Public speaking is a crucial skill for business. Whether you’re pitching a business plan or speaking at a networking event, there are plenty of situations where you might find yourself in the spotlight. 

If the idea of public speaking makes you nervous, don’t worry. It’s not something that comes naturally to most people. In fact, experts suggest about 77% of people get public speaking anxiety.  

Want to captivate your audience and have them hang off your every word? We’ve put together some simple techniques you can use to improve your public speaking:

  • Tailor your material to your audience
  • Rehearse and memorise
  • Take your time
  • Loosen up
  • Make yourself big
  • Keep working on your material
  • Don’t worry if something doesn’t land

1) Tailor your material to your audience

Before your talk, try to learn everything you can about your audience. Then tailor your presentation to them.

For example, if you’re speaking at a networking event, you can probably expect your audience to understand basic industry concepts. So you could include industry jargon and niche humour that they’ll understand.

But if you’re speaking at a school or college, your audience is unlikely to understand your hilarious, industry-specific comments. Take more time to explain basic concepts. 

2) Rehearse and memorise

Practice makes perfect. And the more you practice speaking, the more confident you’ll become. 

Before your presentation, practice it out loud. Record yourself on your phone so that you can review it later. 

To memorise your presentation, try writing each line or point down seven times. Research suggests that writing things down increases brain activity and leads to stronger memory recall. 

Once you do this, put the words away and quiz yourself on the key arguments you want to make. 

Eventually, you should get to a point where you can perform most of it from memory. There’s nothing wrong with writing down your main talking points to guide you through, but you should try to avoid reading from a script

The more time you spend reading from your notes, the less time you can engage your audience through eye contact and body language. 

3) Take your time

When people are staring at you, time can really slow down. When that happens, we tend to speak faster than usual, rushing over important points.

During your rehearsals, try speaking much slower than you usually would. Pause after each sentence and take a deep breath to carry you through the next one. 

It might feel strange when you’re doing it. But if you record yourself and listen back to it, you’ll find that you’re actually speaking at a very measured pace that sounds confident and is easy to follow. 

4) Loosen up

Fumbling over your words mid-speech can ruin your rhythm and make you feel self-conscious. Plus it can make it easier to communicate to your audience. 

In fact, a UCLA study found that communication is only 7% verbal, 38% vocal, and 55% facial or body language. 

So, to reach your audience, you’ll need to loosen up your mouth, vocal cords, and body before speaking. Start by taking deep breaths and stretching your arms and legs.

Then, take a moment before you’re on and recite some of these tongue twisters:

  • A proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot
  • Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry
  • She sells seashells by the sea shore

Exercises like these are common for newscasters, actors, and singers. They help you enunciate properly by warming and stretching your speaking muscles. 

5) Make yourself big

Public speaking can be a little daunting because you’re all on your own, in front of a crowd. When you’re in that situation, it’s easy to feel small and intimidated. 

There is, however, a simple exercise you can do to improve your confidence. 

Before your presentation, find somewhere private and make yourself as big as possible. Stand up as tall as you can, and stretch out your arms and legs. Hold the position and take a few deep breaths for about ten seconds. 

You might feel a bit silly, but making yourself physically larger tricks your brain into thinking that you’re big and intimidating. You’ll get a little boost of confidence that makes you feel more at ease in front of large crowds. 

6) Keep working on your material

You’re probably not going to get everything perfect the first time. Even Winston Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” speech went through several drafts before becoming the iconic piece of rhetoric we know today. 

Keep rewriting your material. If something’s not working, you need to figure out if it’s worth keeping or scrapping. It can be difficult to know which to do, so get as much feedback as you possibly can. 

Perform your talk for friends, family, and colleagues, and ask for their honest opinions. Send written drafts of your speech to anybody you consider a good writer or speaker. 

Anything you can do to improve your written material will make you feel much more confident when you need to say it out loud. 

7) Don’t worry if something doesn’t land

When speaking, you might find that the audience doesn’t react to a certain section the way you expected them to. 

Maybe a joke doesn’t get a laugh, or you’re used to getting an applause break after a particularly good point, but not all audiences are the same. 

People can find something funny without audibly laughing, and they can find something impressive without applauding. 

If something like that happens:

  • Don’t panic – the worst thing you can do is let it affect the rest of your talk
  • Don’t wait for the reaction – if you look around expecting a laugh or applause, it’ll look incredibly awkward
  • Don’t repeat yourself – they heard you the first time

The important thing is to stay flexible and adapt to the audience you’re working with. If they don’t respond well to a certain section, it’s okay to cut it short and move one. 

Learning how to gauge audience reactions and adapt as you go is a skill that comes with practice. 

Final thoughts on how to improve public speaking

As you introduce these tricks into your public speaking, you’ll easily impress your audience. Plus, you can feel more at ease and confident in front of the crowd. 

Just remember to: 

  • Think of your audience.
  • Practice and perfect.
  • Slow down.
  • Take a breath.
  • Make yourself big.
  • Develop your material.
  • Brush off slip ups.

Pretty soon, your new skills will get you talking towards your future. 

And as your public speaking helps improve your business, why not improve your financial management? Countingup, the two-in-one  business current account and accounting app, can help. 

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