The Art of Public Speaking and Presentation

Public speaking is a subject that touches you in one way or the other, now or later. The art of public speaking provides information on every aspect of speaking in public that would make you distinctive and a master of the art. 

Most public speaking that turned out to be disasters had the message, the content well-packaged, but the basic communication instruments poorly tuned. 

Newscasters, politicians, masters of ceremonies, and radio presenters are public speakers who have gone through coaching on basic communication instruments; eye contact, gestures, body movement, voice, and tone moderation. 

Nowak (2004: xi) observes that the trained public speakers‘ statements and movements look phony and calculated. Each gesture and each glance draw attention to itself. Each phrase and each pause look like the tidy execution of a coaching tip that has not been assimilated.

This means that the coaching and training the public speakers received has turned them into experts and masters of the art. Therefore, this subject is of great importance to you.

The Art of Public Speaking

Public speaking is the process of preparing and orally presenting a message to an audience large or small. This sounds simple, but there are complexities. Effective public speaking does not happen by chance or accident. 

It requires you to know the audience, have well-defined goals, a clear understanding of the topic, integration the elements that will engage the audience, and have the ability to deliver the message skilfully. 

This implies that you must plan, organize and rehearse your material thoroughly. However, public speaking creates fears and concerns in people. This concern arises from the feeling of nervousness or unexpected developments and how to deal with them. 

This happens to everyone who is a public speaker or wants to be one. Studies (Wallechinsky, Wallace, & Wallace 1977; Boyd, Rae, Thompson, Burns, Bourdon, Locke, & Regier 1990 & Schmidtz 2014) show that the fear of speaking in public consistently ranks at the top of lists of people‘s common fears. 

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The fear of public speaking ranks up with the fear of flying, death, and spiders‖ and I add, in developing countries, the fear of poverty. Most times, this kind of fear relates to a feeling of incompetence or the thought that things could go wrong. 

The idea of misplacing speaking notes, the disapproval of the audience on presentation style, tone or subject, and technical challenge with instruments for presentation. For you to be an effective public speaker, you must know how to deal with any unforeseen difficulties.

This lecture will help you develop strategies to manage your anxiety and fears of public speaking. It will also introduce you to the tactics you can employ to deal with various unexpected developments when you are faced with speaking to an audience.

1. Confidence before an Audience 

Public speaking or standing before an audience to deliver a speech evokes fear in so many people. It is a subject of stress for so many people. It is common knowledge that several people who have never made a speech in public fear doing so when asked to. 

Standing before the audience makes so many nervous. Why does public speaking evoke so much fear in people? Fear comes from worry or concern that you might give a bad talk. 

You worry that your failure to deliver a captivating speech will have a ripple effect on you, your studies, your career, or future pursuits in life. 

Every public speaker wants to confidently and fearlessly mount the stage to deliver a speech, breaking the ice with the perfect joke, captivating the audience with compelling stories, handling the most difficult questions with ease, and exciting to cheers and applause‖ (Bonchek & Gonzalez, 2018: np). 

This is usually not the case when faced with an audience. Many people, especially the inexperienced and first-timers, have stumbled on the stairs; some forgot their lines, transformed into stammering, or went blank and lost all confidence before the audience. 

To be an excellent public speaker, you must learn to conquer your fears. Facing a live audience regularly or acquiring experience as a public speaker does not entirely take away stage fright. Treat your talks like a stand-up comedian. 

According to Markman (2018: np), if you treat talks like stand-up comedy, you will not instantly be a stress-free presenter. But you are likely to dread it less and less as you realize that you got through another talk without the world ending. 

And hopefully, one day, you might even realize that you are more excited than worried about the prospect of getting up in front of a group. By addressing the source of the worries and fears, you will learn to speak in public with greater ease and control. 

There are important guides or tips that you must follow that will help you achieve a stunning performance in your next speech presentation. In public speaking, you are judged on your confidence and competence as well as on your content, and the way you appear and sound during the presentation. 

Gallo (2018: np) the popular author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great writes that you might have a great idea or results to share, but if you do not deliver your message with confidence, it will fall on deaf ears. Look and sound as strong as your content and you will find a receptive audience.

Be Prepared: This sounds like a familiar tone. Being prepared is not only peculiar to public speaking. It applies to every meaningful project in life. Imagine you are going to write your degree examination without adequate preparation. 

The result would be a visible outright failure, a serious shortfall.‘ So also, it is with public speaking. You should be adequately prepared. This means you must master the material so well that it becomes a part of you. 

Study the material, emphasize and embellish the essentials and lose the non-essentials. It also means that you carefully ensure your logistics are set in advance. Imagine where you are the speaker and you are stranded on the way to the venue. 

