Public Speaking Skills: Overcome Your Fears of Communicating and Win Your Audience

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What is public speaking? How do you learn the skills of communicating your ideas and selling yourself before an audience?

Public speaking has been the fear of many. It has become a concern to the majority.

At a point in my life, I would say to anyone who cares to listen, “I fear public speaking pass death”.

Then I don’t believe in anything called public speaking skill. I was more of the belief you are born with it or you don’t have it.

If you search today on public speaking, what you will see are questions the same or similar to the ones below.

“How do I speak fluently?”

“How do I overcome fear of public speaking?”

“What is public speaking”.

Buy you don’t worry, as I will help with answers to those questions as we continue.

I had a speaking session with a group of business owners from all corners of the earth.

Among this business owners were a lady in red dress quietly listening to me as I share some ecommerce insights.

At once, I could recognize her. She was an old schoolmate – one of my best female friend in campus then.

As you would have expected, during the break, we met and immediately picked up from where we left when we last saw each other – campus.

I left the state and headed home the next day.

Three days on arrival, I received a text message from an unknown number.

The content reads,

“Good morning, AY. I would like to ask you a question, but that would be next week when I got things fixed up. Thanks, (Her Full Name)”.

I replied, “Okay! You are welcome”.

Nine days from the first text message, I received another text message from her. The content reads,

“Hello Ayo, good evening. I trust God that all is going on well over there. I wanted to ask you; how do you do it? Being able to meet people for the very first time, you engage them in a heartfelt conversation and wala, do your magic?”

You wonder what my reply would be? It reads,

“Hi, (Her Name). You are awesome. The secret formula is this: Just Do It. Your greatness eats in the plate with fear. (Her Name), Go Dine with it!”

She was grateful and replied with a longer message.

Now, would that solve her challenges with public speaking? It will but will take time as she will still have to go learn a lot on public speaking by herself.

I would have love to gift her my knowledge about public speaking, but our medium of communication (text message) would not allow.

This propel me to choose a public speaking topics to write about so my friend and anyone facing the challenge of speaking in public can find a solution to that which is before them.

What I will share with you today goes far beyond public speaking to your everyday communication with strangers, friends and families.

Such that anytime you open your mouth to speak, you sell yourself, communicate your ideas and win your audience.

Will you learn anything after reading my article on public speaking? You decide that – the choice to learn or not to.

But here few things out of the many I will share with you as you continue reading.

What Causes the Fear of Public Speaking?

1. Technology

You could access this article via the internet, thanks to technology. You are reading this on a screen, thanks to technology.

Yet, you and I know nothing I mean nothing can replace face-to-face communication.

Nothing can substitute the place of handshake and the hug from the one you can see.

Neither can audio record replace the direct voice from a man nor keyboard the handwriting of a man.

We have become so lost in technology that we have forgotten the joy of physical presence.

Take a silent survey of the gatherings of youth sitting waiting for an event to start.

What you will notice is a large number (>85%) glued to their phones. Chargers everywhere.

Rather than starting a conversation with the person sitting next to them, they hide their weaknesses in phone pressing.

Children operating phones while eating with family. Husband chatting 2am while on the bed with wife. Wife checking text message during morning prayers.

How then can you expect to communicate better or speak in public effectively? Why wouldn’t there be fear of public speaking?

It is what you sow, you reap. It is what you feed that grows. Why expect heat when you won’t add to the woods?

Let get this straight, I am not against the evolution of technology. That would be unwise of me.

I teach on how to build and scale ecommerce business, and that was only possible because of technology.

Technology has come and come to stay for our effective use. It’s going nowhere.

What I am against is the wrong use of technology from those who are ignorant.

Technology is an advancement of communication and not a replacement. It is there to make life easy and not lonely.

But a lot is getting this wrong.

And then let me tell you something. The more we make use of technology as a means of communication, the more we crave to be with an actual person.

Yes, customers buy online, but they will tell you if it’s possible, they would like to be in physical contact with what they are buying and the seller.

I had my share of the abuse of technology in my early days. But I took responsibility of deleting my account on most social networks and keep few for strictly business purpose.

Once upon a time, toastmaster clubs ( where people get public speaking training ) was the go to event of most youth and young adults.

I doubt if many of these clubs still exist today. And if they are, how many? How functioning are they?

