Monday, April 18, 2016

Data Reveals Secrets of Great Public Speaking

Whether you like it or not, people make judgments about you every time they see you or hear you.

That's why it's so important for your career that you make a good impression whenever you have a chance to speak publicly. While it may be a presentation in front of five team members -- or a public speech in front of 100 people -- you need to understand that there are specific steps you can take to make a good impression.

In other words, don't just try and wing it, or do things the way you've always done them. If you rely on that strategy, you could lose a client to a competitor, a promotion to a colleague or even a chance for a new job.

It's time to pay attention to the data.

A new Stanford University study  used a team of data scientists to analyze more than 100,000 presentations from corporate executives, politicians and key note speakers. Specifically, they looked at things like word choices, vocal cues, facial expressions and gesture frequency. Then, they used this information to rate and rank important communication keys such as persuasiveness, confidence, warmth and clarity.

Here's what they discovered make the best communicators:

1. They don't pepper talks with jargon. The researchers found that if you're going to use terms that everyone in your audience might not know, then you need to define them. One way to avoid alienating people with your confusing word choice is to get someone to read over your presentation beforehand and ask them to point out any terms or technologies they don't understand.

2. They're specific. Saying the product is "kind of" having, problems or you "think" it might be ready at the end of the third quarter can confuse a public audience. You need to speak more formally with a public group that you might to a small gathering of your colleagues, because such "hedging" language can damage your credibility, research finds.

3. They're concise. Review your presentation and edit out unnecessary anecdotes, facts, words and long-winded sentences. You want to speak naturally to your audience, so look for phrasing that sounds awkward when said aloud.

4. They vary volume, rate and cadence. These speakers make sure they're not monotonous, and use their voice to not just say emotional words like "excited" or "challenging" -- but to convey them with their volume and rate. Eliminate the "ums" and "uhs" in your speech by ending each sentence on an exhalation, Your next thought will start on an inhalation, and it's nearly impossible to say "um" when you're inhaling. This will also help you vary your speech rate.

5. They use visuals. Research shows that up to 83% of human learning occurs visually. You will appear more confident if you stand or sit so that your hips and shoulders are square and your head is straight.  Gestures need to be broad and extended.

6. They show authenticity. Researchers say that the top 10% of authentic speakers are considered to be 1.3 times more trustworthy and 1.3 times more persuasive than the average communicator. To be considered authentic by an audience, start within yourself. Think about your passion for the project, how it will make a difference and how you're helping your team. This will help energize you, which will be conveyed to the audience. Let you audience know you understand their problems or issues by sharing anecdotes related to the subject.

What other advice can help someone become a better public speaker?

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