How to Improve Your Speaking Ability? (4 Steps)
There could be many moments of failure or underperformance. Nevertheless, every mediocre speaker can certainly work his or her way to become an effective presenter.
As we noted earlier, almost every good speaker of today was a mediocre or bad speaker of yesterday. Likewise, any speaker who looks like an overnight success would have-put in years of hard work before accomplishing success.
Oral fluency is a must for making good speeches and presentations. Mastery over language and command over words distinguish an accomplished speaker from a mediocre one.
A good speaker cannot stand before an audience and start groping for the right word. Oral fluency development means having an abundant supply of words and being in a position to choose the most appropriate word in every given context.
As we have noted earlier, the world of words is vast and fascinating. Building up word power or vocabulary is a lifelong endeavour. New words come into being and gain currency. Good speakers and effective presenters make conscious and continuing efforts to add to their word power.
They are constantly on the look out for new, vibrant and contemporary words. They do not hesitate to look up a dictionary or thesaurus now and then to enhance their word power.
Let us now look at some tips that help build confidence and make the journey from a mediocre and fumbling speaker to a forceful and fluent speaker. Beginners and first-time speakers often suffer from nervousness and performance anxiety.
They are not confident and are afraid of facing the audience. Nervousness would result in loss of memory and loss of words. People sweat, voice quivers and knees give in. The speaker’s discomfiture is writ large on his face. The audience cannot miss it.
They do realize that the speaker is a beginner and is struggling to gain confidence. Yet, most of the time the audience shows understanding. The speaker, however, should test herself in smaller, informal and familiar groups and forums before venturing out to speak in front of a large audience or make a formal presentation.
The beginner’s low-confidence behaviour, to reiterate, gets manifested in fumbling, fidgeting, mumbling, fostering, looking confused, sweating and such other disturbed disposition.
On the other hand, seasoned speaker’s high-confidence behaviour comes through clearly in a strong and controlled voice, smooth flow of thoughts and words, good posture, smile and eye contact, confident movements, firm gestures and other such positive and friendly disposition.
The following four steps help a speaker in moving from a low-confidence behaviour to a high-confidence behaviour:
Observation is to oral communication what reading is to written communication. You get to know different styles and varied approaches. Anyone wishing to be a good speaker should make it a point to observe the other speakers closely—their postures and gestures, choice of words and use of language, their voice modulations, their examples and stories, their pauses and punches, their beginning and closing and so on.
Through such observations, one can notice the good, bad and ugly features. Make a mental note to adapt the good and desirable features, to avoid the bad or undesirable features and certainly shun the ugly features.
Practice or rehearsal is the crucial second step in developing high- confidence behaviour. Practice in front of a mirror, in front of a small familiar group or classrooms. To use a cliche, practice makes a man (or woman) perfect.
Till you practice and actually deliver your speech, it is all a theory or conjecture. Like a swimmer who learns only after jumping into water, it is only through real-life situations that a speaker improves his or her delivery. Practice helps bridge the gap between notions and reality.
The importance of feedback in any process of communication can hardly be overemphasized. It is said that feedback is the breakfast of champions. For a beginner, it is indeed much more. Seek out feedback on your speeches and presentations from friends, family members, colleagues, well wishers, participants, organizers and even critics.
In fact, more than praise, it is constructive criticism that really helps in overcoming deficiencies. In seminars and conferences, feedback forms are used and the audience is requested to offer their comments and suggestions. A good speaker takes the feedback seriously and makes conscious effort to improvise and refine content and delivery.
Self-analysis and evaluation is yet another vital step in the journey towards achieving high confidence and great impact speeches. Set yourself high standards and give marks to your performance. Every time you achieve the minimum score, raise the bar. Ask yourself the following questions and carry out a self-evaluation.
i. Was my preparation and content coverage adequate?
ii. Did I do proper audience analysis?
iii. Did I supplement my verbal message with appropriate vocal and visual characteristics?
iv. Did I make effective use of pauses and punches?
v. Were my postures and gestures appropriate?
vi. Did I smile and establish eye contact?
vii. How good was my beginning?
viii. Did my main points come through loud and clear?
ix. How strong was my closing or conclusion?
x. Was anything lacking in the question-and-answer session?
xi. Did I make an effective use of the visual aids or power point presentation?
xii. Did I use undesirable mannerisms and audience-unfriendly remarks?
Ask yourself relevant questions. Note down what your strengths are and where you did well. Similarly, note down your weak areas and aspects that need improvement. Self-analysis helps you become a better and more confident speaker.
In real-life situations, several good ideas and thoughts come to the speaker just after they complete their speeches and return to their seats. There is not much that one can do about it. Similarly, the speaker may also realize that many points he or she had planned to make just did not happen.
That is how things often turn out in real-life situations. Do not become despondent. Be more alert and conscious next time. Good luck to you.
In the context of business communication, every speech and presentation has a certain purpose to achieve. The question-and-answer (Q&A) sessions are conducted in order to ensure that at the end of a speech or even during the course of a presentation, the audience is encouraged to ask questions or seek clarifications. Under normal circumstances, no speech or presentation can end without a Q&A session.
That being so, the speaker should be fully prepared to anticipate any relevant question and reply satisfactorily. The questions need not necessarily be simple and familiar. The questions are often difficult and tricky. Speakers should anticipate and prepare well.
Persistent inability to answer the questions raised speaks poorly about the speaker’s capabilities, and may even put the organization and the speaker in poor light. Good speakers give no scope for such failures.
To conclude, the art of speaking and making effective presentations is perfected through regular practice. Every opportunity should be used, especially till one gains the required confidence. One can only learn the hard way.
There is bound to be initial nervousness and anxiety. There is often the fear of failure and not being in a position to answer all the questions. There are bound to be successes and failures, good days and bad days. It is all a part of the journey.
The audience is often prepared to make allowances for the beginner. Accept your shortcomings and try to win over your audience. Good learning happens when you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Humility, sincerity, commitment and the will to succeed finally ensure that initial fears and failures make way for mastery and effectiveness. Remember, the world of business very significantly needs more and more good speakers.