Peter Drucker, a great management thinker of our time, said,

“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important events those historians will see is not technology, not the internet, not ecommerce.

It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time…growing number of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves.”

I know your present public speaking skill can be better.

2. Talking! Talking!! Talking!!!

Many can talk. Few can hear. Little can listen – Oluboba Ayodeji

It common to see partners talking back at each other before the other could express his or her view.

Friends interrupting one another during conversation before the one speaking could finish expressing his opinion.

The bedrock of public speaking is communication.

And true communication begins when we listen with the motive to understand others and not with the primary aim to reply.

We then can speak with open minds and the listener can understand us better.

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

Listening requires patience; talking requires courage.

When we talk without listening, it’s difficult to understand what the other feel from his own point of view.

What is important for you may not for the other? What you consider good may be bad for another.

What is moral to you may be unethical for your audience? What you celebrate may not be a thing of significant value to your listeners.

This makes it essential to listen to our audience. It is necessary to have an interest in what they have to say.

I have had public speakers who kept on talking without listening to their audience. The presentations were poor.

Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habit of Highly Effective People shared his story in his best-selling book, The 8th Habit.

In his words,

“I will never forget being invited by a very prestigious, high-level executive to give my analysis and recommendations regarding the selection of a new university president.

I was one of the most profound communication I have ever had. He left his office to come to the outer office, where I was awaiting my appointment.

After greeting me, he graciously ushered me into his office and had me sit next to him, in front of his desk, where we could talk eye-to-eye without any physical structure between us.

He basically said, ‘Stephen, thank you so much for coming in. I am anxious to understand whatever you want me to understand.’

I had prepared for this visit for a considerable period of time and had develop an outline for my presentation.

I gave him a copy for the outline and covered it slowly, point by point. Except for a few clarifying question, he never interrupted.

He listened so intently and completely that when my thirty-minute was over, I felt completely understood.

He made absolutely no comment – neither agreeing, disagreeing or committing.

But at the end he simply stood up, looked me in the eye, and as he shook my hand, expressed how much he appreciated and admired me.

That was it, I was profoundly moved by his openness, humility, graciousness and deep listening, and overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and loyalty.

Because I felt so completely understood and knew that my input had been genuinely listened to and respected, I was fully prepared to support whatever decision was made.”

You have just read how important it is to listen. From Stephen’s last sentence, you could see how he was ready to support executive in any decision he made. Why?

He felt completely understood. They respected his input.

When you listen always to your audience with an open heart, they will listen to you with all joy within.

I know we can do more of listening than talking.

Public Speaking Meaning

What is public speaking?

Public Speaking is an art of communication involving the transfer of information from one person to another or group of persons.

The information you transfer can be an idea, facts, and even stories.

As you have known that if your audience can’t understand and relate to your message, there is no communication.

And when there is no communication, public speaking is void.

When you read a book, you can go back to the last sentence you didn’t understand. You can check up the meaning of a word from the book in a dictionary.

It is not this way with public speaking.

“What is said is said” – Oluboba Ayodeji.

When you have nothing to communicate, please remain silent. Your message must be immediately understood.

When you stand in front of the audience to speak, I want you to understand communication is about understanding.

It’s about your audience, listeners gaining complete clarity of your message.

The way you look at me, the way you sit or stand, the way you move your hands, the tone of your voice, your approach all sends out a message.

Once misinterpreted, it’s no longer communication.

7 Public Speaking Tips and Techniques to Improve Your Skill

1. Face Your Fear

When you are familiar with speaking in public, you will be afraid of taking the podium.

No one is born knowing public speaking techniques, we all learned it.

Like I replied to my old friend, “Just Do It”. It’s another way of me saying go face your fear.

Fear of public speaking cripples, crumbles and destroy fast than you can imagine. It denies you of beautiful opportunities to speed up and progress in your career and life.

You don’t need to wait for your fear vanishing because it will never be over.

Great public speakers are not people without fear. Instead, they are people who have a reason stronger than fear.

Fear is neither a friend nor a foe. That’s because it sometimes yields positive results (fear of the Lord) and sometimes negative results (promote stagnation).

It’s what you make out of it that matters. Do you choose to see it as a positive or negative? The choice is yours.

Whenever you are afraid in a public speaking training, know greatness lies ahead immediately after your session.

Would you allow fear to deny you this greatness? I hope not.

