The ‘Conversation’ In Public Speaking
In teaching public speaking, I find that many of my clients, as well as my students, stand at the lectern or on the podium and try to be someone or something they are not. The result is a forced delivery that does not sound natural.
The best in the business – and not necessarily the most famous – treat their audience as if they were having a conversation in their living room. In that sense, they are first and foremost being themselves.
Why is this so important? Because in good public speaking, your goal should be to communicate with your audience and that means involving them.
There are only three reasons for speaking to a group of people: to inform; to persuade; or, to entertain. For the purpose of this article, I am not discussing the 3rd choice because speaking to entertain is a topic in itself. And, while one would certainly want the speaker to be entertaining, that is not the primary reason for delivering a persuasive or an informative piece.
Watching for your audience’s reaction to you is part of that communication. Are they in agreement? Are they interested? Are they frowning or shaking their heads? Are they smiling or laughing? If you are unaware of their reaction to you, then you are not communicating with them. And that could be for various reasons. You may be reading from a script with your eyes glued to your pages or you could be speaking from memory in a rote manner. Maybe you stare at an object on the wall or possibly you furtively glance from one person to another.
When you involve your audience, you must make eye contact with that audience just like you do in conversation in your living room. If you are staring at your script or the clock on the wall, you are not able to make that eye contact. Bring your listeners into your conversation and you will then be acknowledging them. Only then can you be aware of how they are receiving you and the information you are relaying.
What is fascinating about making eye contact is that you will find it is actually easier than any other technique as well as more satisfying to both you and your listeners. Another benefit is that you will discover your smilers. Every audience has them and they bolster your confidence.
While public speaking may be man’s greatest fear, it need not be if you can approach the task from the point of view of being yourself and communicating with those who have come to hear you speak.
Public speaking is not just a form of communication; it is a form of conversation as well. When you can converse with your audience, you will look and sound natural. That is being yourself in public speaking.