Public speaking is a skill that is extremely important in a career where you work with more people than one. Research has shown that listeners usually only remember 7 percent of the words a speaker says. The other 93 percent they remember is nonverbal aspects of the speech such as the speaker’s body language and tone of voice. This is why it is incredibly important to learn to become a good public speaker as a business student so that the audience is not distracted by poor public speaking techniques.
In order for public speaking to become a skill, there are a few areas in which I need to improve to make a suitable strength. Personally, I do not believe that public speaking is my strongest skill. To accommodate for this, I practiced the strategies we learned in class. I knew that the more I practiced my part of the speech, the more prepared I would feel. It is recommended to practice a speech approximately six times before presenting. This helped me to know exactly what I was going to be talking about and feel more comfortable and less nervous while in front of the audience. I also practiced using gestures and making sure they were visible to the entire audience.
I think that the area I need to work on the most with my public speaking is making sure I avoid talking too fast when I get nervous. During the group persuasive speech, I started out talking calmly and slowly, but as I stayed up there longer, I began to get more nervous and stumble over my words. I think that this is an issue that I can fix with more practice and more public speaking opportunities. It is important that when I am speaking, I remind myself to stay calm and take my time.
One specific improvement I made during the semester was learning to make better eye contact. I tried looking less at my notes so that it would not look like I was just reading off a sheet of paper. I think that I also improved my use of gestures. Previously, I would stand in a position and either clasp my hands together or fidget nervously. I also tended to sway when I would get nervous. During the speeches this semester, I focused on avoiding these distracting tendencies. Instead of fidgeting, I used meaningful gestures. I tried to stand up straight and still rather than slouching and moving around.
Another thing I learned that helped me during speeches was to write out basic notes in large, easy-to-read font. Having a long paragraph of exact words to say would make it sound to the audience like I didn’t know what I was talking about because it would sound like I was reading the information. Just including basic bullet points of the points I wanted to make made it easier for me to focus on maintaining eye contact. I would just briefly glance down at my notes to ensure that I remembered all the points I wanted to make.
While it may seem obvious not to use filler words such as “um” or “uh,” taking this course in business communications taught me to focus more on truly avoiding these words and not using them to occupy the silence when I’m thinking about what to say. Instead, I learned to simply take brief pauses when thinking of how to phrase what I want to say. It is ok to pause briefly if it stops you from using filler words or rushing and stumbling over your words. I practiced this strategy, and I think it made me more credible to the audience.
I am still working on improving my public speaking skills. I especially need to practice by giving more speeches so that I can learn to be less nervous talking in front of a crowd. I believe that continuing to practice my speeches beforehand and concentrating on maintaining eye contact and using meaningful gestures instead of fidgeting will help me learn to make these good strategies habits.
I hope that the techniques I have learned and the improvements I have made will help me in my professional career. Not only will these techniques help me when I have to give presentations to my supervisors or coworkers, but they will also help me with interviewing skills. The importance of not using filler words and practicing my main points certainly also applies to an interview. I also learned techniques for a professional video skype interview, and I think that my public speaking skills certainly have helped in this area as well. If I ever have to have a skype interview or give a presentation to my supervisors or to clients in my future career, I believe that I will be very well prepared.
In conclusion, it was refreshing to get feedback from my peers in order to better myself. A lot of times the presentation goes well in our heads, or least we think so, but it doesn’t quite come out exactly like you thought. Having the kind of criticism is healthy because even thought we practice, we don’t notice things about ourselves, like body language or tone of voice. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice makes permanent. If you practice wrong, you risk bad habits and risk doing it wrong.