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The Art of Public Speaking

October 8, 2020
3 Min Read
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Folio Illustration Agency

You may be asking yourself, do I need public speaking skills? Yes! Even if your profession’s core job doesn't require you to speak in front of huge crowds, public speaking is something you will encounter every day.

Whether it's speaking about a project that you've helped carry to the finish line or clarifying question at an all-hands meeting, you will be tapping into your public speaking skills. Here are the 5 ways to master the art of public speaking!

Be sure to explore our public speaking guide. Matter’s compiled this master guide of eloquent speakers, the do’s and don’ts, and how you can become one an amazing public speaker yourself.

Think about your target audience

The best speakers are the best listeners. If you want to be a speaker that captivates your audience, ask yourself, “What are the key takeaways of my entire speech?”

As cliche as it might sound, answer the five W’s (who, what, when, where, why, and how 😉). It is easy to get carried away with a topic and risk sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Use the five W’s to keep yourself on track, clear, and concise.

Some thoughtful ways to help your audience understand and follow along as you speak is to provide them a verbal outline or preview of what you will talk about. This gets people oriented with what they are about to hear as well as it can get them excited if your preview sounds interesting. Consider: “This presentation is divided into four parts…”

When it comes to the art of public speaking, make sure that every word counts. 🖌 (Illustration by Fanny Luor)

Make every word count

Map out all your concepts and write out how you intend to get each concept across to your audience. Remember your five W's? They drive your speech from one concept to the next. If you're using cue cards or slides, adding bullet points of the main ideas will help you stay succinct and on track.

Once you're done writing your speech, review your speech with a critical eye or practice it in front of a peer. This will ensure that everything you say anchors back to your main idea. Check out this TED Talk by Chris Anderson. He breaks down the science behind public speaking.

Record yourself

After you have your speech memorized and all your concepts squared away, it's time to record yourself. This may be daunting and embarrassing, but it's the best way to improve. After recording yourself, rewatch your video to identify any problem areas such as filler words, distracting posture, or varying tones. Rinse and repeat until your recording is TED Talk worthy!

Also, this is your opportunity to add your own flair. You’re not a robot, so your speech shouldn’t be either. Test out a joke or try rehearsing in a different tone to see what best fits your personality.

Have transitions ready

You have all your big ideas and concepts ready, but how do you naturally tie them together? Avoid the dreaded "uhm" and "uh" by making a list of your favorite transitions. Consider some of these transitions:

  • “I remember one time...”
  • "That being said..."
  • "After all..."
  • "Now let's talk about..."
  • "For example..."

Pace yourself

According to a 1997 Michigan State University study, the most effective speakers speak 155-157 words a minute. We're not saying you have to count every single word you speak every minute, but it's important to pace yourself. You want to make sure you communicate your ideas clearly, and that means using a guiding compass to measure your speed and cadence.

The next time you're about to present a project or give a speech, try speeding up your pace to show energy and excitement or slowing down to emphasize the main points. At the same time, project your voice so that people around you can clearly hear your message.

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