Characteristics of Effective Public Speaking
Some effective speakers are born communicators who can break all the rules and still hit a home run every time. However, anyone can adopt a few characteristics of great speakers to deliver effective remarks. Powerful speaking is an acquired ability that requires a combination of many skills, practiced until they are second nature.
First-rate speakers leave nothing to chance. They evaluate the event and the audience, decide on their message and objective, craft a great speech and rehearse it out loud until it is second nature. A trick known to the best speakers: read the speech when rehearsing from the exact copy you'll use at the event. And ask for a run-through if you will be using a teleprompter.
Know Your Stuff
Effective speakers are masters of their subjects. They know far more than a single speech can reveal. They are able to take the most relevant information and improvise knowledgeably in a pinch. This is the secret to supreme confidence and the sense of authority that reassures an audience. Deliver this information in a clear and logical progression. Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them. Remind them of what you just told them. Give your audience plenty of opportunities to absorb your message.
Make Your Presence Known
A commanding public speaker uses conversational tones, enunciates clearly and can project to the back of the room with ease. Work on your vocal quality and make sure you are breathing in a relaxed manner. Practice with a microphone so you can use it like a pro. Wear clothing appropriate to the occasion and be sure it's not too tight, too short, too bright or too patterned. Check your posture and develop a secure, confident stance that does not include slouching or leaning on the podium.
Love Your Subject, Laugh at Yourself
Show your enthusiasm for the event and for your subject. Passion is persuasive. The best speakers convert people with the power of their own beliefs, but they balance that intensity with mild, self-deprecating humor. A humorous opening remark puts an audience at ease and a comfortable audience is primed to believe the message they hear.
Connect, Convince, Conclude
Make eye contact gradually and continuously in every part of the room. Polished speakers are graceful and neither look like they are following a tennis match nor stare fixedly at one spot. But they do use “speaker’s eye contact.” Look at people in the audience but don’t linger and get distracted by their energy. Convincing speakers maintain control of the pace and the audience’s attention. A final note on attention: say what you have to say - no more, no less. Then say thank you and sit down. The most effective speakers are the ones who always leave an audience wanting more. Those are the speakers who get asked back.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .