By Lauren Gonn
We often don’t realize that the way we communicate every day, both verbally and through our body language, can make a big difference in any situation. The tone of our voice and even certain hand gestures can completely alter a conversation for better or worse. Cindy Laatsch, DTM, program quality director at District 35 Toastmasters, discussed how to master speaking effectively with these techniques at our April luncheon.
When speaking, it’s important to come across as sincere. If you don’t act like you believe what you are saying, your audience won’t either. Some key tips to help get your listeners more attentive to what you are saying include: the use of visual aids, hand gestures, making direct eye contact and speaking louder yet with a calm tone. At the same time, you don’t want to freak out the audience by overdoing any one of these techniques.
Evaluating your message before presenting is crucial when giving a good speech. Thoughts you should go over include:
- Who is your audience?
- What does your audience want to know?
- What may your audience object to?
- Will your audience be prepared for your objective after you speak to them?
Some issues people come across when speaking are using too many “filler words,” overusing some speech techniques and having an actual fear of speaking. Filler word examples include the use of: like, um, oh, right, basically, etc. The words “like” and “um” are some of the most commonly used filler words. We often use these words as a way to fill in the dead silence and think about what we are going to say next. Taking the time to practice what you are going to say can help avoid the use of these words.
Sometimes people can practice all they want and still feel uncomfortable speaking. The term “glossophobia” is literally the fear of speaking. Of course, practice makes perfect, but someone who has this fear needs to really face the fear head on in order to move forward. Cindy gave a great example of this. She referred to the cows vs. bison example. During a storm, cows tend to go run and hide because they’re afraid of the thunder. If bison are around a storm, they tend to run after the noise of the thunder and face their fear head on. Don’t be a cow; learn to overcome the bad tendencies of speaking.
If you’re someone looking to practice on your speech techniques, there is a program called the Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org). This program is an amazing opportunity to polish your speaking skills and receive feedback from your peers.