Researchers
October 5, 2020

Ways to Hone Public Speaking Skills

Public speaking is a skill that most academics will have to learn and become comfortable with over time. Here are some things to keep in mind while preparing for your next talk.

Public speaking is one of those skills that needs to be practiced over and over again. A speaker needs to hear their own voice and understand how others process it. Even for some who are more introverted or perhaps have a personality trait that is lower on the scale of openness, great public speaking skills can be achieved if you have a strategy in mind.  

Watching panel discussions, lectures, or even a Ted-X talk, you can start to pick up on the ways speakers use their voice, their non-verbal communication and body language, and other small subtleties to communicate to their audience in a way that is worth remembering. One of the most important lessons of public speaking is setting the goal of wanting to be remembered. This is important for the purpose of academia because there are many public talks or panel discussions in this field, but not everyone can capture their audience.

Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind while honing your public speaking skills so you can use your knowledge base to really fare well with an audience.

1.     Pausing to take a breath 

When we watch a film or read a book, it might not seem like it but there are ways that an actor or author can make their audience members pause, or take a breath, or take a moment to reflect. The same is true for public speaking. A good public speaker needs to utilize their pause function once in a while so that audience members can reflect on what has been said and digest the content appropriately.

This will help the overall narrative of what is being spoken, and also help audience members trust the speaker more, who in turn has created a level of comfortability and has potentially invited members of the audience into more than one dialogue as new thoughts emerge during such pauses.  

2.     Content and Charisma

One aspect of public speaking also has to with a certain affect you give off as a speaker and how you talk about certain topics. If you’re discussing a serious topic you should probably have a serious tone, but you also need to be able to counteract your seriousness with some light speech or a brief aside that isn’t so serious. Achieving this balance is a skill, and a difficult one to learn for new speakers who aren’t aware that tone and consistency play a big part in having an audience. In the research profession, you often don’t need to hear yourself talk as much when conducting independent analysis or writing.

But, if you do get to the point where public speaking becomes a regularity, as is the case with most professors, or staff at a think tank, you need to be able to develop some type of consistency in your speaking style, or how you give presentations. Being able to do so, and even humoring your audience members and exuding confidence will also establish you as a more credible speaker.

3.     Setting the Stage and Spatial Dynamics

Because public speaking is almost like a performance in front of a live audience, you need to have a good understanding of spatial dynamics of the room you are presenting in, and how to keep the attention of the entire audience. If you are speaking in front of a room and there is some ambiguity of where to stand because there is no podium, you need to utilize a whiteboard or move about the room to show the audience of where the presenter space is relative to where they sit. In any case, take time to peruse the space thoroughly before the presentation, and make sure to ask for help if you need setting something up. 

A common mistake for more novice speakers is not understand that the space in the front of the room should be used to their advantage. It is an asset. Speakers who are able to take control of the space and make it their own during a presentation will also be perceived by the audience as more confident and more credible.

Tags Public Speaking Skills Academics
Michael Robbins
Writer
Michael is a writer that helps organizations align their mission and values to a wide audience.

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