Ten steps to becoming a better public speaker

Robin Kermode – one of Europe's leading communication coaches – believes that everyone is capable of delivering a really good speech that you can be proud of.
Whether you have ever been asked to speak at a Christmas or retirement party, or even a wedding, the act of giving a speech can often be daunting, with many suffering sleepless nights at the mere thought of it.

By following his ten simple steps, you too will do yourself proud!

1. Start well.
Here are two classic ways of grabbing the audience's attention right from the start:
(i) Tell them something personal:
"X is most [generous/kind/loving etc.] person I've ever met. And I'm going to tell you why."
(ii) Start in the middle of a story:
"Sixteen years ago, I was on holiday in Cornwall, when something very odd happened ..."

2. Use your normal voice.
Don't be tempted to be too loud. Speak as if you were talking with a group of friends.

3. Use normal words.
Over-formal words will make you sound and feel stiff. "I'm thrilled you're here." is so much better than "It now falls upon me to welcome so many distinguished guests on this auspicious occasion".

4. It's not about you.
You don't have to be a brilliant speaker, just remember to put yourself in the audience's shoes. Why are they there? What do they really want to hear? And then tell them just that!

5. Don't take yourself too seriously.
When we listen to someone who takes themselves too seriously, we can't wait for them to slip on the proverbial banana skin. A little self-deprecating humour goes a long way.

6. Wait two or three seconds before you start speaking.
This will give you time to compose yourself and will make you look more confident.

7. Don't rush.
A few moments before you're due to speak, try breathing in through your nose very slowly for a count of three; then breathe out through your nose for a count of three. Repeat this three times. This should take you a total of 18 seconds. In that time you will have significantly lowered your heart rate and you won't rush.

8. Stick your tongue out!
Open your throat by sticking your tongue out as far as it will go, and say the whole of the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme out loud. Try to articulate clearly even though your tongue is in the way. This will open the back of the throat and you'll sound more confident. (Of course, you do this privately before your speech - not in front of your audience!)

9. Clench your buttocks!
If you find yourself shaking remember that it's almost physically impossible to shake if you clench your buttocks! It will also take any nervous tension away from your throat and so relax your voice. You only have to do this for the first 30 seconds or so - trust me it does work!

10. End well.
And finally, try coming back to the idea that you started with. Using the examples above you could try:
(i) "So that's why X is most [generous/kind/loving etc.] person I have ever met."
(ii) "So the next time you find yourself in Cornwall, you never know what might happen!"
The very best advice I can give is simply to be yourself and remember that when you give a speech, it is not about you. It should always be about your audience. You don't have to be the best speaker in the world, you just have to make them feel special.

I wish you the very best of luck!

ROBIN KERMODE is author of SPEAK SO YOUR AUDIENCE WILL LISTEN – 7 steps to Confident and Successful Public Speaking http://zone2.co.uk/book/