To Be a Better Public Speaker
by Patricia L. Fry
Authors often engage in
public speaking to promote their books. But not all authors are prepared and
trained for this activity. And some authors don’t want to participate.
There are authors who:
· are absolute naturals in the
· hate the thought of standing
before an audience
· are game to speak in public but
have poor oratory skills
If speaking is one of your planned
book-promotion activities, please take advantage of the following advice for
Toastmasters and actively participate for at least a year.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> You will benefit in ways that you can’t even imagine.
Go to www.toastmasters.org
for a list of clubs near you.
for opportunities to speak. Take
leadership of a project at work or for a charity. Offer to go around and
educate citizens on a political issue or raise funds for the library expansion.
other speakers’ programs. If you
are observant and alert, you will learn volumes about public speaking by
listening and watching. How does the audience respond to the speaker? What
techniques seem to work (and what don’t work) for this speaker? What would you
do differently to put the audience at ease and make this a more pleasant
involved with a storytelling group.
This is a particularly enjoyable way to improve your speaking skills, and
you’ll also get training and practice in using vocal variety.
· Hire a
voice coach. If you have a soft
voice that doesn’t carry well or a voice that is not pleasant to listen to, a
voice coach might be able to help. You’ll find voice coaches listed under music
teachers in the Yellow Pages.
style=’font:7.0pt “Times New Roman”‘> <span
class=95StoneSerifSB>Find a mentor<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>—someone whose speaking abilities you admire.
locally. Before heading out to
parts unknown to speak about your book in front of huge crowds, plan speaking
gigs in your area. Speak to the women’s group at your church, your local
Optimists and Rotary Clubs, a gathering at the museum or bookstore, or even a
group of neighbors.
While each of us has a unique way
of speaking, and we don’t want to be carbon copies of each other, some
public-speaking rules always (or almost always) apply.
out. Practice speaking up so that
everyone can hear you, whether you’re addressing a large audience or a small
group. Some speakers choose to sit down on the job. In a very small, intimate
group, or when the audience is sitting in a circle of chairs or on the floor,
speaking while seated is generally okay. But in a room containing six rows of
chairs or more, you should express respect for those in the back by standing so
that you can be seen as well as heard.
respond one-on-one when an
audience member asks a question. Instead, repeat the question and then respond
so that everyone in the room can hear you.
eye contact. Move your attention
around the room as you speak, making eye contact with each person
apologize. Avoid sabotaging your
presentation with excuses for not being well prepared or for poor speaking
skills. Stand tall and appear self-assured, and you will gain the confidence of
vocal variety. Make your talks
more enjoyable by using an assortment of vocal tones and pitches instead of
speaking in monotone. If you need help developing vocal variety, practice
reading to a child. Use your highest and lowest voice and everything in
nonwords. Inexperienced speakers
generally use so many fillers that Toastmasters actually has an “ah counter” at
every meeting. Fillers also include <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>er, and so forth.
verbiage such as “yada, yada,
yada” or “know what I mean?” Likewise, watch the overuse of words like
“really.” “I was exhausted” is a stronger sentence than “I was really
exhausted.” You can explain how exhausted you were by saying, “I was exhausted
beyond anything I’d ever experienced before,” or “I was so tired I slept for 14
prepared. You will be more at ease
if you know what to expect. Find out if there will be a lectern or microphone,
for example. How many people are likely to be in the audience? How will the
room be set up? Also, have your props or notes organized so there will be no
annoying fumbling during your presentation.
your audience. Gear your speech to
the needs and interests of this particular audience. When I talk about local
history, I give a completely different talk to students at local elementary
schools than I do when addressing civic organizations or historical society
Anyone can get up in front of a
group and speak. How well you do it is what counts.
Patricia Fry is a full-time
freelance writer and the author of 25 published books, including <span
class=8StoneSans>The Right Way to Write, Publish
and Sell Your Book, which, she reports, is getting five-star
reviews. To order the book, visit www.matilijapress.com. To read Patricia’s publishing
blog, go to www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog