Five Steps to Become an Awesome Speaker

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 in 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 be on the board of your local book club and speak at weekly meetings, or you could create a club of people with the same aim as you and speak once a week on a different topic. What you do isn't so important as having opportunities for regular speaking. Think of it as your Beatles-in-Hamburg time. You have to put in the hours to get confidence and experience.

2 Learn to speak from memory.Never read from a script and never recite words from memory. Instead you should prepare your speeches carefully but then reduce them to keywords and keyphrases. Learn the sequence of these words/phrases and then expand them in real time as you speak. This is the easiest way to get a natural, confident delivery. Later you could also make an effort to learn how to work from a script like an actor, perhaps signing up for a theater course. And don't just learn one speech. Challenge yourself to speak about new topics and learn each of them well enough to deliver a TED-length talk without any notes.

3 Master the use of pauses. Watch a few good speakers on YouTube and you will notice that they all use pauses very effectively. Talking quickly without breaks is typical of nervous speakers, but more confident people will use pauses to emphasise words, to mark a change in direction and to let the audience absorb key ideas and to get attention for the words that follow. The artful use of pauses is one of the key differences between the average presenter and the skilled speaker. Silences are often more effective than words.

4 Create quality content. Whether you write it yourself of pay someone like me to write your script, you have to learn that crafting a quality talk, speech or presentation is very hard work. Research your topic carefully, structure your thoughts logically, fact check every detail and then go through as many test-revise cycles as you can. Good content is crucially important because it makes you more confident, is simpler to learn and easier to listen to. Don't just improvise -- unless you are a master of improv. Those speeches that amaze you were not made up on the fly. They were created by experienced writers and probably rewritten dozens of times.

5 Practice, practice, practice. One of the secrets of effective speaking is that you have to practice every speech as many times as you can. Expert speakers usually try to make it look like they just walked onto the stage and started speaking without preparation. This is just an illusion created by an effort you normally never see. You need to run through each speech at least ten times -- more at the beginning. If you can find a few colleagues or friends to make a test audience never miss a chance to do it. Their feedback, even if it is just body language, will be invaluable.

Master these five elements, work hard and you can easily become a powerful speaker that everyone remembers. It's not rocket science though it does require some effort, but mastering any skill takes time and effort. But it's worth it.

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Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

If you would like a lecture, an interactive workshop or one-to-one coaching about speaking technique you can contact Andrew Hennigan through speaker@andrewhennigan.com or 0046 73 089 4475.

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