Becoming a Fearless Communicator

10 ways to improve communication skills

In my last blog, I spoke about the importance of improving on your communications skills that indirectly affects your financial wellness. The best exercise for this is to practice public speaking. Today, we will discuss 7 easy tips on how to effectively craft a speech and deliver it.

Crafting your Speech

Organize your thoughts – Prepare your opening, body and conclusion. Every speech needs an interesting opening to capture the audience’s attention. Then prepare the body to support your main idea by using stories, anecdotes or examples to make your message more memorable. Deliver only three to four points in the body of the speech to not overwhelm your audience. Lastly, deliver a strong ending. A well-organized message allows your listeners to easily understand and follow your thoughts and words.

Know your Purpose – Every speech has a purpose and the four general purposes are: To inspire, entertain, inform or persuade. You must craft your speech to make it compelling enough to move your audience into action. Once you have decided on a general purpose, narrow it down to a more clearly defined point of view. For example, instead of giving a speech on “How to interview for a job,” narrow it down to “Effective questions to ask during your interview.” Setting up this type of foundational phrase will not only help you organize your thoughts, but your audience will better understand, visualize and follow your presentation to keep them engaged.

Choose your words carefully – Whether you inspire your audience rests solely on the power of your words. When you don’t understand something you read on paper, you can always go back and read it as many times as you want to. However, when speaking, you only have one opportunity to capture your audience’s understanding. Keep it simple by using shorter words and sentences as well as making descriptions vivid so your audience can experience the journey through their senses. For example, instead of saying “I walked to school on a hot day,” you can say “I drenched in sweat as I dragged myself towards the school’s entrance in 103-degree weather.”

Vocal Variety – Engaging your audience requires vocal variety. This means not sounding monotone and having the right volume, rate, pitch and quality to adequately match your message. The volume is how loud and soft your voice can be. The rate at which you speak is a fine balance between speaking fast enough to keep your audience interested, but slow enough so they will understand and follow. Having the right pitch will keep you from sounding monotone and adjust your voice based on your message. For example, a high-pitched voice will most likely convey excitement. The quality of your voice when speaking should be relaxed and confident and not tense.

Communicate through Body Language – Your body language should always match and enhance your message. Having the right amount of hand gestures and movements will give some variety to your audience which will keep them more engaged. Most importantly, your body language will convey to your audience how you are feeling as the speaker. Are you confident or shy? For example, having the right eye contact, movements and facial expressions will convey your confidence, but fidgeting your legs or looking down can show a lack of confidence or shyness.

Know Your Topic – One of the most important aspects when delivering a great speech is to know your topic and have a sense of passion towards it. This is not just about picking a topic and trying to memorize the facts, but to have a strong feeling about your topic which may be personal to you or is something you had experienced which makes you want to talk about it. Just by having a personal connection to your topic, you will exude a strong sense of enthusiasm that will keep your audience interested the entire duration of your speech.

Use of Visual Aids – Visual aids can be a very effective tool not only to enhance the understanding and retention of the material for your audience, but it can also help you, the speaker, control your nerves. It will allow some physical activity to help absorb some of the nervous energy. Some of the most common visual aids are PowerPoint presentations, flip charts, whiteboards and overhead projectors.

Keep in mind that regardless of how well you implement these tips, it will never substitute for the art of practice. When rehearsing your speech, it is always more effective to speak out loud and visualize yourself standing in front of an audience. Don’t forget to always stay within an allotted time by practicing with a stop watch on hand, and adjust your message as appropriate. Nothing is worse than listening to rambling speech which seems to have no end.

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