4 Key Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Public Speaking

Lawyers are known for their ability to stand in front of a packed courtroom and deliver a powerful closing address. Once outside the familiar courtroom, however, many break into a sweat at the mere thought of presenting in front of colleagues or a boardroom of clients. Here are some simple strategies to help you tackle your fears, improve public speaking and present with poise and confidence to any audience.

Speaking confidently before a group is one of the most important skills that any lawyer can develop. But what if your knees turn to jelly at the sight of a lectern?

There are several ways you can improve public speaking by preparing in the weeks, hours and moments leading up to your speech. These four key steps will train your body and your mind, and ensure your delivery is engaging and memorable – for the right reasons.

1. Optimise your voice

Poor air supply and voice control can result in a weak, high-pitched or strained vocal tone. Like an athlete, however, you can train your body to properly manage your air reserves, even when nerves take hold.

Practice standing with good posture and breathing into the lower part of the lungs, then expelling the air gradually using your abdominal muscles, without tightening the throat. Tip: this will require you to push your stomach out, so avoid clothing that will constrict your waist.

2. Control your movements

Any outward manifestations of nervousness need to be controlled for us to feel and appear poised. Be conscious of any tendencies to touch your face, shuffle your feet or clasp your hands, and consider how to avoid them.

Feeling well prepared is vital to avoiding these nervous tics, so get comfortable with your material. Concentrate on why you are passionate about the subject matter and consider how the information will be of great value to your audience.

3. Use visual contact to relax

Give yourself a few seconds to relax and compose before you begin speaking by engaging with your audience through visual contact. Throughout your speech, address individuals in the audience directly by saying a few words to each of them.

Effective eye contact is best maintained if notes are kept within glancing distance. However, be prepared to make climactic or key statements with full visual contact for maximum impact.

4. Harness your conversational quality

Attempting to ‘parrot’ a precisely-worded script often results in a stiff, formal and disjointed delivery, which will quickly lose your audience’s interest and attention. Focusing on understanding and getting comfortable with the ideas you are going to convey, as opposed to the sentences, will enable you to speak more naturally and extemporaneously.

Applying these simple strategies will improve public speaking as well as improving your poise and delivery as perceived by an audience, plus bolster your internal confidence too. While you may never eliminate the butterflies completely, with practice you can bridle them to become an engaging and dynamic speaker.

Stacey Leeke is a litigation lawyer and freelance writer with a background in professional indemnity and insolvency law practice. She has over nine years experience in the legal industry in both Australia and Canada.

Stacey currently writes for a number of online and print based publications, specialising in analytical critiques on new developments in the law as well as commentaries on current industry trends and best practice.

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