5 Steps to Better Public Speaking

Some people have the natural ability to speak with confidence in front of large audiences. For everyone else, Mark Blackburn, treasurer of Honolulu’s Downtown Business Association Toastmasters, offers tips on being a better public speaker. “It’s a real challenge, but with coaching and practice anyone can become a great communicator.”

Know your content and your speech goal. “Paint a picture with your words,” Blackburn says.

Your speech must have structure. “Have a strong opening to pull in your audience. Increase their interest by telling them what you’ll be speaking about, and you also want a strong conclusion.” Avoid more than five major points because the audience can only absorb so much. “Anything over 15 minutes better be extremely fascinating.”

Look professional, but don’t overdo it and look tacky. Avoid a heavy meal beforehand and test your audio and visual aids. A great way to prepare weeks in advance is to attend a Toastmasters meeting. “Typically, members give a speech of no more than five minutes and get two to three minutes of feedback in a comfortable environment.”

Read your speech out loud multiple times, if possible, in front of someone or on videotape. Receiving feedback or seeing yourself will help perfect your delivery. “Many people use filler words, ‘uhhh’ and ‘you know.’ ” Also, vary your voice and volume and learn when to pause.

To ease your nerves, arrive 30 minutes early. “Meet your audience, scope out the room, walk around and get comfortable.” During the speech be relaxed and maintain your poise. Having your speech memorized allows you to connect with your audience. “Eye contact is key and you can’t have that contact if you’re reading a speech.”

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