Cool Tool for Public Speakers

8 years, 3 months ago - January 01, 2013
Take this quick self-assessment and improve your public speaking skills.

I have a cool tool to help you improve your presentation skills. First, what do you do with your hands when you give a presentation? Do you look like an orchestra conductor, a flight attendant giving safety instructions, or more like a mummy?

How about your voice? Does it go up an octave out of nervousness, flatten into a monotone, or do you blast through your entire talk in a single breath because you can’t wait to get it over with?

Instead, I hope that you’re comfortable with public speaking. And that your gestures, voice, and facial expressions are natural and in sync with your message. If not, you can get much more at ease as a speaker by taking classes, hiring a coach, participating in Toastmasters International meetings, and, of course, by getting practice speaking in front of people. Start with small, more accessible speaking gigs at organizations where your knowledge, information, and insights can make a difference (and remember: make your talks all about them).

If you’re an introvert, you may shy away from the spotlight. Many of my clients and students say they would prefer to work behind the scenes or as the second in command and draw less attention to themselves. However, those who want to get ahead dedicate themselves to improving their presentation skills to achieve their success.

When I teach presentation skills, one of the tools my clients and students find most helpful is a self-evaluation sheet I share that contains 30 key criteria to help them isolate the aspects of public speaking they already do well and those they want to improve.

The beauty of breaking down your presentation skills into individual criteria is that once you isolate what you want to work on, you can focus your energy on improving those criteria. It’s often easier just to focus on improving the rate of your speech if you speak too fast and reducing your fidgeting rather than trying to improve everything at once.

Of course, evaluating yourself can be challenging. You may not know how you come across. Regardless, I find that most of my students evaluate their public speaking skills accurately. However, there’s nothing like getting videotaped to see for yourself whether you’re standing up straight, smiling, and speaking in a strong, clear voice.

So are you ready for the cool tool? Print out this story and rate yourself on each of the presentation skills criteria below on a scale of 0 to 5. (Many of these criteria also apply to speaking at meetings and even to interpersonal conversations in case you'd like to rate yourself in those settings too.) Not all of the criteria will apply to every presentation you give—if that's the case, just write down a zero for no opinion/not applicable. And I'm sure you can list additional criteria that are important to you that I haven't included. Write those in next to item 20 next to Other.


Rating scale: (0) No opinion/not applicable (1) Poor (2) Fair (3) Good (4) Very good (5) Excellent

Preparing for your presentation:

Audience analysis

  1. Content (e.g., clear message; focused on audience’s interests; timely)
  2. Beginning
  3. Ending
  4. Compelling facts, figures, and/or quotations
  5. Preparing anecdotes
  6. Presentation materials (e.g., whiteboard, PowerPoint, video, handouts, props)
  7. Speaker's notes (If you use them, how effective are they?)
  8. Rehearsals
  9. Getting sufficient rest beforehand

Delivering your presentation:

  1. Appearance (clothing, accessories, grooming)
  2. Posture
  3. Facial expressions
  4. Eye contact (cultural appropriateness notwithstanding)
  5. Hand gestures (i.e., natural movements; no fidgeting)
  6. Other movements (e.g., getting onstage, walking around during presentation)
  7. Vocal variety (e.g., tone, volume, pace)
  8. Natural vocal pitch (i.e., not higher or lower than your normal speaking voice)
  9. Speaking clearly

10. Speaking concisely (no rambling)

11. Minimal verbal filler (e.g., um, er, you know)

12. Engaging audience

13. Giving a clear outline of what’s ahead (when applicable)

14. Telling anecdotes

15. Using visual aids (i.e., not turning your back to your audience; advancing your slides)

16. Summarizing key points (when applicable)

17. Managing Q&A

18. Handling challenging situations (e.g., technical difficulties, longwinded question askers)

19. Time management (i.e., sticking to allotted time slot; not rushing)

20. Other: _____________________________


How did you rate? First take stock of your 4’s and 5’s. What are you already good at as a presenter? Next, pick a few of the criteria with the lowest scores. Make a game plan for improving them. You can do that by focusing on those criteria while you’re rehearsing. The usual means of support—a class and/or a coach—can help as well. Of course, in many settings, you can obtain feedback from your audience.


Text by Psychology Today

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