How to Communicate Effectively
When giving an oral presentation, knowing the audience is of prime importance. A woman working for a major non-profit health organization once gave a speech on heart attacks and strokes before a group of Rotarians who, unknown to her, included many doctors and cardiologists. Everything she knew about how to communicate effectively with an audience was diminished because she didn't know her audience. Had she taken the time to ask about the professional make-up of her audience when she accepted the invitation to speak, she could have altered her message to this group who had more knowledge of the subject than did she.
When you are preparing for a speech, some basic rules should be followed.
- DO write a speech that includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. Preparing a speech is much like preparing an academic paper. The introduction will present the topic of the speech and the reason for it. The body will flesh out the topic, offering facts to substantiate it. Finally, the conclusion will repeat the high points and the reason for the speech.
- DO NOT begin a speech with a joke unless you are an expert joke-teller. The awkwardness resulting from a bad delivery can ruin the rest of the presentation.
- DO know your subject matter. The more knowledgeable you are, the easier it will be to speak about the topic.
- DO NOT memorize and then try to present the speech word-for-word. Instead, write key points on note cards that you can glance at during the speech. Speaking extemporaneously on a subject you know will make the speech more interesting and engaging.
- DO NOT just read the speech because the presentation will become quickly boring. Only experienced orators or actors can read a speech and make it sound spontaneous.
- DO practice the speech while looking into a mirror. Not only will you be able to time the speech, but you will be able to see any mannerisms like pacing, fidgeting, and standing too stiffly. Recording a practice session will also make apparent some bad habits like saying "uh" or pausing too long between words. DO know that a well-placed pause can enhance a point you just made.
- DO speak clearly and loud enough to be heard without shouting. DO NOT speak too slowly or your audience will become bored. If you speak too rapidly, the audience will not process everything you say.
- DO make eye contact with audience members. DO NOT continually look at one spot or one person. Making good eye contact will make the audience receptive to your words because they feel included.
- DO smile at audience members at appropriate times in your speech. DO NOT smile when the words you are saying are very serious or sad.
- DO remember that first impressions matter. How you are dressed and groomed will affect how the audience receives your words. A sloppily dressed speaker will be perceived by the audience as someone who isn't believable.
- DO sound confident because the audience will not give credence to the words of a speaker who seems unsure or too nervous.
There are many sites, listed below, that have information on effectively communicating with an audience.
10 Vital Rules for Giving Incredible Speeches and Why They're Irrelevant