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Top Five Public Speaking Tips for Beginners

Lynne Orton

1. Lose the notes (do I really need to say this?)

It may seem obvious, but your dependence on your speaking notes is dragging you down. Having to refer to notes about what you are going to say decreases your credibility, prevents you from making eye contact with your audience, and limits your charisma and body language. Remember, you are speaking because you are the expert. Know the topic, know what you are going to say, and say it. The only exception to this rule is if you are reporting on specific facts and numbers. 

2. Lose the crutch words (“uhm”, "uh", "like", "you know")

Uhm”, and other crutch words, are verbal rubbish. They serve absolutely no purpose other than to make you sound dull. Prevent these crutch words from exiting your mouth and you’ll start sounding smarter immediately. The smarter you sound, the more people will pay attention to what you have to say. If you're unsure about what to say, be silent, collect your thoughts, breathe, and continue. It might take practice but it is well worth it.

3. Speak louder

The more power you give to your voice, the more authority you will have, the clearer your words will be, and the easier you will be to understand – all of which combine to make you more engaging and memorable. Imagine you are talking to someone in the other room and the TV is on (you can even record yourself from another room to test yourself). Without yelling, that person in the other room should be able to hear you. Even around a meeting room table, the added volume gives great power to your words.

4. Make eye contact

Develop intimacy with your audience by making solid eye contact with them. With small groups of even 20-30 people, you may even be able to make eye contact with each person at least once. However, it is better to pick out 4-5 people in the crowd that you keep coming back to. When you do, linger on them for at least a few seconds, don’t just glance at them on the way to the next person. You will develop a connection that your other audience members will feel and relate to.

5. Start strong and end well.

Whether you are giving a speech, leading a meeting, or answering an interview question, you want to set up your message, and then conclude it. In the middle, you might tell stories, anecdotes, facts, jokes, and show images to get your points across, but the beginning has to be strong, as well as the ending. Get to the point, and be done with it. Don’t meander and weaken your message by going on and on. The beginning and the ending are the most important parts of your speech, so make them strong.

Courtesy of the Laurier Toastmasters Club in Ottawa.

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