Are you looking for ways to become a leader in your place of work? Are you looking to smash that
next job interview, grow your own business or advance further within someone else’s firm? If so public speaking skills are an invaluable growth strategy that will ensure your hard won insights reach as many ears in as dynamic a way as possible.
I work in British theatre as a professional actor and have picked up many valuable ways to make words dynamic and persuasive in front of an audience. Through my company p2 Speaking, I coach clients working in big organisations in London on how to move people with their words and give presentations with clarity. I’d like to share with you 4 ways to work on your public speaking skills whilst working from home:
Work on breath control
All great speakers understand that the way you use your breath is a major key to becoming a powerful speaker. You can either breath life into your ideas or deflate them completely all by the way that you breathe. As an actor, breathing exercises were a really key part of my drama school training. When you have breath control you will come across grounded, authoritative and in control without having to push or convince people that you know what you are doing. It works like magic. Even on a Zoom call!
For you to try:
Sit upright on your chair at your desk. Place your hands just above your waist so that part of your hand is touching the last few ribs of your rib cage. Have a go at breathing without your upper chest and shoulders rising, with just the hands on your rib cage and your stomach moving. Allow the out breath to come out of your mouth NOT your nose and go on for as long as you can manage. Don’t snatch at the air to breathe in, allow it to float back in when you are ready. The breath should also come through your mouth. Try breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 4, then in for 4 and out for 8.
Work on resonance
You don’t want the power of your words to be dependent on a mic mounted on a lectern. All master speakers know how to mic themselves! This has been a key component of my life as an actor and resonance exercises are a focal point of the warm up I do before every stage performance. Once you touch into the natural amplifiers that the human body has, you will be audible to everyone with very little effort.
For you to try:
Relax your head and neck so that your head feels like it is balancing without effort. You can wobble your head from side to side to check this. Then give your head a shake from side to side allowing your jaw and cheeks to be loose and flabby. Then give yourself a nice massage from your temple to the joint which attaches your jaw to your skull. Now that you have released your muscles make a warm ‘MMMMm’ sound as if you have smelled your favourite dish of food.
You should ideally feel it tickle your lips. Try being as quiet as you can and as loud as you can with it. Now try changing the pitch like you are a siren.
Work on diction
There is no point being loud if your words do not ring out with clarity! Now that you have built up some resonance, it’s time to learn what to do with it. This is particularly useful on Zoom calls when sketchy wi-fi can make even the smoothest of sentences sound choppy. Whenever I perform Shakespeare I like to use the complicated language to warm up with this exercise. You can use any text you like. Grab your favourite blog post or newspaper article and have a go!
For you to try:
Choose a chunk of text. At least 5 lines is nice but you can do several paragraphs or a page too. As long as there is enough to get stuck into. Read it out loud once. Read it through again but this time stick your tongue out and then say it. Try not to bring your tongue back in to make it easier to be clear. It’s the difficulty that is making you a better speaker! Go through the text 3 times with your tongue out. Then allow your tongue to come back in slowly – don’t pull it back in – let it float. This exercise may make you dribble but that’s ok. Great speaking has to come at some sort of a price! Once your tongue is back to normal, read the text out loud again. You should sound much clearer.
Work on presenting
The key to improvement is the ability to fail often. You can create lots of public speaking opportunities for yourself by doing this. As an actor I speak fro up to 3 1/2 hours at a time and get 8 chances a week to get better! Here is the way you can replicate a bit of that regularity that whilst working an office job from home.
For you to try:
Set up a group with your friends where you each take it in turn to give 5 minute presentations on a different topic. Ideal size is maybe 5 -10 people. Ideally this should not always be on a subject you know a huge amount about. Do not give yourselves longer than a week to work on it. See if you can limit yourselves to 3 – 5 slides.
You can have as many pictures as you like but no more than one sentence per slide. Feedback should be given on each presentation by the others in the group. Make sure you follow the pattern positive-constructive criticism-positive when you do.
The feedback should be given against these 5 parameters:
Did it keep my attention?
Was it delivered clearly both in terms of diction, the way the slides were designed and the way the thoughts/arguments were ordered?
Did it affect me emotionally (laugh, cry, shock, amaze, inspire etc)?
Was the necessary statistical information delivered with authority?
Did the unique personality, quirks or any of the mistakes made by the speaker come through in a way which was confidently harnessed to make the speech special (introvert/extrovert/shy/nervous/cat lover/man united fan etc)?
And a bonus one:
Could this information have been delivered to me in a well worded email?
If the answer to the above is yes, perhaps there are elements of your speaking that need strengthening a little. Whenever you give a keynote or lead a team meeting your colleagues should feel that it is worth their time to turn up in person. With a little practice this will never be a problem.
I hope these exercises and practice techniques prove valuable to you in taking your public speaking skills to elite levels and maximising your potential in the workplace.
If you enjoyed this article and want to keep the momentum behind your development I have a newsletter where I send tips, tricks and public speaking hacks to my community on a regular basis.
When you sign up you get a free PDF which will help you to drastically improve your confidence over just a couple of weeks. Join the p2 Speaking Community by clicking here!
I hope you and yours stay safe and well at this difficult time. All the best and happy speaking!
Actor & Founder of p2 Speaking
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