There is so much more to/about conversation than anyone, even I, could ever realize. You can watch talk shows, listen to radio programs, join clubs dedicated to public speaking, engage in ordinary conversations; but, certain rules still apply when it comes to interaction through words. It may sound tedious, I know, but even though it’s your mouth that’s doing the work, your brain works twice as hard to churn out a lot of things you know. So what better way to start learning to be an effective communicator, then to learn from the very person closest to you: yourself.
1. What you know
Education is all about learning the basics, but to be an effective speaker is to practice what you’ve learned. We all have our limitations, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to keep up and share what we know.
It’s just as important as asking questions. Sometimes listening to the sound of our own voice can teach us to be a little bit confident with ourselves and to say the things we believe in with conviction. Seriously, when soliciting questions from your audience, it is critical to listen closely to their questions. If their question is unclear or you do not fully understand what information they seek, take the time to engage with them. Pose your own questions to solicite clarity for all participants in the room. Your audience will remember you as engaging, personable and down to earth.
We all make mistakes, and sometimes we tend to slur our words, stutter, and probably mispronounce certain words even though we know what it means, but rarely use - and then it's only to impress listeners. So in a group, don’t be afraid to ask if you’re saying the right word properly and if they’re unsure about it then make a joke out of it. I promise you it’ll make everyone laugh and you can get away with it as well.
4. Eye Contact
There’s a lot to say when it comes to directing your attention to your audience with an eye-catching gaze. It’s important that you keep your focus when talking to a large group in a meeting or a gathering, never lingering too long on any one audience member.
And if you espy an especially good looker - keep those eyes moving through the crowd, lol. The last thing you want to do is find yourself infatuated with one audience member, to the chagrin of all the other audience members.
5. Kidding around
A little bit of humor can do wonders to lift the tension or boredom when making your speech. Not just for yourself, but for your audience as well. This is a great way to get the attention of the majority of the crowd and they’ll feel that you’re just as approachable as those who listen.
6. Be like the rest of them, but be different
Interaction is all about mingling with other people. You’ll get a lot of new ideas when you share your ideas, as well as learning what people think or feel about those ideas. Never try to dominate, but always take a lead.
Be yourself, but be your best self. You want to be another guy or gal in the crowd, except you want to dust yourself with a dab of shine or glitter, respectively.
7. Me, Myself, and I
Admit it, there are times you sing to yourself in the shower. I know I do!
Listening to the sound of your own voice while you practice your speech in front of a mirror can help correct the stress areas of your pitch. And while you’re at it you can spruce up your appearance, lol.
Seriously, take note of any inflection in your speech and correct it. Be mindful of your facial expression as well as your body language. Sometimes your body can speak louder than your voice when you are facing an audience.
8. With a smile
A smile says it all - much like eye contact. You audience did not come to watch you grimacing or frowning, unless it’s a wake. You can better express what you’re saying when you say it with a smile.
Sometimes it might help to practice a few tongue twister just prior to speaking. And if you start feeling nervous or self-conscience during a speaking engagement, it helps to imagine your audience in their undergarments or their faces painted as clowns, lol. That could illicit a small belly chuckle too, easing any tension buildup in the room.
9. A Role Model Story Teller
There must be at least one or two people in your life you have listened to when they’re at a public gathering or maybe at church. They have the best stories and you find yourself getting lost in them. Why? What is it about "how" they tell their stories that draws you in? Making a mental note of how they emphasize what they say can help you once you take center stage. Then, everything will fall into place as soon as you open your mouth to speak.
Take the time to plan out your speaking schedule with some flexibility. Rigid preparation is not the same as solid preparation.
In some settings/atmospheres just scribbling notes might get you through, but for some public speaking, a speech might be more suitable. Either way, it's best you have a plan A & plan B, with a plan C as backup. Those are the situations where you don't want to find yourself holding a scrap of paper with scribbled and often hurried notes.
Some people like to write things down on index cards, while other resort to being a little more silly as they look at their notes written on the palm of their hand (not for clammy hands, please).
Just be comfortable with what you know and enjoy yourself. In no time, you'll feel like you are talking with a group of longtime friends.
And that about wraps it up. These suggestions are rather amateurish in edgewise, but I’ve learned to empower myself when it comes to public or private speaking; and it never hurts to be with people to listen how they make conversation and meetings far more enjoyable as well as educational.