17 Dec Let’s Make a Toast
As we approach the end of 2014, I want to share with you an experience I had with a course I attended this year. We all participate in many courses in our lifetime, some we’ll learn a thing or two, most of which we sit in just to get the certificate for completion. So this year when my manager asked me to sign up to the Toastmasters course (and no, it’s not a cooking class) I was thinking which category this course would fall into.
Like many people, I always tried to avoid every opportunity to do a speech or presentation in front of a large audience, but at the same time I’m also keen to improve my confidence in public speaking. So when I walked into the Speechcraft course run by Toastmasters, I was hoping to learn a thing or two. In the room there were around 20 people from different professions, but all there for one reason, to become better public speakers.
At the beginning of each class we had an ‘Impromptu session’, where we were given a random topic on the spot and we had to get up and talk about it for 60 seconds. It was nerve racking at first, but it got easier as weeks went by. I guess it not only helped us to think on the spot, it also allowed us to get more comfortable in awkward situations.
What I also found useful about Speechcraft was, not only did everyone get a chance to speak, but we also got the chance to be evaluators. Every speaker gets evaluated and every evaluator gets evaluated as well. It is not often you get honest and constructive feedback on how your speech went, so I found this part very enlightening.
Below are some things I learnt during the 6 week course:
- Structure your presentation/speech base on ‘PREP’: Make the Point. Reason for the point. Use Examples or stories. Restate the Point.
- Pause – I don’t know how many of us use um’s and ah’s in our speeches, many of us do it more when we’re nervous, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The most precious things in speech are the pauses.”, so the next time when you rush through your presentation and are about to say ‘um’, stop and pause, it actually keeps the audience in suspense, wanting to know what they’re going to say next.
- Body language – a good use of body language emphasises your message and helps the audience to understand your point, but it can be bad if it draws attention only to itself.
- Use of visual aids – they are used to support your presentation. Do not rely on them, the audience is here to see you, the presenter. Not for you to read the slides to them.
- KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Keep your sentences short and powerful. PowerPoints should be readable, i.e. the text size should be at no less than 24 points. The golden rule is to have a maximum of 8 words per point, and a maximum of 8 points per slide.
While most courses teach you a thing or two about a subject, whether it’s technical, financial or something you will never remember the minute the walk out of the door. The Speechcraft course teaches you so much more, it teaches you how to handle your nerves, the importance of pauses, how to use body languages to convey your message, how to use PowerPoints more effectively and many more. They are all lessons that will benefit you for a lifetime.
Make it your New Year’s resolution to improve your public speaking skills, this will benefit you professionally as well as socially.
Now let’s make a toast: here’s to you becoming a more accomplished speaker.
Jenny Zhu is a Data Consultant for Seed Analytics, an SAP Services Partner, and global provider of solutions for SAP Data Governance and SAP Data Migration.