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How to Improve your Public Speaking Skills: Keep It Interesting

I am a science geek. I love science. I have always been fascinated by how things work, whether it is mechanical, biological or psychological. I have no interest in fashion or gossip. I loved fashion when I was young but it has no interest to me nowadays. I could not sit through a television program based on popular gossip as I would be bored. I have friends who are the opposite and reach for the gossip magazines at the supermarket checkout. So we all have different interests.

It is important that you gauge your audience’s interests. Talk to people about their interests, not yours, unless you have been specifically engaged to share your interests. People want a talk or presentation that is interesting to them.

Take the time to try and make your presentation interesting. Spend time before your talk and presentation to consider what would be interesting to your audience. Mongolian nomads would not be interested in the resurfacing of the roads in New York but the residents of New York might be interested. Make your talk relative to your audience’s interests.

Is your material entertaining?

I once saw a comedian do an act where all he did was read the telephone directory. It was very funny the way he read the directory, and the act was about his performance, not the contents of the directory. Telephone directories, after all, are pretty boring.
Sometimes you may be asked to give a presentation on facts alone. It may be very dry material but the board or group may need to hear those facts as part of the overall meeting to help the direction of the meeting go forward. In order for the group to come to a decision, those facts may be essential. Make them entertaining.

How you can make the presentation of those facts more exciting:

• Keep your presentation relating to the present time.

• Do not dwell on the past.

• Have a definite beginning, middle, and end or divide the talk into manageable segments. People consume information better when it is broken down into segments.

• Include information about comparisons with other companies or institutions, last month’s figures or projected figures for the future, where possible.

• Break down any technical jargon with a more simple explanation immediately afterwards, unless your audience is well versed in technical jargon.

• Add some other information to break up the very dry material if possible.

• Make those facts relative to the different parties in the room so your presentation has a wider appeal.

• If it is appropriate, add a little humour to the material.

• Add some specialist knowledge or discovery of your own if possible.

• Preparation, preparation, preparation.

• Offer people the ability to contact you afterwards if they need anything clarifying.
Public speaking tends to be to a wider audience than a presentation, which may be more applicable in a business, or an educational setting. This means the appeal of the material needs to be wider. Larger audiences understand more generalised facts rather than specific references.

How you can make your public speech more exciting:

• Keep your presentation relating to the present time.

• Do not dwell on the past.

• Have one central theme and keep it simple.

• Use a common theme throughout the speech. Keep coming back to that common theme.

• Do not blind, bore or intimidate people with complexity.

• Give points of reference in the speech to which people can relate and refer.

• Add some emotionally stimulating material. The use of stories are very useful for motivating people emotionally. Keep it to one or two stories. Be sure if you talk about anyone that you have their permission.

• Quote someone to make a point.

• Quote facts and figures but try and make them minimal and very simple to understand.

• Lift the mood of the speech’s tone by referring to a number of successes related to the topic.

• Have a definite beginning, middle, and end.

• Focus on having the contents of your speech understandable to those with little or no knowledge on your topic.

• Avoid technical jargon unless it is a very generalised term that everyone will understand.

• At some stage, use humour. Try and keep the majority of the speech light, even though you may have to make some serious points. No one wants to be bored by a fanatic.

• Preparation, preparation, preparation.

• Look at ways to write in something inspirational at the end of the speech. Your message needs to take the audience on a journey to a better place or inspire them to take an action.

While a presentation may be long – up to an hour and an half, or even longer – a speech needs to be shorter. Large audiences get bored more easily. People pop in and out of presentations. Large crowds gathered for a speech are trapped in by the numbers, want to exercise their bodily functions, and begin to resent you if your speech goes on too long.

Remember, 95% of people will forget 95% of what you say. Another 95% will be bored with 95% of what you say. A further 95% will forget you next week. And 95% will disagree with at least one or two things in your speech, maybe more.

The best you have can hope for is that is that 5% of people will remember something you said. This is not personal but the nature of the human attention span, so taking the time to make your material interesting and entertaining will ensure you have the best chance of your message being heard.

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

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