Public Speaking: Being Understood

Public Speaking: Being Understood image microphones public speaking 4682434984 414f62b755Public Speaking: Being Understood

Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience

has finished listening.

Dorothy Sarnoff

Giving presentations and speaking publicly, although daunting, can be a very enjoyable, rewarding experience, once you learn to take adequate time to prepare and rehearse what you wish to say. An enthusiastic speaker who is confident with their material will make a lasting and memorable impression on their audience.

Think about the last truly memorable talk or presentation you attended. Now, was that an easy thing for you to do, or did you really have to rack your brain to find one? Sadly, too many presentations are easily forgotten. And that is a huge problem because the only reason a presenter should be giving a talk is to communicate something to you.

There are, however, some things that you can do to help ensure that your verbal messages are understood and remembered. These will of course sound somewhat obvious and deceptively simple, but they are often overlooked.

  • Understand the purpose of the presentation
  • Keep the message clear and concise
  • Be prepared
  • Be vivid when delivering the message

Simple. See? Let’s look deeper.

1. Understand what you wish to achieve

Before you start working on your talk or presentation, it is absolutely essential that you really understand what it is you want to say, who you want to tell and why they might want to listen to you. To do this, ask yourself:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • How?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?

Who are you speaking to? What are their interests, beliefs and values? What do they share in common with others? In what ways are they unique?

What message do you want to convey? One way of answering this question is to ask yourself about the ‘success criteria’ of your talk. How do you know if and when you have successfully communicated what you have in mind?

How can you best get your message across? Verbal, spoken language, is most important here, but so are all the non-verbal cues you give off, like body language and facial expressions. Choose your words and your non-verbal cues as you keep your audience in mind. Plan a beginning, middle and end. If time and place allow, and they will add some value to the talk, consider and prepare audio-visual aids.

When? Timing is important here. Develop a sense of timing, so that your contributions are seen and heard as relevant to the issue or matter at hand. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Really. You don’t have to fill up every second with the sound of your voice. Pauses are important.

Where? What is the physical context of the communication in mind? If you have time, visit the venue ahead of time. Rearrange the furniture. Walk the room. Check the equipment. Look for availability and visibility if you are planning to use audio or visual aids.

Why? In order to convert hearers into listeners, you need to know why they should listen to you, And you should tell them, if necessary.

2. The Importance of Simplicity

When it comes to wording your message, less is always more. You are trying to give your audience headlines. Too much information will overload and bore your listeners.. They are not expecting to become experts on the subject as a result of hearing your presentation. So, simplicity is best.

If you are using slides, limit the content of each one to a few bullet points, a single statement or a very simple diagram.

3. Preparation

We have all heard it, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” In fact, preparation is the most important factor in determining your communication successes. When possible, set meeting times and speaking and presentation times well in advance, giving yourself the time you need to prepare your communications well. Each minute of a presentation deserves thirty minutes preparation.

Of course, not all communications can be scheduled in advance. In this case, preparation may mean having a good, thorough understanding of what is happening in your office, enabling you to communicate with the knowledge you need to be effective, both through verbal and written communications.

4. Successful Delivery

The manner in which you deliver your speech or presentation has a lasting impact on your audience. Again, preparation is paramount here, in order to hold the listeners attention. Some useful tips for keeping your presentation vivid include:

  • Use examples to bring your points to life
  • Keep your body language up-beat
  • Don’t nail yourself behind the rostrum
  • Don’t talk too quickly
  • Less is more here too. Pauses are effective.
  • Use a variety of tones of voice
  • Use visual aids, if they add value to the presentation

Presentations and public speaking, although they can seem daunting, can become enjoyable and rewarding experiences, once you find your own rhythm of preparation and rehearsal. When you speak enthusiastically and display confidence with the material you are presenting, you will make a memorable impression on your audience.

Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström via Compfight cc

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