Being able to master the arts of speaking and teaching are invaluable skills to have, not just as part of your business acumen, but also in many other areas of life. From presenting reports to the shareholders, teaching a class, tutoring an individual student, or even raising a child, knowing how to present information in a way that is understood and taken onboard requires great skill.
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Giving high quality public lectures, talks, or speeches requires more than just speaking. To get to the point of delivering your speech, or sharing information, effectively most likely will also require other valuable skills, such as personal reading, listening and remembering, studying, doing research, analysing and organising, conversing, answering questions, and putting thoughts down in writing.
We will discuss those other important skills in a future post.
Here, we will focus on the steps you can take to improve your public speaking skills.
Please note that not all of the below points apply equally to every situation. Some of them may be applicable for public reading (think audio book), some for lecturing, others for personal tutoring (teaching a child, a bible student, etc). Though the principles contained in these can be applied universally.
Here is a list of 43 steps you can take to improve your public speaking abilities
1. Learn to read accurately
Summary: Read aloud exactly what is on the printed page. Do not skip words, ignore parts of words, or exchange one word for another. Pronounce the words correctly. Take note of punctuation and diacritics.
Careful and correct reading is a fundamental part of conveying accurate knowledge or information.
When read aloud from a text book, reference work, or a report, our desire to convey knowledge or information accurately should influence how we read.
The ability to read aloud fluently and accurately is important.
How to Read Accurately.
Developing accuracy is the first step to many facets of effective reading. It means aiming to read exactly what is on the printed page. Take care not to skip words, drop word endings, or misread words because they are similar to other words.
Understanding the context is essential in order to read words correctly. That requires careful preparation. Your accuracy in reading will improve in time as you develop the ability to look ahead and consider the flow of thought.
Punctuation and diacritics are important elements of any written language.
Punctuation may indicate when to pause, how long to pause, and possibly also the need for inflection.
In some languages, a question may change into a statement if you fail to change tone when required by the punctuation, or it may alter the meaning altogether.
Sometimes, of course, the function of punctuation is mainly grammatical.
In many languages it is impossible to read accurately without giving careful attention to diacritics—both the written ones and those that are understood from the context. Diacritics influence the sound of the characters with which they are associated.
Be sure to become familiar with the way that punctuation and diacritics are used in your language. That is key to reading in a meaningful way. Remember that your objective is not merely to say words but should be to convey thoughts.
How to master it
Practice! Practice! Practice reading out loud.
Ask someone to monitor your reading and point out any mistakes.
When doing preparation or research, discipline yourself to read carefully.
Don’t just read words – learn to read groups of words.
2. Speak clearly
Summary: Express words so that they can easily be understood by your audience. This involves (1) proper use of the speech organs and (2) understanding of the structure of words.
Others can understand what you say when you enunciate carefully. Clearly spoken are likely to be taken more seriously.
To communicate effectively, you have to speak clearly. What you want to say may be interesting, even important, but if your words are not easily understood much of it will be lost.
You can’t motivate people by using speech that they struggle to understand. Even if you posses a strong and loud voice, if your words are slurred, you will not move them to action.
How to speak clearly
One of the first steps toward clear speech is understanding the makeup of words in your language.
In most languages, words are made up of syllables. Syllables are made up of one or more letters that are uttered as a single unit. In such languages, each syllable would normally be sounded when you speak, though not all with the same degree of emphasis.
If you want to improve the clarity of your speech, slow down and do your best to express each syllable.
This may sound overly precise at first, but with practice, you will gradually achieve a smoother flow of speech. For the sake of fluency, you will naturally run certain words together, but really try to avoid this if there is any danger that the sense of the words would become obscured.
Some other practical steps you can take are:
# Learn to hold your head up and move your chin away from your chest. This will prevent your speech from sounding muffled.
# Learn to release tension in you facial muscles or in those controlling your breathing, as tension can have an adverse effect on the speech mechanism. This tension interferes with, what should be, a harmonious coordination between your mind, vocal organs, and breath control. That should be a smooth and natural operation.
# Open your mouth sufficiently so that your speech can come out without obstruction.
# Involve all the organs of speech. Though the tongue is the busiest, it’s not the only speech organ. The neck, the lower jaw, the lips, the facial muscles, and the throat muscles all play a part in speaking. When you speak, do you seem to be doing so without facial movement? If so, it is very likely that your speech is indistinct, unclear.
How to master it
Speak and read individual words clearly—enunciating properly, with sufficient volume, and at a reasonable pace.
Do not slur expressions or run words together in a way that makes the meaning uncertain to your listeners.
Hold your head up, move you chin away from the chest, and open your mouth properly when you speak.
Practice relaxing your neck, jaw, lips, facial muscles, and throat muscles.
