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6 Steps to Becoming a Powerful Public Speaker

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/20/2006 | Marketing
Public speaking ranks right up there with death in terms of the things we are terribly afraid to do. Whether its the fear of being watched closely by others, or the insecurity and self-conscious feeling of slipping up during the presentation, these six tips will help you give a polished, professional speech that you (and your audience) can be proud of!

1. Know your audience. This is the single best piece of advice for delivering a presentation that really hits home. What are there interests? Their backgrounds? Why are they coming to hear you speak or present? What ideas do you have to share with them? Approaching your speech as more of a me-to-you discussion rather than a full-blown broadcast will make it more manageable (and less stressful) and easier on you.

2. What do you want your audience to do as a result of your speech? Whats really at the heart of your presentation? By concentrating on the end result rather than slogging through the beginning, you can create a powerful punch that drives home your message instead of rambling on and losing your audiences interest (or missing the point entirely!)

3. Share a story. In public speaking circles, this is called a hook something that gets your audiences attention and makes them sit up and listen. Start off by asking questions or sharing an experience you had. People like to be active, rather than passive listeners. By giving them something that they can identify with, youll find that these people are, in essence just like you! And that makes giving a presentation a whole lot easier. Just be sure your story has a beginning, a point, and an ending. Theres nothing quite as bad as telling a story to an engaged audience and then forgetting why you told it!

4. If youre selling a product, focus on the benefits instead of the features. People would much rather hear WHAT a product can do for them than HOW it does it. Narrow down your products features until you get to the core of how it solves a problem. If you need help with figuring out the difference between a feature and a benefit, ask yourself So What? For example, if youre selling a vacuum cleaner that has a hypoallergenic filter, put yourself in the customers shoes and ask yourself so what? The answer would be something like, It picks up dust, mold and pet dander. Again, so what? Answer, Youll feel relief from runny nose and sneezing plus itchy, water eyes. Now THATs a benefit!

5. Dont lean too heavily on media to make your message clear. Powerpoint presentations are great for making specific points, but they can be overwhelming or downright boring. Instead, give your audience something to DO by providing them with fill-in-the-blank flip charts or team activities. These help reinforce and emphasize your message in ways that a computer presentation simply cannot.

6. Above all, make sure your speech ends in a way that reiterates the beginning. Too often, speakers get carried away with the details and leave their audiences asking, What was the point of all that? People naturally digest information in chunks, so focus on the big picture rather than all the pieces. If the details are just as important, save it for an after-speech handout that the audience can take with them and read over at their leisure.

If you keep these six tips in mind, youll not only have an easier time overcoming your fear of public speaking, but youll have a very appreciative audience who will in turn be more receptive and eager to try your product or service. Go get em!