Most business professionals get nervous about speaking in public. Our communication skills seem to go out the window as the size of the audience grows. Whether it’s a progress report given to a handful of colleagues or a quarterly review presented before the board of directors, you will need to follow these steps to ensure...
Most business professionals get nervous about speaking in public. Our communication skills seem to go out the window as the size of the audience grows. Whether it’s a progress report given to a handful of colleagues or a quarterly review presented before the board of directors, you will need to follow these steps to ensure good results.
1- Speak clearly
You want your audience to hear and understand everything you say. Things that can interfere include mumbling, using a low volume, not opening your mouth enough, or speaking with a thick regional or foreign accent.
Try to enunciate clearly. Make sure your mouth and tongue move through all the right motions. You might consider signing up for American accent training to learn how to articulate more clearly.
2- Speak naturally
If your speech isn’t natural, then your listeners will be thinking more about you and less about what you are saying. You want to be clear, but not too mechanical. Some people take clarity too far and end up using what is called deliberate speech. That’s when you don’t allow any sounds to be dropped, and each word is isolated from the next. What you want to aim for, though, is connected speech. Group words together so that your listeners hear complete thoughts, not individual words.
Try to think more about your audience and less about yourself. You do need to give consideration to posture, gestures, non-verbal communication, and things like that. Just don’t worry too much about them. Speak from your heart and set your mind on why the information you are sharing is important to your listeners.
3- Use voice inflection
You might think a monotone voice sounds professional. But most Americans are tired of hearing the ‘boring baritone‘ that was common back in the 20th Century. It’s true that most words should have a falling tone in English, and using those lower tones can give you an air of authority and gravitas. But why not spice it up with some lows and highs that will captivate your listeners? How can you tonal variety into your speech without sounding overly dramatic?
The first way is to make sure the tone of your voice matches the tone of your message. It may cause a disconnect with your audience if you discuss a serious topic with a playful tone, or vice versa. In general, high tones usually reflect the excitement, and low tones are for somber or weighty subjects. The second key to coherent delivery is to use these ups and downs in the right spots.
4- Stress your main points
Every sentence has key words. We call the words that are central to your meaning “operative terms”. A standard sentence might have a specific stress pattern that emphasizes the verb and the noun. You stress them with voice inflection to direct the listener’s attention to the main points you are making. But, sometimes your real meaning is highlighted better with a smaller, seemingly insignificant word that could be a preposition or an article.
Take the sentence, “I will be there in an hour”. If you put a slightly higher tone on the words “be” and “hour” than the others, then the standard meaning comes through clearly. But, if you stress “I” with a much higher tone, then you are implying that others might be late. Highlighting “will” would make it sound like you are implying someone thinks you won’t. So, stressing even little words can make a completely different point.
Another important detail is that you want to make it clear which points you are stressing by not stressing too many points. If your tone goes up too much, then it sounds like you are stressing everything, which can be annoying to the listener. Be selective. Pick one or two words to highlight with an extra high or low tone per phrase, and just a few phrases in your entire presentation that can be stressed with a higher volume level.
Practice your public speaking
These 4 skills are not things you can suddenly start doing the moment you have the stage. Try practicing them with a friend or accent coach to prepare yourself for the moment when it comes. Their feedback can be invaluable to your professional growth and progress in developing useful communication skills.
There are many clubs and platforms that people use to practice giving speeches. That can help, but professional feedback is best found in an accent training course with a skilled accent coach that can give you personalized input and feedback. Sign up for American accent training and ask your coach to help you focus on public speaking.