3. Pronounce correctly
Summary: Say individual words correctly. This means that you (1) use the right sounds to vocalize words, (2) stress the right syllable(s) and, (3) in many languages, give proper attention to diacritics.
Proper pronunciation adds to the dignity of your message. It allows a listener’s attention to be focused on the message rather than on any mistakes you might make in pronunciation.
Not everyone has had many years of higher education. Still, it is important to avoid detracting from your presentation by poor pronunciation.
How to pronounce correctly
Firstly, if your material includes that you’re not familiar with, consult a dictionary. Look up the words you do not know.
A dictionary will tell you where to place the primary stress in a word and where to place the secondary stress in a longer word. It will show what sounds to use for the vowels and the consonants in a given word. In some instances, a word may be pronounced in more than one way, depending on the setting in which it is used. Whatever word you look up, say it aloud several times before you close the dictionary.
Another way to learn to improve your pronunciation is by reading aloud to someone else – preferably someone who pronounces words well – and asking them to correct your mistakes.
A final way to improve pronunciation is by listening carefully to good speakers. You could listen to an audiobook while following along in a printed (or digital) copy. Listen carefully , taking note of the words that are being pronounced differently from the way you would do it. Write these down, and practice them. In time, your speech will be free of the blemishes of mispronunciation, and this will greatly enhance your speaking.
How to master it
# Make good use of a dictionary.
# Ask someone who reads well to listen to you and offer counsel and correction.
# Take note of pronunciation by good speakers; compare theirs with your own with.
4. Deliver with fluency
Summary: Read and speak in a way that your words and thoughts flow smoothly. When delivery is fluent, speech is not jerky or painfully slow, and there is no stumbling over words or groping for thoughts.
The minds of the listeners may wander when a speaker lacks fluency, and wrong ideas may even be conveyed. What is said may not be very persuasive.
How to deliver fluently
A fluent person reads and speaks in a way that words and thoughts flow smoothly, with ease. It does not mean that he is constantly talking, that he speaks very fast, or that he speaks without thinking. His speech is pleasingly graceful.
At the same time be careful that speech that is meant to be forceful and fluent does not become overbearing, perhaps even embarrassing to the audience.
Because of differences in cultural background some might view your manner of speech as brash or as lacking in sincerity.
Avoid mannerisms. Mannerisms include expressions such as “and-uh” or frequently start a thought with “now,” or tacking a phrase like “you know” or “you see” on to whatever you are saying.
Regressions is another thing to avoid. Speaking with regressions means that you begin a sentence and then interrupt yourself midway and repeat at least a portion of what you already said.
How to master it
If you are struggling with mannerisms, or “word whiskers” (“uh, hmm, you know, like”), trying to grope for the right word, you need to make an effort to build up your vocabulary. Take special note of words that are unfamiliar to you in publications or articles that you may be reading. Check these in a dictionary – their pronunciation and their meaning, then add some of these words to your vocabulary.
Practice reading aloud regularly, as this will contribute to improvement.
Understand how words in a sentence work together. Often words need to be read together in order to express the correct meaning. Don’t just read words correctly; express thoughts clearly.
In daily conversation, learn to think first before you speak and then to say complete sentences without stopping.
5. Use appropriate pauses
Summary: Appropriate pauses serve a worthwhile purpose, helping with understanding rather than being a distraction. Pauses are used to make a complete stop at appropriate stages of your delivery. Some pauses can be very brief.
Readily understood speech requires the proper use of pausing. You can also make important points stand out by pausing.
How to use appropriate pausing
To punctuate: Whether you talk to an individual or give a speech, it is important to have properly placed pauses. It helps to make your delivery clear.
Punctuation is an important part of the written language. Of course, when you read for yourself you can see the various punctuation marks and you understand the text accordingly. What about when you read aloud to others?
Failing to pause when required by punctuation can make it very difficult for your hearers to understand what you read or may even distort the meaning of the text.
Also, if you have the habit of pausing regularly regardless of what the thought requires, your speech will lack force and clarity.
For change of thought: When making a transition from one main point to another, a pause can give your hearers an opportunity to reflect, to adjust, to recognize the change in direction, and to grasp more clearly the next thought presented.
Just as important it is to slow down when turning the corner from one street into another that is how important it is for you to pause when changing from one idea to another.
For emphasis: A pause for emphasis is often a dramatic one – one that precedes or follows a statement or a question delivered with a measure of intensity.
Pausing for emphasis allows your audience the opportunity to reflect on what has just been said, or it creates expectancy for what is going to be said next.
Keep in mind though that pauses for emphasis should be limited to truly significant statements. Otherwise, the value of those statements will be lost.