2. Be Thyself

A common problem I noticed today among uprising public speaker is the feeling your audience needs to see you as being professional.

They do all there is to impress the audience when the very reason for meeting with the audience was to express their points on a public speaking topics.

We have this perception of who we should be. And so, we are told to fake it until we make it.

But let me tell you something, you only need to create it it till you make it.

Now, I am not against being professional in your acts or speaking loosely among the audience. No, I doubt if you will have another chance to speak at that event again.

My request is: Be who you are in a professional style. Put on your natural self and you will get same from your audience.

Be serious with what you say without saying it seriously. Your audience will either agree or disagree to the point you are making – nothing more.

Have you seen politicians, top business executives and comedians speak? You will most likely lose your defense the more you listen to them. Same can be with you.

We should learn how to be ourselves at our best. We should learn how to be comfortable when speaking to the audience.

3. Take a Pause and Breathe

Have you ever had the thought that if you take too long to reply, they will think you don’t know it enough? Public speakers do.

And even when they pause, it’s fake. TV presenters are most guilty of this.

The problem with you not taking a pause when you speak is you make fulfill the saying “In many words come sin”.

When you take a pause, you have more breath in you and also can think of what you want to say next. In fact, always think before you spill it out.

You ask, “Is this not a difficult thing to do, Ayo.” No, it’s not. At least not as difficult as it seems.

I am sure you know what you want to say before the meeting. Use the silent pause to think on your feet.

You are an entrepreneur – entrepreneur with a difference. Don’t fall into the trap of mental tumor that makes you feel the person listening to you wants you to keep talking.

When you talk too much without a break, your audience can accurately predict what you want to say next.

Don’t fall into the category of those who start answering questions yet to complete.

You need time to put your words together in your way. Even computers take seconds to respond.

The next time you have a public speaking session with someone or audience, speak in a way they expect the next thing you want to say.

But how?

Say something (maximum of 3 sentences), then take a pause (3 seconds). Doing this allows them to digest what you have already said.

Always remember this quote in days of help.

“The effectiveness of your speech has nothing to do with the number of words spoken but the quality of which you spoke.” – Oluboba Ayodeji

4. Avoid Useless Words

I had to mention this after the point on taking a pause.

I have seen speakers use certain words as a way of taking a pause. This is not them taking a pause because it is not intentional.

They don’t even realize they are stopping. They are not aware.

For you, you should not take a pause because I ask you to. Take your pause silently with all consciousness.

I was at a friend’s place when I called her attention to a prominent man in the country speaking on TV.

All we could hear was, Uhm, Ehm, uh and more. He knows what he was saying (to my knowledge) but his filters would not let us get his message right.

You will use these wrong words in three situations. When:

1) When you know too much but lacks preparation.

2) You know little of the question asked.

3) You are out of breath and your mouth is dry (out of saliva).

We mostly overuse these words may be in writing or speaking. The words you should avoid are but not limited to.

  • Like Seriously (A wrong trend among youths).
  • I think or I believe (“I know” or “I suggest” will do more)
  • As a matter of fact (Your word still passes the same message without it.)
  • Frankly speaking (You can convey your message with, “I am serious”)
  • And so (Best you use at a minimal either “And” or “So”)
  • Okay or Ok (How do you feel when reply your chat with “Ok”?)
  • Very (She is beautiful better than she is very beautiful)
  • That (Most sentence is complete without “that”)
  • Yeah (Yes is better.)
  • Ehm, Uh, Hmm (Wrong filters).

5. Maintain Eye Contact

Have you ever had someone looking elsewhere during a conversation with you? How do you feel?

I will feel there is someone or something important to you than my discussion with you at the moment. Most times, I end the conversation.

What’s your public speaking techniques?

  • Do you look up as though you are seeking inspiration?
  • Do you look down as if you want to digest your points better?
  • Do you look sideways as though you have done anything wrong?

When you buy most public speaking courses, what you hear is, “look at your audience in their eyes when speaking. I mean eye to eye”.

While it’s true to have eye contact with our audience, we have misinterpreted the actual meaning.

Not everyone is comfortable looking their listeners eyeball to eyeball, most especially at a close range.

This is because they see it as a disrespect, or an invitation of challenge to the other party.

Also, you can become distracted looking into the eyes and you lose focus on what you or the other is saying.

How should you maintain eye contact in public speaking?

