THE 10 WORST TIPS TO GIVE SOMEONE WHO HAS TO SPEAK IN PUBLIC
1. Learn speech by heart or read it from a script.
This is meant to be a way of making sure you donít forget what youíre going to say. Instead, itís usually a way of making sure you donít connect with your audience.
Most people who use a script end up reading it out and, unless youíre a professional actor or a very experienced speaker, this will come across as unnatural and stilted and it will stop you looking at your audience.
If you try to memorise a script, you may find you are under even more pressure to remember what you want to say because, if you go off script, thereís no way back.
Itís better to prepare some notes which can be a guide should you need one. By time youíve prepared speech, you will know main areas you want to cover. Put these down as headings on paper or cards in LARGE PRINT so you can see them when youíre standing up. You may then only need a couple of key words to add to these to remind you of main points you want to make in each area.
If you need more than this, you may be trying to cover too much information. You may also think of a couple of really good ways of saying something, or a good story to use to illustrate a point. Jot these down so you donít forget.
2. Rehearse in front of a mirror.
This may be a bit controversial because I know several books and trainers give this tip. All I can say is I have never found I could do this.
I do rehearse ( sometimes ) and sometimes I tape myself to hear what it sounds like. But I canít watch myself in a mirror and think about what Iím saying, itís just too distracting. If you want to see what you look like, ask someone to watch you or use a video camera. However, donít get bogged down with worrying about how you look.
The main purpose of rehearsing is to reinforce talk in your memory, check how long it takes and help you spot those areas where what you want to say doesnít sound right or where you might get confused. Then you can think of some effective phrases to use to help get your point across. You can do this without a mirror.
3. Use plenty of slides.
This is sometimes offered as a Ď tip Ď for taking attention from yourself. Give audience something else to look at. Another tip is to give them a hefty handout at start so they have something to read.
The problem is - YOU should be centre of attention. People want to hear what youíve got to say and best way to communicate your message is by speaking effectively. By all means use visual aids if they will help but they should complement what youíre saying, not just reproduce your own notes.
Similarly with handouts, they can be very helpful but you need to know why you are using them. If they have backup information, give them out at end. If they contain some key ideas you want to refer to as you go along, give them out at start, but make sure they donít distract people from what you are saying.
Letís be honest Ė if youíre that concerned about getting out of spotlight, you shouldnít be doing this in first place.
4. Wear a cartoon tie to show you have a sense of humour.
This is linked to a couple of other Ď tips Ď which are meant to give you a helping hand in getting audience on your side. Wearing a funny tie is saying ď Look, Iím really a nice guy. Give me a chance. ď
I wonít go into detail here for fear of alienating all of you who might, even now, be wearing such attire, but I have to say, thatís NOT what most people think when they see someone wearing a cartoon tie.
In terms of dress, wear something you feel comfortable in and which seems appropriate. Thatís a bit vague, but it depends on your audience. The usual approach is to dress slightly smarter than you expect audience to dress. Too much of a difference between you and them can cause problems with credibility. Just think about impression you want to give and, in general, avoid anything which could be a distraction.
Incidentally, I really donít know what female equivalent of cartoon tie would be. Any suggestions?
5. Start off with a joke.
This is a bit like previous Ď tip Ď. Break ice, show what a good sense of humour you have, get them on your side.
Please donít do this. Not unless youíre a good joke Ė teller and this joke is absolutely guaranteed to get a laugh. And, even then, only if itís appropriate in some way. One of best ways to kill your chances from start is to begin with a joke which has nothing to do with your subject and watch it flop. Believe me, youíll wish you were somewhere else and your audience will too.
Use humour if you can. It will help get your message across and it will get audience on your side, but be careful with it. You can use stories, things that have happened to you or to other people which relate to your talk. Being a bit self Ė deprecating can be a good way to gain an audienceís trust but donít overdo it. If in doubt, leave it out.
6. Tell them youíre nervous to get them on your side.
Like some of others, this is a plea for support to audience. You know most people hate idea of speaking in public, so you appeal to their sympathy by telling them how bad you feel. Another approach is to apologise Ė ď I donít know why I was asked to do this. Iíve never done this sort of thing before. ď
This NEVER works.
One thing you can generally be sure of is that, at start of a talk, your audience will want you to succeed. You should remember this when you feel nervous. They will give you a chance to do well and they will mainly be prepared to listen ( and they will probably be really glad itís not them doing it ).