I'm a professional psychologist, a member of Rotary, a book author (on achievement motivation), a resume writer and career coach, and someone who has heard an endless number of professional and non-professional speakers for over 30 years. I've seen how it's the little things that make a big difference. Here are 7 “little things" you can do that will instantly improve your public speaking dramatically.
1. TALK TWICE AS SLOW. Most speakers (even professional ones) talk too fast. Have you ever listened carefully to professional speakers on TV? They talk slower than in normal conversational speech. Slow down. Take your time. Don't rush through individual words. Linger on them. It may feel unnatural, but just listen to a tape recording of yourself. It will undoubtedly sound a lot better.
2. TALK TWICE AS LOUD. Most speakers talk too softly. Speak up. It may seem to you that you are screaming, but (again) a tape recording will prove that it sounds fine.
3. ENUNCIATE THE CONSONANT SOUNDS CLEARLY. When we listen, we hear clearly because of the consonant sounds (the “hard" sounds - sss, t, d, p, m, and so forth), not the vowels (a, e, i, o, and u). Pay attention to those hard sounds. Make sure they are clear and distinct. Exaggerate them.
4. USE SHORT SENTENCES. You may like speaking in long, long sentences, but your audience doesn't. Break up your ideas into short sentences. “One idea per sentence" is as good a rule for speaking as it is for writing.
5. PAUSE OFTEN. Forget the ummmms and the aaahhhhs. Dead silence for a few seconds may seem like an eternity to you, but an audience doesn't mind it at all. Take your time. Pausing creates interest and anticipation.
6. ORGANIZE YOUR TALK AROUND 3 TO 5 BULLET POINTS. No matter what you may think of off-the-cuff speeches and how entertaining they may be, nobody likes rambling on and on. Whatever you have to say, put it in the form of 3 to 5 bullet points. You'll make listeners out of your audience.
7. SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST. What is the most important, the most dramatic, the most impactful thing you have to say in your talk? Figure out what it is, and PUT IT LAST. That's the most effective way to end a talk.
Dr. Sander Marcus is a clinical psychologist with the Center for Research & Service at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. Specializing in motivational, career, and business areas, he has co-authored two books on underachievement and a nationally used sales test (the SalesAP, Sales Achievement Predictor), as well as dozens of articles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org , 312-567-3358. The IIT Center website is http://www.center.iit.edu