Public Speaking & Comms.
The basic rule of effective communication with any audience is: Don’t talk down to people.
Regardless of whether you’re speaking, writing a letter, sending an email or making a phone call, good communications have a few things in common. They should be:
If someone provides you with some information, they like to know what you did with it, otherwise they may think that it was ignored. It also encourages them to speak with you in future without thinking it was a waste of time.
Do: face the person you are talking to, maintain eye contact, use silence (it can indicate patience and provide thinking time).
Don’t: cross your arms and legs, stare, look away for long periods, fidget or doodle.
Do: ask questions – it shows a genuine interest in what the other person is saying and shows you want to understand what they mean.
Don’t: keep interrupting – try to let the other person come to a natural pause before responding.
Do: be aware of the person’s demeanour. For example, if they are worried or concerned about something, they may be restless/shifting about, slouched, unable to maintain eye contact or looking downwards.
Don’t: assume that a person feels down because of any of these factors – try to be open and helpful.
Do: be self-aware, so that you are familiar with your own habits and mannerisms that may affect how well people listen to what you’ve got to say.
Don’t: assume that because you are interested in what you have to say that the other person is.
Being a good listener
Our top ten tips to help develop your listening skills:
Speaking in public
Let’s introduce PAM. PAM is a useful reminder about any form of communication. She stands for:
Another way of saying this is your aim or objective. You should be clear before you begin what it is you want the audience to come away with at the end.
Try to find answers to the following questions:
The message is the crucial content of your presentation: what it is you’re actually going to say. Good messages have a few things in common:
How to make your message stick
Can you give a real life example? Do you know how Neighbourhood Watch helped an elderly person, for example, or gave him or her a new lease of life? Real examples work much better than abstract things. People can relate your stories
to their own lives.
Preparing for your talk
Write down in advance the key points that you want to make. If you can, it’s best to speak from notes rather than writing down an entire ‘speech’ as a script. A few notes will help you to plan and order your talk. Give each section a simple heading.
Decide in advance how you would prefer to deal with questions. You might be happy to respond to them during the presentation, or be more comfortable leaving questions until the end. Just make sure you tell your audience at the beginning.
Think about what questions you might be asked. If you’ve already thought through your purpose and audience, you’ll be better prepared.
Sometimes you may be asked a completely unexpected question. If this happens and you don’t know, say so. It’s perfectly acceptable to say that you’ll try to find out and will get back to them.
It’s a good idea to rehearse what you want to say. Practising is one way of helping to calm your nerves, and running through your presentation in front of someone you trust is a good way of getting feedback. Also, watch yourself in the mirror to see if you have any distracting mannerisms or habits. Most of us do!
Planning for the day
This checklist should help you to feel organised and prepared before the big day:
On the day
Structuring your presentation
Here is an example of a good structure for a presentation:
It’s important to finish on time and reinforce what you hope to happen next – even if it’s just leaving your contact details so that people can get back to you.
One way of making your presentation interesting is by involving the audience; for example, by asking them a question or for a show of hands, or asking for personal anecdotes. But you need to be wary here. Some people may be willing to get involved, but you can bet that others won’t. You want your audience to be relaxed and receptive to your message – making them nervous won’t do you or them any good. Try to judge the mood.
Try to make sure you speak loudly enough to be heard and clearly enough to be understood. If you feel awkward, rehearsing the presentation with someone beforehand should help. Deep breaths will help you to keep the volume up without shouting.