There is a bit of a misperception about the phrase “public speaking”. The misperception that the technique of becoming good at public speaking is all in how you speak. The truth is that your voice is only part of what you need to be successful in giving a presentation to a group of people. To be an effective public “speaker”, you should use every resource you have including your body language, your arms and your legs to capture the attention of the crowd and hold it.
There is nothing more boring than a speaker who stands in one place and never moves his arms and speaks softly just putting out the information of the talk. So to avoid this curse, learn not only to communicate with your entire being when you are in front of an audience. Learn to express yourself with facial expressions, with gestures of your arms and with movement. Because that extra effort is what can make a fair presentation good or a good presentation a great one.
A good public presentation can be compared to eating a meal in a restaurant. A good chef knows that there is more to fine dining than just food because you also must have good service and ambiance so the presentation of the food makes the meal delightful to eat. The same is true of a public speaking situation. It isn’t enough just to stand up there and speak out the information. You are not just speaking because you are only really successful when you are communicating. And to communicate, your audience has to grasp what you are saying and be prepared to make it real in their own lives.
Movement is probably the most underused public speaking method but it is also one of the most effective. To put it bluntly, when you speak to a group, don’t just stand there. Get out of the podium and move around a bit. Walk from one side of your speaking area to the other. Use your hands to help you describe an illustration or to gesture with emphasis toward the crowd when your text fits that kind of expression. This movement is good for you because it’s a way of walking off your nervousness. It’s good for the audience because it keeps them interested. And it’s very good for your presentation because it is a powerful way to get your point across and to assure you are being understood.
The relationship between public speaking and public performance is unmistakable. When you watch a speaker, the key word is “watch”. Taking in the presentation of a speaker is an event that brings in all of the senses. And the more your audience actually “experiences you” rather than just hears what you say, the better they will like your presentation and the more likely they will be to agree with what you have to say or take action in the direction you had hoped they would.
Of course, it can be a nervous moment the first time you decide to step away from the podium and use your body as part of your presentation. If you walk and move in front of people, there is always the chance an accident can happen. You could swing your arms in emphasis and knock something over. You could trip over a microphone cord and be in danger of falling down. Or your wardrobe could malfunction because of the increased stress and that would be a horrible thing to deal with when everyone is looking at you. You can do take some extra measures to be sure your wardrobe is secure beforehand and to evaluate the speaking setting so you are aware of potential causes of accidents. But the possibility of a mishap is just a risk that you should be prepared to take because the movement you use is so powerfully effective that the rewards are too great to pass up.
The other risk is that by stepping away from the podium, you step away from your outline. To enable yourself to wean away from having to have that outline in front of you all the time, select one or two sections where you will depart the outline and share a personal story. Then your movement will be confident and effective. And when you can integrate confident movement into your presentation, your public speaking skills will go from good to great instantaneously.
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