Ask most people about the thing they dread the most at work, and talking in front of a room full of people will probably be near the top. Public speaking is difficult even for some of the most experienced communicators. If you hold any type of responsibility within an organization, however, you’ll need to learn this vital skill.
“Soft” skills like communication are absolutely crucial in a business setting, and business leaders need to be especially skilled and confident when speaking to others. Clear, positive communication not only facilitates goodwill among team members, but it also helps to ensure that people are motivated and understand the goals they are working toward.
If you’re finding that your public speaking skills need a little brushing up, here are 5 speaking techniques you should practice.
1. Make the Most of Eye Contact
The first thing you should be aware of when honing your public speaking skills is where you’re looking in the room. Communication is more than just verbal, and your eye contact is a powerful tool whether you’re trying to engage a large audience or having a one-on-one conversation with a team member. Make sure to look at the people you’re speaking to, and try to create natural eye contact several times as you speak.
With that said, there is such a thing as too much contact. It’s important to make the most out of eye contact, but don’t overdo it. Evidence shows that 3.3 seconds of eye contact is about right during a conversation. After that, people start to get a little uncomfortable instead of feeling engaged.
2. Stay in the Present
For many people, their problem with public speaking (and with communicating) is that they get inside their own heads. Instead of speaking naturally and staying in the present, listening fully and responding to others, some people start to think about what they’re going to say next before the person has even stopped talking.
This wandering of the mind is normal, but it’s a bad habit for public speakers. People want to have their voices heard, and when you’re already thinking about your future response, you won’t be as engaged and focused as you could be. It’s hard to stay in the present because we have the desire not to pause or risk looking uninformed, but it’s an important skill to master.
When we’re nervous, we get tense. Why would you smile when you’re feeling nervous? But when it comes to public speaking, you need to put those nerves aside and remember to smile at your audience. Not only will it help you get in the right mindset, but it will also prime your audience to be more relaxed and encouraging since we naturally mimic others’ facial expressions in our communications with one another.
Aside from that, there’s the “fake it ‘til you make it” principle at work. You can work on convincing yourself to feel excited, rather than nervous, and you can project confidence even when you’re not feeling it.
4. Network, Network, Network
You can’t build an empire on your own. With this fact in mind, every business leader should learn how to network. But networking isn’t just good for your career, it’s also good for your public speaking abilities. Every time you interact with someone new, you have a chance to work on your communication skills, practice proper body language, and deliver your message.
5. Become a Subject Matter Expert
Great public speakers are masters of communication, but they also know their subject matter better than just about anyone else. To become the person in your office that others turn to when they need advice, learn everything that you can about your field.
As a leader, it’s important to be knowledgeable—and to know when you don’t have all the answers. Becoming a subject matter expert will propel your career forward and make you more effective when speaking in front of people.
Practice, Practice, Practice
As with most things in life, public speaking gets easier over time. Not all leaders will learn to enjoy talking in front of people, but everyone can learn to make the process a bit less painful. By following these five tips and practicing your speaking and conversation skills whenever you can, you can learn to be an engaging public speaker and inspire those you work with.
This content is sponsored by Andrew Deen.
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