One of the great mistakes made in public speaking is trying to be someone or something that you are not. Your audience is not in attendance, giving of their time, to hear or watch you be something other than yourself. They came to hear you be you.
As a voice specialist, I have found that some of my most difficult clients were those who wanted to sound like a famous broadcaster or a professional speaker, for instance. As great as Zig Ziglar is (and he really is terrific), the last thing you want to do is to imitate him. Learn from him but don’t try to copy him.
My advice is to be yourself, first and foremost. And, the only way that is going to happen is if you treat your audience just as if you were having a conversation in your living room.
The definition of public speaking is the art or science of effective oral communication with an audience. Notice the word with. The dictionary did not choose to use the word to or at. The dictionary’s selection of the word with is most telling because the audience’s response to you is the other side of the communication. If your attention is focused on something other than your audience, then you are unable to perceive their reaction to you. Only by making eye contact with your listeners are you able to distinguish how they are responding to you. Are they smiling or frowning or nodding their heads in agreement? Do you have their attention? If your focus is elsewhere, then you will never know their side of the conversation.
The other important word in the above definition is effective. If you are not focusing on your audience when you speak, then you are not effective because you are talking at them and not to them. There is a huge difference between those two prepositions. Talking to them means making eye contact and that will only happen when you can treat your presentation for what it is: a means of communicating your ideas, your thoughts, your advice, your counsel, or your beliefs to a group of people for the purpose of informing or persuading said people.
The way in which you would describe an adventure, an experience, or even a business idea to a group of people in your living room is how I want you to inform or persuade your audience the next time you are scheduled to speak. Try it; you will be amazed at how much more receptive your audience will be.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. To see how voice training can improve your life, both professionally and personally, visit Voice Dynamic or watch a brief video as The Voice Lady describes Dynamic Public Speaking.