Public speaking is a skill that can be nurtured with time, practise, effort and by following a laid out path set by other great speakers.
Every act of greatness is the result of constant effort, dedication, struggle and belief. This belief is more important than the rest of the three, because no matter what you do if you don't strongly believe in your own thought process everything else will seem like a forced effort.
Great leaders have a very strong belief system in everything that they do. They don't acquire it through hard work or experience, but by the way they choose to remain close to their identities.
This is what makes them great. The ability to draw energy from an inner belief system without relying on outside resources and inspire people. Great men learn not only from what others had to present, but more from what their own life has to offer. For them first step to inspire others is to be able to first inspire themselves.
This is the reason that great leaders are also great speakers. So, the first step to be a great leader and a speaker is to have a strong inner belief system of knowledge, facts, vision, intuition and attitude. Let us see, one by one, at all the steps of the ladder to be a good public speaker.
As I said earlier, a strong belief system is the result of a lot of factors that take time and effort to develop. For example, take knowledge. Speaking is a form of imparting some knowledge. And knowledge comes not just from knowing some facts and figures. It comes from understanding the viewpoint of others. That is real form of knowledge that you should seek.
Then take vision, which is a form of inner source of sense of direction. If you are giving a speech and aren’t aware of your sense of direction how will you ever be able to impart it a purpose?? A strong vision is the result of a man’s character. It is like a window to his inner belief system.
Next comes attitude. Attitude is just about choosing to live your life a certain way that suits your inner desires and purposes in life (that’s the big picture). If you have a clear purpose you will try to synchronize your every smallest act as a contributing factor for the greater good (that’s the everyday picture).
Now think of it from the perspective of giving a great speech. Every great speech can be imagined as a journey. A journey where knowledge is knowing the path turn by turn. Vision is knowing where to go and what to achieve. Attitude is wanting to travel it the way you want i.e slow, fast or steady your choice.
I once worked with a CEO, let's call him Mike. Now Mike was good at handling and managing people. He knew his team very well and was able to get work done from them. He knew his way through negotiations and had a good command over emotional intelligence.
But he was bad at inspiring others. His meetings were boring. It felt like another one of his regular negotiation talks to get the work done. And because of this, team members looked at work like an apparent obligation rather than taking responsibility for it.
He used to tell great stories but they were disorganized. He told them badly enough with a low effect, like a frenzy of thoughts where a connection was hard to make; jumbling and shuffling his way through; while most of the times looking at the screen only. The way for Mike and everyone else is to practice on their presentation skills like gestures, voice, movements and body language. This is where you can mimic other great speakers. You can also use the following tips:
Don’t talk right away and speak clearly and slowly
Make eye contact with audience members one by one
Omit nervous gestures by trying to turn them into excitement
Work on framing your conversations by clarifying your intentions from the start
Memorize the points and not the presentation
Try to balance your focus on the topic and the audience
Practice in front of a mirror at least 3 times before the final take
So you have been following my lead for long. But now it’s time to let go off of rules and improvise a little bit. Following rules is great and some of them are imperative (like those mentioned above), but being creative and innovative can take you a lot more places, than always following out a laid out path.
So, remember the key phrase: Great presenters make their own rules. But first they follow the laid out rules. This helps them find the reason as to why the rules are so important. They then mould them as if they now know how to achieve the same purpose in a better way and manner. But this requires mindfulness and practice.
To sum up, I’d like to say that there is no instant pill that you can eat to become a great public speaker. You have to put in a lot of effort with the right kind of technique in mind. Think of public speaking like playing a sport where you have to practice over and over again. And a time will come when you will not think about the people shouting at you from the stands or people making cheerful gestures, or someone hopeful waiting for a brilliant shot, but just thinking: this is how I use my bat every time I am on the field and things will come naturally.
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