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Five Steps to Become an Awesome Speaker

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Every so often someone will ask me if it is possible for anyone to become a great speaker. Actually it is. Anyone can learn to become a compelling and memorable speaker, though it does require an investment and time and energy.

But unlike many other skills, speaking is actually built on a surprisingly small number of key elements. There are just five of them. Master these five elements and literally anyone can become an effective speaker, even if they are starting from zero.

1 Speak as often as you can. If you speak once a year at a wedding, or once a quarter at a corporate meeting you will never become a really effective and confident speaker. You need to speak in front of a real audience at least once a month to become simply competent, but this is a minimum. Once a week would be better and if you can find periods where you speak every day or even several times a day it will be better. To make this happen you need to find some opportunity to speak regularly. You could volunteer to b…

Focus at Start is Key to Impactful Speaking

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Watching a speaker competition recently I noticed that even competent and confident presenters sometimes make a mistake that looks minor, but actually impacts negatively the first impression that they make on the audience.

What they do is to mention something essentially irrelevant just before they start speaking, which is a both a distraction and can give people a negative feeling even before you start. This usually takes one of three forms, but the advice in every case is the same: don't do it.

Dissing the equipment, venue or audience. One of my favorite TED talk videos begins with an irritating comment from the speaker that he dislikes head microphones. That may well be true but the audience is not interested, and focusing on that detail makes us think about other things and not the topic of his talk. Frankly we don't care if you don't like the equipment or any other practical detail of the event; that is between you and the organizers. In fact if you didn't mention…

How to Build Support Quickly for Your Presentation

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Last year I wrote about what to do if you need to create an important presentation at the last minute in The Dog Ate My Speech: Preparing an Important Presentation at the Last Minute. This focused on techniques for creating and learning effective content with very little time.

But if you have time, another way to make last minute presentations more effective is to get the support of the audience before you start. Before most presentations there are breaks where people drink coffee and chat. You can use this time to mention your most important points to as many people as you can. Later when you are presenting you will probably notice these people nodding as you mention these points. Your ideas sound familiar so people show signs of recognizing them, and this gives encouraging body language feedback that will make you more confident.

If you have a little more time, you could also try to organize a practice session with some of the people who will attend the real presentation. This will…