Look at your audience’s forehead, brow, or in between the eyes. Switch among these three.

I call this act “The art of looking without looking.”

Even at my advice, I suggest you pick your own spot. Stick with what works for you.

I have a friend who prefers to look at people’s lips when talking. Another prefers the nose.

Your audience will most determine what part you will look and stick to.

You don’t want to look directly into the eyes of an audience with one eye. Neither do you want to pick the mouth of one who has lost three front teeth as your spot.

Find a place comfortable for you on your audience’s face and stick to it.

Don’t worry, the people you are looking at don’t know you are not directly looking at them.

Maintaining eye contact means looking at someone and not staring at the person.

6. Prepare and Practice

Mark Twain said, “It usually take me three weeks to prepare an impromptu speech”.

I only know a few people who have the gift of meeting up with present unprepared demands.

Preparation helps with what to say, and practice helps with how to say it.

“No man is better than his prepared self” – Oluboba Ayodeji

I was at a conference and without the help of a prophet; I know the speaker lacks preparation.

I thought I was the only one, not until another listener told me of similar observation during the speaker session. Your audience knows if you came prepared for them.

How do I know? Simple…

  • They often start low, stammering, staggering and beating about the bush.
  • They will want to you win you over with their body movement.
  • They tell unnecessary personal stories.
  • They begin to say relevant things later on but then the time is almost over.

When you come prepared to a public speaking session, you don’t take too long to say what to say.

You are like a pregnant woman waiting to deliver. You hit the nail on the head and straight to the point.

“Practice is the mother of perfection” – Oluboba Ayodeji

7. Make Use of Your Time

I am not a fan of meetings because they most time take eternity and still no agreement is made.

The attendees are tired and famished, yet everyone has to remain seated even when they can no longer understand anything.

In his words, Lou Cook, former president of the Alexandria, Virginia, school board uses this adage: “Sometimes the mind can absorb only what the seat can endure.”

How do you make use of your time in a public speaking session with the audience?

  • Start by telling them what they will know

This is where you give an intro to what you will teach them. You let them realize how important this is to their business and life.

You mostly ask a question at this point. You relate your speech with their family, food, pet and all that is important to them.

  • Continue by telling them what they need to know

You take them a step-by-step teaching of the promises you made earlier. You hit the nail here.

Hold nothing back at this session because it is the point that is most practical of your time with them.

  • Stop by telling them what they already know.

Reinforce your points to them without lagging on any. No one appreciates you taking longer time here. Keep It Simple and Short (KISS).

After all, be proud to walk out of the stage because you have just delivered an excellent speech.

Public Speaking Frequently Asked Question

What is public speaking?

Public speaking is giving a speech face to face to audience physically present in a meeting.
Yet, because of the evolution of public speaking, we now view it as any form of speaking between an audience and the speaker.

What are the 7 elements of public speaking?

  1. The speaker: The person who is speaking.
  2. The message: What the speaker is saying.
  3. The audience: The one receiving the speaker’s message.
  4. The channel: The communication channel (images, audios, videos) which the speaker used to reach the audience.
  5. Feedback: We do not complete a public speaking session until the speaker has responded to the questions of his audience.
  6. Noise: These are sounds from your audience laughter, low light, poor ventilations and bad microphones.
  7. The place or situation: The place where a speaker delivers a speech. If you can, I encourage you familiarise yourself with the venue.

What are the Ps of public speaking?

  • Planning,
  • Preparation,
  • Practise and
  • Performance.

What are the types of public speaking?

  • Entertaining Speech: These are speech given to entertain the audience.
  • Informative Speech: These are speech to provide you new insight on a specific subject.
  • Persuasive Speech: These are speech given to make you believe all the speaker says.
  • Oratorical Speech: These are speech given at special occasions like graduation.
  • Debate Speech: These are speech meant to win over an opponent.

What are benefits of public speaking?

  • Career Upgrading.
  • Confidence Boosting.
  • Critical Thinking.
  • Personal Development.
  • Improve Communication skills.
  • Build Networks.
  • Become Fulfilled.

How can you improve your public speaking skills?

  • Plan and Prepare.
  • Practice and Practice.
  • Engage your Audience.
  • Use Body Language.
  • Think Positively.
  • Calm your Nerves.
  • Believe in Yourself.

Public Speaking Resources (Courses, Books and PDF)

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