We are all subjective creatures, unable to truly see ourselves.
When we are speaking in front of a crowd, we are particularly vulnerable and as such often become defensive. It is not easy for most people to admit to themselves that they have poor body language or sub-par volume control on their voice.
What can we do to overcome this barrier in our process to become better speakers?
Today’s one tip will make you a better public speaker by solving two problems in one solution. You will get clear and concise feedback on your performance and what to improve. You also get practice in presenting, with added pressure.
But before we jump Sproutzillo’s one tip to improve your public speaking skills, let us first take a look at why it may be hard to improve your speaking skills.
Our ego’s stop us from seeing ourselves
Most of us will have problems seeing ourselves clearly from the outside. That is natural. Usually, the more you are “formed” in your pattern, the harder it is to see your mistakes and make any changes. Because you have been doing this for so long! How can it be wrong?
That is why younger people usually have an easier time adapting to new environments, behaviours and generally are better at transforming their bad habits into good ones.
In regards to public speaking, this can be tough to hear, and even harder to change. We don’t want to hear it. Plain and simple.
When we are doing public speaking, we are standing in front of a crowd, judging us from top to bottom. Our body language – is it open, inviting, contributing emphasis to your spoken points, and does it all seem genuine or fake?
Our tonality – are we talking in a monotone pitch dozing people to sleep? Is our voice shaking or does confidence shine through? Do we sound like we believe in what we say?
Our speech – is it any good? How is our build up? Do we make a good point? Do we stir any emotions?
Basically, we are being judged on our entire character, competence and ability to portray it. This makes public speaking a very vulnerable experience in which we may become defensive about our performance and appearance.
The trick to overcoming our subjective reality in public speaking
To combat this problem and improve our skills as public speakers, there is one proven trick that has been used by coaches, lawyers and presenters for a long time.
You could, of course, improve your speaking skills by actually presenting to people, but that would demand a lot of feedback from your listeners and you would have to perform many times before you would improve.
The quantity would be a problem.
To train yourself faster, while adding pressure to your speech, getting a real review on your performance and start improving – you should film yourself while you are speaking.
Filming yourself while you are practicing your presentation is great for improving. You get to review your body language, how you use your voice, and so forth. The best option would be to make a video during an actual speech though, but it’s very good practice nonetheless.
In my own experience, and in training others, this is often a painful process.
At first you will cringe at just watching yourself on video. Everything seems horrible. Then, as you work with the material over time, you start to calm down over the horrible fact that you are watching yourself on tape, and start to notice the things you can improve.
Next I will show you some things you can focus on when you review and analyze your performance on video. Before we dig in though, I want you to remember one thing.
While it’s always good to improve, authenticity beats everything. Some of the best presentations I have seen were performed by people that broke every “rule” for solid public speaking.
What I want you to take from that is this: Don’t be a puppet on stage, performing according to the rules of public speaking. Take what works for you and apply it to your specific self, to improve your already great starting point!
In other words, if you are not usually a funny guy, don’t go in front of an audience trying to be Mr. Funnyguy.
How to analyse your presentation through video
So how do you go about analyzing video of your presentation? Usually, you will have to go through the material in several rounds. Every round you focus on one specific thing. There is so much going on at once, that you simply won’t pick up everything at once.
While reviewing the video of yourself you should make a list of what you did that were good, and what was bad.
Here are some points to look at in your analysis:
- Body posture, movement and gestures
- Eye contact
- Facial expressions
#1 – General impression
The closest you will get to feeling like you are in the audience, watching your own speech, is in your first look at the video. I want you to use this first round to note anything you can about your general perception of yourself, the topic and your presentation. How do you come across? What emotions do you feel while watching? Really try to go into the role of the audience and see yourself from their perspective.
Try to note your general impression as you watch your presentation, and summarize whether you are convinced, moved, entertained or informed.
#2 – Body postures, movement and gestures
Now it’s time to dig deeper. Presenting and public speaking is a lot about emotions. And these emotions is a lot about what we feel while we are watching “the whole package” of the presentation.
Body language is a significant part of this whole package. Professor Albert Mehrabian found that in dealing with communication in regards to feelings and attitudes, there is a “55, 38, 7-rule”.
In short, 55 percent of our message is portrayed through body language, 38 percent through our voice, and 7 percent in the words we say. Also, what we say, how we say it and our body language needs to match. If not, we audience will usually believe our body language over the words we say.
For example, if you say to your audience: “I love speaking in front of a crowd. I do it all the time”, while you are shyly looking at the ground, arms folded, with a low voice – chances are big that they will trust your body language ahead of what you are actually saying. And the message there is that you are not comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
Body language is big, broad and impossible to cover in it’s entirety in this list of tips. However, some things for you to look at, that is practical and useful for this analysis could be:
- How is your posture?
- How are you moving your body while you are speaking?
- Are you using your hands to emphasize your point?
Your posture can make or break whether your audience perceives you as confident. It also says a lot about your level of excitement for the topic and presentation at hand.
Moving your body can make you seem more authentic and break you loose from your own shackles of nervousness. By moving around a bit you can add emphasis to your points. If you on the other hand stand still with stiff legs and shoulders, you will feel bad while presenting, and so will your audience.
Fidgeting with your hands sends a bad message. It tells your audience that you are nervous. We all have stupid, little nervous ticks or mannerisms that we do when we feel out of sorts or bored. You should aim to eradicate these from your presentations as they distract your audience and lowers your ethos, subconciously. (credibility).
How are you using your voice?
This time it can be helpful to close you eyes and shut out the visuals. Use you ears and listen to your voice. How are you using it? Keep going with your “good/bad” list, and note:
- How fast are you talking?
- Are you talking with a monotone voice?
- How confident do you sound?
- How is your pitch?
People can practice their speech for days. Then, when they are about to speak in front of a crowd, suddenly, their voice is talking at 150 % speed, and you are done 5 minutes early. Whoopsie! This is something you have to master if you want to become a really great public speaker.
You should be excited for your topic. If you are not excited, then why should your audience be excited hearing about it!?
Talking with a monotone voice has been shown to doze people to sleep. It portrays that you are bored, not excited for your topic or plain and simply don’t believe in your own words.
It is bad, it is boring and it is not the way to go, hombre!
Instead you should aim to use your voice dynamically. Raise you voice during you entrance to immidiately grab attention and keep it. Whisper to while you are telling a part of a story. How you do it is up to you. Just do it.
Make a point of staying as clean and articulated you can in you speech. Wipe out any unecessary mumblings, mental farts and “uuhmm”-s.
Eye contact – the give away
Eye contact is important in 1 on 1-communication. When you are talking with a collegue, buddy or a stranger, you look them in the eyes to show respect. Talking to an audience is just a bigger scale of talking 1to1.
Imagine yourself having a conversation one on one with everyone in the crowd, just at the same time.
- Are you looking down?
- Are your eyes running nervously all over the place?
You face will tell your audience how you feel while you are presenting. It will also convey to your audience how they should feel.
- Is your face stiff?
- Are you animated as you talk?
- Are you smiling?
- Does your facial expressions match what you are talking about?
Is your message coming across in a good and effective way? Are you saying what you are trying to say? When you are talking, how good are you are building up your entire presentation or speech as a whole?
Start using video to improve
Using the pointers given above, to analyse and improve your public speaking performance through the use of video, you will start to see results.
All that remains is good ol’ practice!
After reviewing yourself and practicing according to your own feedback, you can film yourself again and see if you have improved. Repeating this process will set you on your path to becoming a great speaker!