- Are you a confident speaker?
- Do you capture the attention of your audience?
- Are you an effective speaker?
These three questions are all entwined. If you want to become an effective speaker, you need to capture the attention of your audience. If you’re confident, you can engage your audience and deliver your message. Confidence comes from having the tools to connect with your audience.
Whether you’re one-to-one or speaking to a room full of people, you need to make a personal connection. For a presentation this doesn’t necessarily mean speaking about your hobbies, showing slides of your last vacation, as some speakers like to do, or “warming up the audience” with a joke or cartoon. It means being “authentic.”
“Authentic” speakers display competence about their subject; they prepare, research their topic and use relevant information and examples to illustrate their points.
“Authentic speakers” use a powerful voice. Power in this case does not come from volume, but from authority, knowing your subject, displaying your knowledge — your competence. Showing conviction about your opinion engages the attention of the audience. While you may be explaining new information, don’t simply “tell.” Gauge the interest and understanding of the individual(s) by maintaining eye contact and watching for body language — head nods and focus — signaling the audience is following you.
Professional speakers and actors know how to use critical vocal features to convey the powerful voice. Be sure you’re using a natural voice by keeping a rhythmic intonation pattern. Your voice should go up at the end of a question and down at the end of a declarative statement. Emphasize important words and pause at the end of phrases. Too many speakers sound robotic because they neglect these features. Monitor your rate: don’t speak too quickly because you’ll lose your audience in a blur of information.
Engage your speakers by thinking of your presentation as a dialogue, not a monologue where you’re simply lecturing them with information. This doesn’t mean you necessarily stop to answer questions, but rather you keep a mental note that you’re speaking “to” your audience, not “at” them.
Professional speakers maintain a divided consciousness: they have to be aware not only of “what” they’re saying but how they’re saying it. Some communication coaches will maintain that your presentation skills are more important than the words you use to convey your message. In my opinion it’s a 50-50 split. Keep in mind the most knowledgeable speaker can be so boring the message gets lost in the delivery.
Take a tip from the professionals and make the delivery as engaging as the message.
Check back soon for more thoughts on communication skills, speech-language pathology and executive function skills.