Better Public Speaking for the Gent

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…” – Eminem, from the song “Lose Yourself”

The above quote is a line of lyrics from an Eminem song made famous by the movie 8 Mile. The movie is about a man gifted at free-style rapping whose fears of inadequacy paralyze him and threaten to make his dreams of success go unrealized.

The quote is also a very apt description of most people’s physical reaction to being faced with the act of public speaking. It is also why most public speakers avoid eating spaghetti before a big speech.

If you look up a list of things that people fear most in this world, you will find that glossophobia (fear of public speaking) affects 75% of the population. Why are so many of us afraid of speaking in front of others? Mostly, we are afraid of looking foolish. 

Becoming a great public speaker is achievable, and the benefits of doing so are worth the effort to learn a few tips to help you become an excellent communicator to the masses.

Finding The Right Tone

A primary fear for most of us when addressing a large group is the fear that we cannot relate to our audience. After all, if we can’t relate to our audience, they aren’t likely to give us their attention and focus. Especially in today’s culture of shrinking attention spans, fitting our tone to our audience is key in getting them to listen to us. So, before crafting your speech, make sure you do some research into your expected audience’s background and the general sector of life they may come from. Having this information allows you to mold your approach to be most engaging.

Engaging Your Audience

Once we understand our audience’s background, we can find ways to relate to them. We want our audience to trust us and that we know what we are talking about. The quickest way to lose an audience is to bore them so we need to find ways to be dynamic in our speaking approach. Utilize humor and vivid descriptions to visually paint the picture for your audience of what we are discussing. Everyone likes someone funny, and being able to provide an accurate picture of the subject brings the audience into our world. We can think of ourselves as ringmasters of a traveling circus when we give a public speech. Our job is to get the audience to see what we want them to see, keep them entertained while doing so, and keep our show on schedule.

Timing Of A Good Speech

Great public speakers never run over their allotted time and rarely end early. That is because we have practiced our speech in advance many times and understand where we need to add pauses for emphasis and use brevity for enticement. A timer can help us stay on schedule, but repetition is the best resource. Many public speakers find themselves rushing a speech at first, possibly even feeling short of breath due to the anxiety and adrenaline of standing beneath the figurative spotlight of a watchful crowd. Knowing our speech well enough to allow gentle pauses can help regulate our nerves and provide the time to take a deep breath and still ourselves. With that in mind, we should also be capable of gauging our audience and being flexible enough to adapt our speech to keep them on the edge of their seats. Again, this is where practice helps out.

Practice Makes Entertaining

When we understand our audience and how to engage with them, we are ready to nail our timing. We achieve this by practicing our speech in front of any feedback device. The first resource we should employ is a video and audio recording device. Filming ourselves while practicing our speech allows us to see our weak points and trim our talk to maximize our effectiveness to an audience. When we feel that the speech is at its best, we move to speaking to a live audience. Trying out our speech in front of colleagues or a friendly audience can help calm any potential nerves of speaking to our target audience. However, speaking regularly in front of any audience on any topic is also beneficial. An organization like Toastmasters International is an excellent resource for aspiring public speakers because it helps us exist in an environment of constructive feedback and learn from seasoned speakers.   

Enjoying public speaking isn’t easy until we feel comfortable doing it regularly. It is something we can become better at by using the above tips and becoming great at winning over an audience while feeling comfortable and confident in front of an audience. Once we can speak calmly and eloquently in front of a crowd, we learn to be excited by the opportunity to be a public speaker. And maybe even take up freestyle rapping.

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