E-Mail : info@ascotspeakers.org.uk    Website: www.ascotspeakers.org.uk

 

Ascot Speakers  - Public Speaking Club, meets at All Souls Church, South Ascot, on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.

My first experience of making a presentation was during a school debate. I was, or so I thought, well prepared to reply to whatever the rebuttal speaker could come up with. I stood ready to speak... and froze. Apologising to the audience, I sat down quickly and did not do another presentation again for many years.

For most of us, making a presentation can be a nerve wracking and daunting task. According to a poll, more people fear presenting than fear death. Think about that for a moment. That means that more people would prefer to be in the coffin than reading the eulogy.

The turning point for me was joining Toastmasters International, where a group of very patient and supportive people helped me overcome my nerves and learn invaluable techniques for better speaking. Now, sixteen years later, I’m still a member (of Ascot Speakers); I speak professionally and help other people to improve their speaking.

The ability to speak well is not just helpful for making that best man’s speech, it is also crucial to management and leadership success. You need to engage your team, motivate them towards their goals, and inspire the confidence that together you can achieve them.

 For help with YOUR speaking, here are my top five tips. If you find them helpful, why not come along as a guest to Ascot Speakers club and learn more about Toastmasters, or sign up for our forthcoming Speechcraft course.

1.     Work with your nerves

Everyone is nervous about doing speeches, so you are not alone. The trick is to find a way to make your nerves work for you rather than against you. Some techniques that may be useful include taking a deep breath just before you begin and then smiling. You will look in control and more confident. Other than that, the more you practice standing up in front of people to speak, the easier it gets.

2.     Practice, practice, practice

Some of us like to think we can ‘wing it’, but very few people can actually do this and get away with it. Those that do will know their material very, very thoroughly. The rest of us have to practice. Practice means standing up and not just saying the words, but living and breathing them too. Remember that people are more likely to believe what they see, and that means body language, use of stage etc.

3.     Take a walk in your audience’s shoes

There are only four reasons for doing a speech: to inform, to inspire, to entertain or to sell something. The very first step to creating a speech is knowing what you want the audience to do as a result of your speech. To do that you need to know whom they are, what they already know and why they might be listening.  

4.     Your slides are not your notes!

We’ve all seen it. The person with a zillion slides each covered in text or bullet points. They stand and read the text aloud, while you read it to yourself. You have already forgotten there is a speaker. Too many people do this as substitute for practice or preparation. Not only is it lazy, it is rather disrespectful to the audience. Instead, use pictures (not complex charts) to provoke the audiences thinking. Or don’t use them at all. Truly confident speakers do not use slides. They will use props, demonstrations, flip charts etc.; or they engage the audience with interactive activities. It takes more practice, but will make you truly memorable.

5.     Finish early

There is nothing worse than the speaker who drones on way past their allotted time. At the end of the scheduled time, the audience will be shifting their feet, looking at their watches or reading their email. The one thing they won’t be doing is listening to you. If your talk is due to take 20 minutes – aim to finish in 16 minutes. If everyone else over runs, you will be the hero who got things back on track. Moreover, it makes sure you have time to answer questions too.

If you’d like to know more, why not come along to us at Ascot Speakers? Guests can attend free, and there is no pressure to speak until you are ready. Or if you’d like a crash course, we are running a SpeechCraft course on Saturdays in late September and early October.