Some people take to public speaking naturally, and others would rather wear shorts and flip-flops in Fairbanks during the month of January. But like it or not, public speaking is a crucial skill for entrepreneurs, who need to make pitches to investors, customers/clients, or others. So, here are some quick tips to improve your public speaking skills:
- Plan. Think about what you want to accomplish in your speech, and what topics you want to cover. Even if your speech isn't written down word for word, you should think about what you will say, and when. Prepare visuals and other props if necessary in advance.*
- Know your subject. The better you know the topic, the more authoritative you will sound and you'll struggle less to find the right words. It helps to know your audience members, and tailor your presentation to their interests.
- Open strong. Find a "hook" to get the attention of your audience. You may wish to begin the speech by telling the audience what your talk will cover, or you may begin with an anecdote or even a joke, if appropriate for the setting.
- Pay attention to body language and tone of voice. It's very normal for people to fidget, sway from side to side, or slouch when giving a speech, but these behaviors can be distracting. Enunciate clearly and vary your tone, putting emphasis on important points and making eye contact.
- Accept feedback. Practice your presentation in front of people who are willing to critique your style so you can make refinements and improvements. Listen to their suggestions.
I am not a natural when it comes to public speaking, but I find that with practice, preparation, and feedback, I can be effective. As with so much in life, the trick is practice, practice, practice.
*This post was adapted, with some modifications, from here.