10 secrets to improving your speaking skills.

Public speaking. It’s one of our most common phobias – an estimated 95% of us experience some anxiety or nervousness before we present. It’s no wonder that most of us never have a chance to improve our speaking skills: We are too busy avoiding it!


Enrolling in a Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie course can go a long way to helping you learn to speak more effectively and control your nerves, but here are some basic tips to help you improve your delivery on your own:

1. Be brief: The average attention span is getting shorter so don’t dwell on a specific subject too long – or make sure you break up your talk into manageable chunks that your audience can concentrate on.

2. Ask questions: You can keep your audience engaged by stopping periodically and asking them whether they understand, or you can throw them a question that encourages interaction.

3. Know your audience: Speak their language. “If you’re selling a skateboard, for instance, your semantics are going to be a lot different than if you’re working with a litigation attorney,” says communications expert David Parnell, author of The Communication Genome Project.

4. Work on your tone: Evolutionary psychology suggests people respond better to deep male voices and high female ones.

5. Avoid fillers: Like, um, you should, ah, not do this. Most of us dislike the way we sound but it’s a good idea to record your performance in a presentation so you can pick up fillers and other idiosyncratic behavior, and work on changing them.

6. Learn to pause: Pausing can help you highlight important parts of your message and allows your audience to more easily absorb the information you’re presenting.

7. Stand close: Experts suggest you speak 2.5 to 7 feet from your audience to create a more personal, social relationship.

8. Make eye contact: Don’t glance from one audience member to the next. Instead, make visual contact with individuals, one at a time.

9. Stand confidently: Keep your shoulders back, arms to your sides or in front of your body to make gestures – and smile.

10. Be personable: Telling canned jokes can make you seem predictable. Instead, tell a humorous personal story that will break the ice and build an instant connection with your audience.

Click here and here for more speaking skill suggestions, including preparing for a presentation and creating an effective PowerPoint deck.

What’s your secret to speaking more effectively?

By Adam

June 24, 2010