Presenting yourself effectively in front of people is a great quality. In today’s competitive world, everyone is trying to make his/her best to accomplish every opportunity they get.

To make best of every opportunity you have, it’s utmost important that you should present yourself effectively in front of your audience. They may be your family members, friends, colleagues, relatives, teachers, business partners, client, general public or anyone with whom you interact.

If you are unable to express yourself effectively, the people around you will lose interest to talk with you.

Thus, we must learn effective public speaking and presentation skills to achieve our aims and make our life better and I must say enjoyable.

So without wasting a single minute, let’s learn some effective public speaking and presentation skills.

           Public speaking is a process of speaking to a group of people in a structured manner. The purpose of public speaking is to inform, or to influence the listeners. It is closely related to ‘presentation’.

One major difference between public speaking and presentation is that public speaking may be non-commercial and addressed to a large audience. Presentation may have commercial angle to influence the audience to accept a business proposal or some other offer, and it may addressed to a smaller audience.

GUIDELINES TO IMPROVE PUBLIC SPEAKING / PRESENTATION SKILLS :

The following are some of the guidelines to improve public speaking or presentation skills :

1. Structure the talk :
 Think of your presentation as a story. Just like any story, it needs a good beginning, strong body content and a memorable end.

• Start or begin with a good quotation, short incident / story which is relevant to the topic and/or by asking some relevant questions to the audience.

• The body of your presentation should be equally strong.

• Close your presentation with effective comments or critical evaluation or bit of advice to the audience depending on the topic and the nature of the audience.

2. Time Management :
Maybe you have 5 minutes. Maybe you have 50 minutes. Either way, customize your presentation to fit the time allotted.  Respect your audience by not going over time. Nowadays, most of us get bored to listen to long talks. At the same time, the talk must be specific and to the point.

3. Analyze the Audience :
The speaker needs to analyze the audience in terms of :

• Size and composition – i.e., number and demographic profile.

• Probable audience reaction – I.e., reasons for their attending, their general attitude towards the topic in particular and talks/speeches in general, their possible objections, questions and other reactions.

• Level of Audience Understanding – I.e. their subjective knowledge, grasping power, familiarity with the vocabulary, and so on.

• Audience relationship with the Speaker – I.e. their usual reaction to speakers, whether they are friendly, open-minded or hostile, their expectations from the speaker, and so on.

4. Research :

” Good speakers stick to what they know. Great speakers research on what they need to convey their message.” 

Try your level best to provide your listeners with new information or put a new interpretation on existing information. Get facts and figures to support your presentation. A good number of people like to hear the facts and figures rather than general information. For instance, instead of saying, India has a huge population, you may say, India has huge population of over 1.2 billion.

5. Seek Volunteers :
You may seek volunteers from the audience to present a case or to conduct a test or to express their feelings or comments on certain aspects of the talk. Volunteers may be invited on the stage, especially, when their is a large audience. At times, the volunteers may create a better impact on the audience with their views or expressions.

6. Gestures : 
 Punctuate words with gestures. Gestures should complement your words in harmony. For instance, if you are saying, a little fellow shouted at you, show the audience, the size of little fellow with your hand gestures. Appropriate gestures add impact to your presentation.

7. Incorporate Humour : 
Almost all of us enjoy humour. You need to incorporate humour in your talk wherever and whenever relevant. Therefore, the context and the timing of humour are relevant. However, you should avoid cheap humour. Some of the audience gets irritated with cheap humour.

Even Shakespeare used humour in the middle of the tragedies. He wrote

“Humour is a powerful and effective tool that gives the audience’s mind a chance to breath in the face of heavy material”. 

It also makes you more likable and fun to listen too. Humour is also much more likely to make your information more memorable. You don’t have to be a stand up comedian to use humor in speeches and presentations, and also you don’t have to tell jokes either.

There are many ways to add humour that don’t require any skill at all. You can show funny visuals, tell funny incidents, or juggle with words. Make sure your humour relates to the point you are trying to make and you will be much more successful.

8. Voice : 
It is the most important element of your presentation. You should speak with confident voice.

• The volume of the voice may be low, medium or high depending on the situation such as the size of the audience, the availability of mike or sound system, etc.

• The pitch of the voice, I.e. the intensity of voice must be appropriate. You must vary the pitch of your voice to hold the attention of the audience.

• You should use vocal variety depending on the importance of certain elements of your presentation. At times, you speak in a exited voice, and at times, you may speak in a serious tone. A monotone voice makes your presentation lackluster.

9. Enthusiasm :
You need to be enthusiastic of your presentation. You should be happy to make your presentation, rather than behave as if you are forced to do so. If you do not show enthusiasm; the audience will not listen with enthusiasm and they may lose interest in your talk. Therefore the speaker needs to be more enthusiastic to generate enthusiasm and interest among the listeners.

10. Facial Expression :
Human faces are capable of wide range of expressions and emotions. A smile on the face indicates cheerfulness, a sarcastic smile may indicate disinterest or disagreement, a frown may denote upset or worry, etc. As far as possible, the speaker needs to be cheerful to make the presentation more effective.

11. Act and Speak Ethically :
You need to act and speak ethically during your presentations. Avoid criticizing your competitors. Do not make fun of other speakers, if any. Also, do not make fun of any member of the audience. Avoid giving unethical advice to the audience.

12. Complement Words with Visuals :
Complement words with visual aids. Visual aids should aid the message; but they should not be the message. Do not over use the visuals, otherwise audience may lose concentration on your presentation.

13. Eye Contact :
The eye contact is vital in public speaking or presentations. Looking at someone directly in the eye suggests openness, and confidence. When you are speaking to a group, you should avoid gazing on one or two persons, but you should look at everyone in the room to let everyone feel involved.

14. Seek Feedback :  
Always try to seek feedback from as many people as you can. You must ask questions to the audience to the audience to respond. Encourage the audience to ask questions and respond effectively. Make your presentation a dialogue rather than a monologue.

 Remember : No speaker is perfect. Aim for continuous improvement, and understand that the best way to improve is to solicit (ask earnestly) candid (frank, honest)  feedback from the audience.

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