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What Makes a Good Speaker? |A Public Speaking Coach Answers...

What Makes a Good Speaker?

Hi, I'm Mark, I'm a Public Speaking Coach, if you're wondering how to improve your public speaking skills, it may useful for you to understand what makes a good speaker.

Confidence, pronunciation, projection, articulation, enunciation, concise communication, passion, and finally, a clear message are the keys to becoming a good speaker.

Public speaking is a key means of disseminating information and educating a wide array of people on any given topic at once, making it an important skill to have, no matter your age or industry. Many people will have to deliver an address to a crowd at one point in their lives, yet are terrified of doing so. Public speaking is one of the most common phobias among adults, affecting over two thirds of the population. A large portion of those afraid of speaking simply don’t know the fundamentals and need practice to become better. Whether you’re making a toast at a wedding or delivering a TEDtalk to an international audience, the main components of successfully speaking essentially remain the same.

Let’s explore each component and dissect the ways you can improve.

Confidence in Speaking

Confidence is one of the most important characteristics to have when publicly addressing a crowd. Speaking confidently helps you to better manage and organize your thoughts and keeps you concentrated so that you don’t forget or lose track of your progress. If you speak with conviction, it helps to engage your listeners and keeps them interested in what you have to say. Plus, your audience is less likely to notice if you make a mistake or slip up.

There are several things you can do beforehand to convey confidence during a speaking engagement. Breathing exercises like box breathing and meditation are widely used and proven methods to calm anxiety and improve focus. During your speech, it’s important to control your breath, maintain good posture and eye contact while slowly scanning the audience from right to left or left to right. Make sure to also acknowledge all levels of seating like balconies if your venue has them.

Your hands should rest calmly at your sides or can be used gently to help convey your expression (gently being the key term here, as too much expression with your hands can come off as erratic flailing). Essentially, everything about your body language should say “I’m poised, thoughtful, and calm”.

Pronunciation for Speakers

Pronunciation refers to the pattern of emphasis on certain syllables in a word. In short, it’s just how you say a word. Pronunciation is important for two reasons: certain words called heteronyms change meaning depending on the way they are pronounced (i.e. read, lead, affect, close, to name a few), and using incorrect pronunciation when addressing an audience can cause you to lose credibility in the eyes of audience members who know the correct pronunciation of the word you’re using. Incorrect pronunciation can also cause confusion. For these reasons, it’s imperative that you take a few extra minutes to go over the words in your speech before presenting it.

Projection for Speakers

Have you ever witnessed a speech or presentation in which the speaker spoke quietly or whispered? You likely found it confusing, frustrating, and lost interest very quickly. That’s why it’s so important to practice proper projection. Take adequate breaths at natural pauses in your speech and engage your diaphragm to make sure your voice is loud and clear enough to reach the back row, or at least enough for the mic to pick up well. It shouldn’t feel like yelling, but rather like you’re having a conversation with someone standing several yards away.

Articulation & Enunciation Speakers

You may be thinking right about now, aren’t articulation and enunciation the same thing? No! While they’re both related to the way you speak, they aren’t the same.

Enunciation refers to the clarity with which you speak your words and sounds whereas articulation refers to the actual use of your lips, teeth, palate, breath, and the tip of your tongue to create the sounds. Enunciation is the product while articulation is part of the process.

Slowing down and making sure you’re supporting your speech with your breath can help you enunciate better. Many speakers, actors, and singers “warm up” before they speak with tongue twisters and articulation exercises to improve their enunciation. Ask your speaking coach or vocal instructor to give you examples and help you practice.

Concise Communication is Key for Speakers

Keeping your speech concise and easy to listen to is another earmark of a good speaker. One of the biggest reasons your speaking isn’t coming across the way you want it to? You may be using lots of filler words!

Filler words include things like:

  • “Uh”

  • “Like”

  • “Um”

  • “You know”

  • “So”

  • “Okay”

  • “Right”

  • “Kind of/sort of”

  • Etc.

These are just a few common examples and specific filler words vary from person to person. You may not even be aware you’re saying them–using fillers or placeholders is a natural reflex that can be trained with practice. We use fillers when speaking (especially about complicated subjects and when we’re nervous) as a placeholder when we need a moment to organize our thoughts, when we need to take a pause to think of what we want to say next, or when we’re searching for the correct term to use in the context of a sentence. Fillers can easily be eliminated from your vocabulary with lots of practice and conditioning.

Speakers should also aim to use clear, simple terms and everyday language to ensure the speech is concise and easy to understand. Members of your audience may not understand technical jargon and you’ll lose their attention if they can’t comprehend what you’re saying. Try to stick to using mostly short, uncomplicated sentences and layman’s terms to avoid rambling.

Passionate Speakers

Your audience can tell if you are enthusiastic about the subject of your speech. Expressing passion for your chosen topic makes your speech all the more compelling and captures your spectator’s interest, even if your topic isn’t one that they find particularly fascinating. Even the most mundane and tedious subject matter can come alive if expressed passionately!

Keep your Message Clear

Your speech is just as much about the content as it is the way you convey it. A great speech is the foundation you build your presentation on. You can think of it as a letter and the other speaking factors mentioned above make up the packaging that helps transport the information from your mind to the mind of the listener.

Your story should be easy to follow, and your audience should be able to understand and summarize your message after you’ve finished. Create a roadmap for your speech so that you’re easily transitioning from Point A to Point B and so on, making sure that you aren’t rambling or exploring tangents. Staying on track helps reinforce the meaning of your content to your spectators.

Delivering your Presentation

In addition to all of the above, your speech should be well rehearsed, but not so overdone that you get bored and simply go through the motions when delivering your presentation. You can practice with a trusted friend, record yourself solo, or better yet, work with a professional public speaking coach to prepare for your big moment.

Investing in individual or team coaching rewards you with lifelong speaking skills. Contact Public Speaking Coach Scotland to help you get ready to deliver a speech your peers will remember for years to come!


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