For many people, the idea of having to speak in public is terrifying. In fact, the National Institute for Mental Health estimates that roughly 73% of the population has a fear of public speaking. This means that if you’re scared of speaking in public, you’re definitely not alone. The good news is that public speaking is a skill that you can practice and improve.
Since your job may require public speaking to a bigger or lesser extent, it may be a good idea to find out what your public speaking strengths and weaknesses are. Doing so will allow you to capitalize on the former and improve the latter. To get you kickstarted, I have compiled a short overview of common presentation strengths and weaknesses, and steps you can take to improve your public speaking.
Public Speaking Strengths
Before I start delving into common weaknesses in public speaking, it may be useful to first look at what the characteristics of a good public speaker are. So, what are some strengths in public speaking?
1. In-Depth Knowledge of the Topic
One of the surest ways to be an effective public speaker is to know your subject. You can only speak with conviction and confidence if you know what you’re talking about. Even if you’re speaking to an audience who is not trained in your field, they will still pick up on the fact that you’re not really all that knowledgeable, if this is indeed the case. Or, they may just find your speech or presentation one-dimensional and boring.
The danger of not knowing a subject is that you won’t be able to convey the relevant information in a clear and effective way. When a speaker lacks knowledge of a topic, they don’t have the know-how to select only the most important facts and convey these to their audience in a way that captivates and informs. A lack of topic knowledge will also increase your anxiety when speaking because you’ll have to speak from memory instead of sharing your experiences and insights.
2. Interesting To Watch
Even the most knowledgeable person can be boring and uninspiring if they speak in a monotone voice, have no expression on their face, and is generally lacking in energy. How you deliver your speech or presentation is just as important as the content. Effective public speakers project their voice so that audience members can hear them, and also vary their tone and speech patterns so that their delivery is interesting to listen to. In addition, good speakers emphasize important words, while pausing at times to allow their words to sink in. While they definitely use hand gestures, good speakers also guard against repetitive movements or too much movement.
People love listening to stories. We are naturally wired that way. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools a public speaker can use to engage and connect with their audience. Instead of just throwing boring facts and statistics at your audience, you can create context for them through a story.
When you tell a story, whether it’s your own or that of a famous or successful person, it’s much easier for audience members to relate to what you’re saying. And once they relate, they will be far more interested in your message. Effective storytelling is one of the main reasons why TED Talks are so popular. Just about all the talks on this platform are story-driven.
Public Speaking Weaknesses
Public speaking can be challenging. Apart from remembering the content, you need to grab and hold the attention of your audience and effectively deliver your message. If you’re wondering “What are my weaknesses in presentations,” this is a good starting point. Understanding where your weaknesses lie will enable you to improve on them. Here are a few examples of common public speaking weaknesses:
It can be very daunting to stand in front of an audience. I have had moments of memory lapse and stage fright in my life, and they were not pleasant. During such moments, it becomes abundantly clear what Hans Christian Andersen’s emperor must feel like when he is walking naked through the streets. Although it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit nervous before a speech or presentation, continuous and excessive anxiety can have a detrimental effect on your performance.
2. Poor Stage Presence and Technique
Some people are lucky. They are natural performers. The rest of us, however, have to work on our stage presence and public speaking techniques. One of the most common weaknesses of public speakers is that they simply lack knowledge of the art of public speaking. As I stated before, how you say something is just as important as what you are saying.
Many public speakers are just plain boring to watch and listen to. Others make technical blunders, such as speaking too softly or too fast, making irritating and distracting movements, or using convoluted sentences and jargon that only an expert will understand.
3. Not Connecting With an Audience
One of the biggest errors a public speaker can make is to underestimate or overestimate an audience, or to talk about things that are completely irrelevant to them. Many public speakers make the mistake of writing speeches that they find interesting and relatable without considering who their target audience is. When they deliver their speeches, they may be surprised to see their audience’s eyes glaze over. The problem, of course, is that the audience members simply can’t relate to the content.
In addition, many public speakers are unable to pick up on the energy or vibe of an audience. Instead of, for instance, adopting a more casual tone and using more slang when they realize they have a young and hip audience, an ineffective public speaker will simply continue as planned. Such an approach is a sure way to alienate an audience.
How To Improve Your Public Speaking
Fortunately, there are tried-and-tested ways to improve your public speaking weaknesses. Whether you experience paralyzing stage fright or tend to bore your audience to tears, don’t despair. You can improve your public speaking in many ways. Here are a few tips you can consider if you want to learn about how to improve public speaking weaknesses:
So, how do public speakers overcome their fear? All experienced public speakers will tell you that the most effective way to curb anxiety is to be prepared. By prepared, I don’t mean memorizing your speech by heart. A good public speaker doesn’t memorize their speeches word for word but rather remembers key points. If you really know your subject, this strategy will be totally doable. Also, telling stories instead of just regurgitating facts eliminates the need for memorizing your words.
To learn how to cope with stage fright and anxiety, you should present your speech or presentation to a group of people before the actual event, whether they are friends, family members, or coworkers. In the end, public speaking is a performance, and you should tackle it like one from the get-go.
Practice, Practise, Practice
As is the case with most things in life, you can dramatically improve your public speaking ability by spending more time and effort honing the skill. When you are rehearsing for an upcoming talk, it’s a good idea to practice in front of a mirror so that you can see things like your posture and body language.
You can also record yourself on your mobile. Doing so will provide you with a more objective view of what you look and sound like when you talk. Even better, get a friend to make the recording so that you also have an audience member who can provide you with helpful feedback.
Learn From Experts
Do you want to learn more about public speaking strengths and weaknesses and what makes a good or bad speaker? Studying good public speakers is an effective way of learning what works and what doesn’t. From those who already can, you can learn how to weave storytelling into your talks, use effective gestures, and keep your audience captivated.
In addition, reading books, blogs, and articles can also be helpful if you’re trying to learn the art of public speaking. If you’re really serious about improving your public speaking, you can always hire a public speaking or drama coach for one-on-one lessons.
Focus on Your Audience and Your Message
In the end, you wish to bring a message across and affect an audience when you deliver a speech, whether you’re talking about improving a company’s sales revenue or saving the Amazon rainforest. First, when you write your speech or presentation, you should consider whom you’ll be talking to. An important factor to consider is whether the audience will have some knowledge of the subject, or will likely be laymen. Other factors include their age and socio-economic status.
Once you’ve pinpointed who your target audience will be, you should craft your content in such a way that they will be able to relate. Talk about experiences they have likely had, movies they have probably watched, and people they likely know and admire.