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How to ensure your public speaking is pitch-perfect


Claire Rowland gives us public speaking tips from the perspective of a training venue. 

Although skills such as management, salesmanship and innovation are all perceived as key to the success of businesses and their employees, a similarly important skill, public speaking, is less developed within the UK workforce, with many employees lacking confidence.

It's easy to understand why this is the case. Most employees, after all, don't regularly need to make significant pitches and presentations, but regardless of your job role, good communication is key. Being able to craft arguments, put across a message and develop leadership know-how are abilities that can be boosted through speaking publicly, and each grants direct benefits for businesses, workplaces and employees themselves.

I set out to discover just how confident people were in their public speaking abilities. The results weren't particularly encouraging: more than half of all people polled expressed that they lacked experience in their public speaking skills, revealing a huge opportunity for employers to support staff in developing these skills.

To improve upon these results, I spoke to Philip Collins, who worked as chief speechwriter to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, having been, in the past, a journalist and investment banker. Together we developed a guide to help individuals improve their public speaking skills. Take note, and soon your delivery will be wowing audiences, whatever size the stage.

Strong core argument

Simple, durable arguments are the basis of excellent public speeches. As such, whenever you are speaking publicly you should ensure you have a strong, clear, understandable core argument to put across. “There has to be a message to impart or an important question to answer”, explains Collins.

A useful point to bear in mind is to ask yourself: "Could I summarise this argument in a single sentence?" If not, then the intrinsic argument is too complex and the message will not be carried across. Conversely, arguments will be powerful, capturing the imagination.

Memorable phrases

The best speeches are those that contain points and arguments that resonate in the listener's mind for months, years, after being spoken.

To achieve this laudable aim, you need to include memorable phrases in your speech. Collins uses the example of marketing guru Seth Godin's 'How to Get Your Ideas to Spread' TED Talk. "You will remember Godin's points about sliced bread and the image of the purple cow, and be able to reconstruct what he meant, months after the speech", he reflects, explaining that the key to Godin's success is his use of vivid imagery and picture-painting in the crafting of his points.

Confident delivery

Finding the inner confidence to contain your fears, combat caution and confidently present your ideas and arguments is challenging, and is the reason why many people require additional tutelage in public speaking. It is this skill that can make the difference between a middling talk and a great speech.

We have a number of great examples that you can use to push your boundaries and improve your confidence. The late Steve Jobs, for example, forged a personal bond to his words, drawing strength from his experiences. Laughter can also lighten the mood, but it's important to acquire a few second opinions prior to the speech to prevent awkwardness. Being more expressive with your emotions can also help and focus on the people who are engaging with you in the audience. You will get an immediate confidence boost.

A sense of personality

Most importantly, be yourself, adding your own personality to your speech. Steve Jobs, JK Rowling or Emma Watson, each transposed their own experiences, thoughts and actions into their memorable speeches. With such personal touches, an emotional connection with the audience can be fostered, giving your speech that all-important extra punch.

Speaking publicly can be daunting, but with these steps you can improve your skills and consequently put your message in the mind of your audience.

Research has brought to light the need for businesses to help boost their employees’ public speaking and presentation skills. These softer skills are often overlooked in the workplace, but are actually vital in career development. Not only does having more confidence in speaking help get your message across more effectively, it allows you to demonstrate your knowledge in a subject area and improve leadership skills.

Claire Rowland is director of marketing at QHotels

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