to be perfect. If they do, they are being unrealistic because we are all human and all vulnerable. We all make mistakes and we all make a mess of things from time to time. People do, however, expect you to be engaged to a high level with the ideas and goods you are trying to sell them, and anything less is considered disrespectful.

3. Believe in your material

Some people can sell anything. They convince you that they believe in their product. This may be goods or ideas but what they do is fully embrace your need to hear what they have to sell. Many of them appear to believe in what they are selling and some do believe in what they are selling.

My advice to you is, sell what you believe in and never sell what you do not believe in. It is a matter of honour and integrity. If you really do not believe in what you are trying to sell, this will be obvious to other people and they will recognise a sense of insincerity. Your body language, facial language, phrases you use and lack of enthusiasm behind your presentation will give the impression that your heart is not in your presentation, so why should they buy what you are selling?

4. Make your presentation available after you have given it

Over the years I have presented in many ways, at academic conferences, giving speeches in public and at smaller events. For some of those I have specifically written a paper or an article to articulate what it was I was saying.

In small gatherings I might not officially write something for that gathering and instead give more of an impromptu presentation. For specific topics or larger gatherings I may write an article to be published somewhere. I even publish those on my website afterwards for the public to read.

The human attention span means that if you are lucky, 5% of people may remember something you have said. This means it is very easy to be misquoted and this has happened to me on several occasions. To avoid misquotation, publish whenever you can.

If you are giving a presentation to a corporation or institution, you can make your presentation available on that institution’s website, with their permission of course; perhaps even in an internal newsletter. You may even send your written presentation around to the people who attended the meeting. Certainly you can tell them during your presentation where they may find your material.

Always try and publish a public speech. What you say in public is a matter of public record so it is important to have the record correctly state what you have said. This is also a way of copyrighting your material and work, so ensure you date the document. Plagiarism is a major problem and your career or ability to earn a living may depend on you being credited with any original work.

This is also very useful for people in that they can access the information after you have given the speech or presentation. I am often contacted by people about talks or presentations I gave years ago when the information published proved useful to them at a later date.

5. Check your material with another party

Sometimes we all have great ideas and other times we make a mess of things. We are human. When you are presenting or giving a speech it is important to get the material right, so ask a colleague or a friend to read through what you are going to say to see if they think you are on the right road to success.

If you are publishing your presentation or speech afterwards, it is good idea to get an editor to look though it and proofread the document. Spelling mistakes and poorly phrased sentences with too long a paragraph only put a reader off rather than encouraging them to read on. A good, well printed document should not only be informative but also easy to read.

For more help with public speaking, see my Public Speaking and Presentation Hypnosis downloadable program.

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