Being able to speak well—whether it is in front of a large audience or with one person—is incredibly important for a PR professional. PR practitioners are professional communicators, and that should include communicating effectively during in-person interactions.
Lately I’ve been working on my speech, not only in formal presentations but also in everyday interactions like networking. I have been referring back to the public speaking training I did while I was in Tiffany Gallicano’s class last term, and I’ve found that her tips can be applied to more than just presentations. I’ll go into detail about what we learned to help us become better speakers and communicators.
Start by grounding yourself
Before you start speaking, make sure your weight is centered, your posture is correct and you are present in the moment. If you are sitting (such as an interview situation), you can take the same steps to correct your posture and sitting position. If you take just a minute to ground yourself and take a deep breath before beginning, it will ensure you are prepared to take on your presentation or conversation with confidence.
Tiffany mentioned how slow Hillary Clinton speaks, and after looking it up I started to notice how slowly she delivers her speeches and how often she pauses while speaking. There is a useful reason for doing so. If you’re feeling nervous, you tend to speed up the rate at which you are speaking. It has also become more common in our society to speak faster because of the immediacy of information we demand all the time. Be aware of your pace as you speak. If you keep it slow, you will have more time to think about what you are going to say next, choose your vocabulary wisely and avoid those dreaded filler words.
Avoid filler words
Speaking of filler words, it’s best to train yourself to recognize when you use them and cut them out of your speech. For many of us (myself included), it can be difficult to train ourselves not to say “um”, “uh” and other words to fill the space when we need to pause. Tiffany described three stages we should go through to correct this habit. Phase one is recognizing when you use filler words just after you say them. Phase two is recognizing when you are about to use a filler word before you say it. The last phase is recognizing when you would usually use a filler word and replacing it with a silent pause. If you practice, you can get to phase three and eliminate filler words from your speech.
Choose your words thoughtfully
If you are speaking slowly and avoiding filler words, you should be able to think about what you are saying before you say it. Replace words like “stuff” and “things” for more descriptive words. Use powerful verbs and be mindful of your vocabulary.
Sometimes nervous habits can become apparent when we are speaking in front of a crowd or with a new acquaintance. Try to recognize these things: pacing across the room, tapping, playing with your hair and unusual gestures. You want to maintain your grounded stance (or sitting position) while using appropriate gestures to enhance your speaking. Don’t wear anything that would influence you to fidget. Tie your hair up, don’t wear pants that have pockets that you can easily shove your hands into and don’t hold anything in your hands.
Speaking with confidence takes practice. If you keep these tips in mind, you can become an eloquent and effective communicator in no time.