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This will create tension and agitation in you, and emotional, psychological, and physical instability may all set in. It is usually helpful to draw out a checklist of all the necessary details. Go through your checklist carefully and convince yourself that all the grounds have been covered. 

If you are introducing any technology, illustration, or visual in your speech presentation, cross-check very well, ensure the items are well arranged without errors, and the technical team to assist you are reliable and capable. 

You take steps to ensure you are relaxed, focused, and not distracted. A speaker must have a live subject, must treat it in a live way, and must convince the audience that he is himself alive.

Know your audience: You will misfire if you do not understand the audience you want to speak to. Your first assignment is to know the audience. Ask questions about the audience. Search Google to find out information on the people you will be meeting. 

When you do not understand your audience, you speak out of context and if you talk out of context, you speak yourself out off the stage. It is vital to be properly guided by the people you want to talk to.

Exude confidence: Virtually everyone will have feelings of anxiety when faced with a room full of professionals. This is not the same when you stand before a group of people who are clowns, entertainers, or very unserious people. 

Row says it is natural to feel intimidated if you are talking to famous persons at a conference or presenting your speech to a roomful of seasoned researchers. In this situation, you should not allow your anxiety to show. 

You are advised to take deep breaths and remember that you know more about your research than anyone else. It is easy to feel overwhelmed while others are being critical of you, do not forget that you are on the stage, you should be in control and let your passion and confidence take the lead.” 

According to Rowh, one sign of confidence is simply modulating your voice. If you speak slowly and calmly, you will appear more confident than would otherwise be the case. The same goes for making eye contact instead of constantly looking down at notes.

Be real: Be real to yourself. When you are overwhelmed with the desire to impress the audience with a topic you know very little about, you will heighten your fear. 

This might be the beginning of disappointment on the stage. It is important you consider the time allotted to you and cut down the material to fit in accordingly. Do not exaggerate your fears or overrate your confidence.

Be present: When you appear before the audience, connect with them immediately by being physically onstage. You must not be absent-minded. 

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Your feeling of anxiety should not overwhelm you such that you become uninspired to deliver your speech. You must exude enthusiasm and be physically composed to show you are in control of the stage.

When you are on stage, a quick way to get grounded is to feel your feet on the ground, take a breath, and find a friendly face in the audience to connect with anything that gets you back in the present moment‖ (Bonchek & Gonzalez, 2018: np). 

When you have a speech to present to the public, do not connect with those who run you down or heighten your fears. Connect with those who bring out the gifts in you.

Gallo (2018: np) discussed five ways to project confidence in front of an audience which includes:

Dress 25% better than anyone else in the room: Row (2012: 32) observes that whether on a job interview or in a meeting, how you look, and act can matter as much as your ideas. When you walk into a room, people size you and one of the first things they do is to notice your clothes. 

People form impressions of your personality in a matter of seconds. It is not necessarily fair, but it‘s a reality, says Yu Han (2017: np). You have probably heard the advice to dress to impress.‖ And you probably would also have heard, you are addressed the way you dress.

You do not dress to kill but always dress a little better than the audience and exude some confidence. Your clothes should be appropriate for the occasion. However, a very loud dressing will produce a counter effect. 

Do not dress like comedians or clowns whose primary duty is to entertain. A public speaker is more than an entertainer. James Citrin, a leading CEO recruiter, once advised job candidates to dress 25% more formal‖ than the prevailing dress code at the company. 

Update your wardrobe once or twice a year, wear clothes that fit your body type, choose colors that compliment your skin or hair color, and avoid worn or scuffed shoes.‖ Dress neatly and professionally in the attire you are comfortable with.

2. Keep your presentation simple

This is particularly important if you are to talk to a general audience. There is nothing impressive about technical jargon that your audience does not understand. “People tend to give presentations the audience does not understand. 

The curse of knowledge is that once you know something, you forget what it was like when you didn’t know it,” says Barry Schwartz.

3. Diversify your delivery

People do not learn just by listening. Different people learn in different ways, says Susan H. McDaniel, APA‘s 2016 President. Use visual tools (such as slides or a video), incorporate research and tell stories. 

Anecdotes can be a particularly useful way to connect with an audience. “It could be a story about yourself, especially if you are using humor and making fun of yourself,” says McDaniel. 

One crucial tip to keep in mind about multimedia presentations: do not let the technology obscure what you are trying to say, says Schwartz. “PowerPoint is incredibly powerful, but use it to get halfway there, rather than expecting it to do the whole job for you,” he says. 

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