For interruptions: Occasional interruptions may require that you pause in your speech.
The noise of passing vehicles, a low flying plane, or even a heckler, may require an interruption in speech or conversation. If the disturbance is not too severe, you may be able to raise your volume and continue. But if the disturbance is loud and prolonged, you must pause. Your audience will not be listening anyway.
To allow a response: Even if you are giving a talk with no provision for formal audience participation, Ii you pose questions that should make your audience think, it is important to allow the audience time to respond mentally. If you fail to pause sufficiently, the value of those questions will be lost.
This is even more important in a one-to-one setting as this usually involves a two-way flow of thoughts. Others are more inclined to listen to you when you listen to them and take an interest in what they have to say. This means that you have to pause long enough to give them opportunity to express themselves.
Use of appropriate pausing is an art. The effective use of pausing ensures that ideas are more clearly conveyed and often better remembered.
How to master it
Pay attention to punctuation when you read aloud.
Listen carefully to well-qualified speakers, and observe where they pause and for how long.
After you say something that you really want others to remember, pause to let it really sink in.
In a one-to-one setting, invite others to express their thoughts, and then listen carefully to their reply. Let them finish. Do not interrupt!
6. Use emphasis, or sense stress
Summary: To make it easier for your listeners to grasp the ideas you are expressing, emphasize words and phrases the correct way.
Not only will you, as the speaker, be able to hold the attention of your audience, but also motivate them to action, whether it is to pursue a certain course of action, or just purchase your product. On the other hand, using the wrong emphasis may make your message unclear, and make the listener’s mind wander.
How to use emphasis in your speech
There are many ways of conveying added emphasis, and often these are used in combination. For example, you may emphasise words or phrases by increasing your volume, intensifying feeling, by slowing down and being more deliberate in expression. You may also uses pauses – before or after a statement, sometimes even both, to really make it stand out. Don’t forget that gestures and facial expressions are a powerful way of adding emphasis on what you are saying.
How do you know what to emphasise?
There are at least 4 factors you need to consider. These are:
1. It is the rest of the sentence, and especially the context, that determines which words to emphasise.
2. Use sense stress to emphasize a new thought, or a change in reasoning. You may also use it to draw attention the conclusion drawn.
3. Sense stress may be used to express how you feel about the matter you are talking about.
4. You may highlight the main points of your speech by using sense stress properly.
For any of this to work you really need to understand your material (particularly if written by someone else) and you need to have a clear desire for your audience to really take on board what you are telling them.
How to master it
In order to improve in this area of public speaking you may want to consult someone who already is a good speaker. Ask them to give you tips and suggestions. Or just observe experienced speakers when they deliver speeches.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Often it is a group of words, rather than an individual word, that need emphasising.
Be careful not to put too much emphasis on too many words! Otherwise the audience may tire out being on a “high” for too long, and your main point(s) will be lost.
Your audience will appreciate you alerting them to changes in your line of reasoning, or changes from one main point to another. You may, for example, use accenting words like “first of all”, “next”, “finally”, “thus”, and “reasonably then”.
Have you got thoughts you want to attach special feeling to? Then use words, such as, “very”, “absolutely”, “by no means”, “unthinkable”, “important”, and “always”. I’m sure you can imagine in your mind the power behind these words when emphasized.
(The following points will be expanded on over time, so please come back to read more.)
7. Emphasize principal ideas
8. Use suitable volume
10. Be enthusiastic
11. Display feeling
12. Make use of gestures and facial expressions
13. Have visual contact
14. Be natural
15. Pay attention to your personal appearance
16. Be poised
17. How to use a microphone
18. Make the practical value clear
19. Choose your words
20. Use an outline
21. Develop your material logically
22. Deliver extemporaneously
23. Speak in a conversational way
24. Improve your voice quality
25. Show interest in your audience
26. Show respect to others
27. Express conviction
28. Be tactful
29. Be positive and upbuilding
30. Emphasise by repeating
31. Develop your theme
32. Make main points stand out
33. Have an introduction that arouses interest
34. Conclude effectively
35. Are your statements accurate?
36. Does your audience understand you?
37. Is your speech informative?
38. Use questions effectively
39. Teach with examples and illustrations
40. Use visual aids effectively
41. The power of reason
42. Give sound arguments
43. Time it accurately
In the above points public reading and the arts of speaking and teaching are given much attention. But the benefits of applying these are not limited to that.
Putting into practise the suggestions mentioned, will help you to cultivate other valuable skills, such as personal reading, listening and remembering, studying, doing research, analysing and organizing, conversing, answering questions, and putting thoughts down in writing.
To benefit fully from these you must put in personal effort.
There’s ‘no gain without pain’!
Information source: Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education