One of the most valuable skills for a professional in any field is outstanding public speaking ability. The ability to look comfortable and confident when addressing a room full of people will help you standout and advance in any career. Whenever you speaking publicly, make a conscious effort to develop your own memorable speaking style and enhance your own public speaking skills through constructive self-criticism. Here are some other things you can do to improve your public speaking skills:
If possible, figure out what type of people you will be speaking to. Find out the age range, if there is a predominate gender present, their level of experience and education, even socioeconomic and geographical background. If you can figure out some specifics about the audience you will be speaking to, it will be easier to create material that will keep them interested. Remember, in most public speaking situations, the audience wants the speaker to succeed. The key to success is preparation.
Plan Your Space
Make sure that the physical setup of the room is taken care of so things move along well during your presentation. If you are a guest speaker somewhere, contact your host a few days in advance to tell him or her what you will need. This is the time to request a certain type of microphone—and to remember that, if you request a lavaliere, you will have to wear clothing that will allow you to clip the transmitter comfortably on your body—and to request a computer or projector if needed. If you are going to use a Power Point presentation or slideshow, make sure you are backing up the files in multiple ways. Make sure you save your file to, at least, a USB drive and an online cloud service like Dropbox so you have multiple access options should anything go awry.
Engage With the Audience
Audiences tend to be more responsive when they feel that they are being talked with instead of being talked at. Even if your host introduces you, which will likely happen, make sure you introduce yourself to the audience. Engage the crowd next. Tell a joke, mention a famous quote, or ask a question relevant to the subject matter.
Try to refrain from using your notes. Even the most prepared speakers can look unprepared if they are constantly looking at their notes or—even worse—reading them, verbatim, because of nerves. This looks bad and will disengage the audience. While the audience wants you to succeed, they also want to be entertained. There is no such thing as a bad topic, just a good or bad delivery of a topic. You can always find a way to engage your audience, and one way to do this is to start by simply looking at them during your presentation.