How to Speak More Professionally

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Professional speaking starts with intense preparation.
Professional speaking starts with intense preparation.

Eloquence, subject matter expertise, mastery of the technical elements, writing skills and business management skills are some of the characteristics of professional speakers. They respect their audience by showing up on time, preparing meticulously and speaking forthrightly. It takes patience and perseverance to become a professional speaker, to stride onto a stage, deliver a speech and make it look effortless. Believe in yourself and the rest will follow.

Instructions

    • 1

      Dress appropriately. Professionals do not show up chewing gum, dressed in baggy jeans and sunglasses. Dress conservatively, but not necessarily expensively. Proper grooming is also important.

    • 2

      Know your audience. Learn about the background, expectations and concerns of your listeners and tailor your speeches accordingly. Observe how candidates for elected office incorporate local concerns and examples in each one of their speeches.

    • 3

      Prepare the content. Ignore those who say that public speaking is mostly about the technical elements because most people crave substance over style. Cut out the cheap shots, off-color humor and brazen pandering. The National Speakers Association lists expertise as one of the competencies of a professional speaker. Stay current in your field and speak about what you know.

    • 4

      Accept invitations to speak at different events. Do not restrict yourself to one type of speech or just one audience. Join toastmasters clubs, chambers of commerce and community organizations to get more public speaking opportunities. Take on speaker introductions, toasts, humorous speeches and town halls. Public speaking is like any other skill; books and how-to manuals are no substitute for actual practice.

    • 5

      Master the technical elements. Again, this comes with practice. Two key technical elements are eye contact and vocal variety. Eye contact is a natural extension of preparation and knowing your subject matter well enough to speak without notes. Hold your gaze with one or two audience members from each section of the room. Vocal variety brings a speech to life. Martin Luther King's soulful voice brought the content of "I Have a Dream" to life. Aim for a speaking rate of about 110 words per minute, or a bit less when you want to emphasize key points and a bit more when you want to convey a sense of urgency.

    • 6

      Learn stage presence. For slide presentations, do not turn your back to the audience or look at the screen behind you; always look at the audience. Do not chain yourself to the lectern or the podium, except when the setting makes it impossible to move around (such as an after-dinner toast at the head table). However, do not wander aimlessly on stage: step forward to make a point and sideways to make a transition.

    • 7

      Treat the audience with respect. Thank your host for the introduction and the audience for their attention. Do not rush through your speech or ramble on endlessly. During question-and-answer sessions, repeat or rephrase the questions before answering them, especially if you are the only person in the room with a microphone.

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