Guest Contributor


By | John Preston

Public speaking requires learning and training, but we should not be afraid: all people can become good speakers if they pay attention to a series of important issues and prepare properly.

Sometimes, when we listen to someone who speaks well and captures our attention, we attribute it to a natural ability identified in popular parlance as “talking” or “talking”. It isn’t true. No one manages to master oratory without practice and attention, even if they have some gifts that can make the job easier. In the same way, anyone who does not have a serious handicap can achieve a high level in their oral presentations, conversations, presentations or even conferences if they work with perseverance and know some decisive criteria.

In fact, those who are able to maintain a long presentation but lack adequate preparation end up wandering, do not control the space or time at their disposal, do not handle questions well, and thus fall far short of being excellent. . It is not a question of nature, but of training.

In this post we want to help those who want to improve their oratory through a series of very specific tips on what to avoid when preparing and giving an oral presentation of any kind.


Body and oral language form a unit and, if we are not careful and control certain habits or neglect some aspects, we will transform the meaning of what we say, significantly reduce our ability to communicate or even send unwanted messages to our listeners or interlocutors. There are some important tips for public speaking.


It is very common for us to instinctively avoid eye contact in job interviews, in negotiations or in work conversations. It happens, for example, when faced with a delicate question or when asking us for details on a certain issue, especially if the question surprises us or we are not clear about the answer. By not looking into the eyes of others, we seem unbelievable or insecure.


It has several negative consequences, among which it stands out causing discomfort in our partner. In addition, it comes to seem like a provoked pose and gives the impression, therefore, of a lack of naturalness. If the eye contact comes to be perceived as aggressive, the interlocutor will stop paying attention to us and will tend to be distracted as a protective measure.


It is convenient that our gestures reinforce the discourse that we maintain, so we have to pay attention to them. Typically, there is a unity between the body and speech without the least effort, quite naturally, but in some cases it is convenient to know simple gestures that help enhance speech. It is not complicated at all since, as I say, we all do it every day. What we do have to take care of is not to “contragest”, that is, to send signals that contradict what we are saying, because they modify the message and reduce its credibility. We don’t talk about the affection we have for someone while we keep our arms crossed or look towards infinity, for example.


Closely related to the previous point are two gestures that we make frequently and that are counterproductive: the first is to cross our arms, even more so if we do it with energy – which happens when we are nervous or feel intimidated; the second is to stop smiling. Sometimes when concentrating we adopt an overly serious pose, almost giving the feeling of being angry. It is therefore important:


The smile helps to produce sympathy in others, generates closeness and shows that we are comfortable. It also helps others to have a sense of comfort. There is no doubt that if during a work meeting, even in a group, we always maintain an intense gaze and a serious gesture, the others will notice and wonder why. On the other hand, if you tend to avoid smiling, you will generate mistrust. Of course, we must try not to limit ourselves with the thought that we have an ugly smile. A smile always favors us and helps communication.


They are called that because they are difficult to avoid and if you are a nervous person you may experience them frequently. Do not be overwhelmed by this fact, because it will be counterproductive. These spontaneous movements will not go unnoticed, to the extent that they are not natural and, for that reason, we do have to avoid them as much as possible. Adopting a comfortable posture and having the arms and hands relaxed but still is always helpful when the “tics” are performed with this part of the body.


It’s not always easy. There are situations in which we get bored, lose concentration or become careless. In many cases it is due to stress: it is difficult for us to prevent thoughts from going towards pending tasks or problems. In some circumstances we take out our mobile or open the computer screen, look out the window or even yawn. Some of these reactions will be seen as rude and will make others feel upset. Always keep in mind that communication is not one-way: you have to make an effort to actively listen to others. Even if the topic of the meeting is not of our interest, it will be an opportunity to learn about the speaker’s strengths and weaknesses, about how he presents his work, about his personality or character. Active listening always collects valuable information from the environment and from others.


If you have to intervene, don’t be impulsive. Impulsiveness can also stem from non-proactive listening, uncontrollable emotion, unnecessary defensiveness, or an overwhelming desire to make our point of view in the face of the threat of being misunderstood or, in some people’s minds, that the cosmos decomposes if you don’t know our opinion. Always remember that to make yourself understood it is convenient to prepare what is going to be said and how to say it. Take advantage of all the time you have for it. Take notes (while looking up at the speaker to show him that what we are pointing to is related to what he says), articulate your intervention in an outline, speak slowly, take care not to be rude and to present your point of view welcoming that of others as much as possible, thank other contributions and value them explicitly. Try to be specific.


There are speakers who prepare the speech with care but when they have to present it it seems that they are hiding behind the table or the lectern, or even behind a bunch of pages. Enhance your speech with the use of your entire body, from your feet to your head, your eyes, your mouth, of course your arms, and taking advantage of the area that you have been given… Communication improves significantly if others can fully see you.


If you are a speaker with a large space, you have to watch your movements. In a case like this, I always arrive at the room with plenty of time and study the space, ask to be allowed to relocate the elements, ask for a microphone that I don’t have to carry in my hand, familiarize myself with the place and think about where I am going to situate myself and how should I move and even, on occasions and if it is convenient and possible, I move the chairs to have more space or to allow spaces that interest me to be generated. Sometimes the talk or conference has different parts and you can also use the space to show this division, moving to another area when you are going to deal with another issue, which will also help to create a pause that is not awkward.


Sometimes it is necessary to rely on documents and we have to talk for a while looking at a piece of paper, consulting it from time to time or even reading it. Beware: this is not recommended. In certain academic circles, it is considered a lack of seriousness not to follow a literal reading, but this is a serious error and a lack of criteria: in reality, having to hold on to a few pages only shows that you do not master the subject and that you have not prepared enough. However, it may be that we want to read something (a quote, a comment…): let’s try to summarize, not lengthen, read slowly, keep the tone (there are speakers who lower their voices when they read a quote, read quickly or with reluctance and lose their composure) attention of the audience) and not lose the audience’s gaze for too long. If you have to go through the page, don’t cover your face: slide the sheet gently without lifting it, so you’ll have time to sort your papers later.


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