Hone Your Negotiation Skills With These 20 Tips

Say you’ve gone into a negotiation, confident you’d clinch the deal, only to find that you’ve been flat out rejected or worse – the potential prospect suddenly decides they don’t want to work with you at all. What went wrong?

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the best negotiation skills are through dominating or bullying someone into submission. If not, they make the mistake of being too submissive instead.

The result? A recipe for disaster. Hard-bargaining not only ruins deals but future business relationships as well. Being too submissive, on the other hand, incur more losses.

But whether we like it or not, everyone is a negotiator and has something to negotiate every day whether it be haggling over the price of a new car, persuading a toddler to eat his peas or convincing a client why they should choose your pitch. This skill is part of our lives and is inevitable – especially in business transactions and disputes.

There are many effective and different kinds of negotiation strategies and tactics but what makes one a great negotiator is the ability to combine these strategies to provide a win-win solution in the right place and at the right time. All in all, great negotiators are those who are hardworking, have good timing and have a little bit of luck on their side.

Hence, here are 20 tips that will help hone your negotiating skills so you stick out from the average Joes:

1. Plan ahead

According to experts, effective negotiation is 80% preparation. So if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Before every negotiation, it’s extremely important to come prepared with a plan and backup. A good plan consists of thorough research and homework of your opponent and their situation before hand.

This is because when you come in knowing your stuff, you’ll instantly sound much more confident – and that much more convincing. Doing otherwise will only make others take you less seriously and you may also not strike the best deal.

 Here are some questions to ask yourself before a negotiation:

  • What is my end goal?
  • Are these the right questions to ask?
  • What questions will my opponent ask?
  • How do I answer my opponents?

2. Don’t be a pushover

How you sound, act or behave can determine what others will think of you – especially during first impressions. If you let others control your actions or easily give in to them, there is no way you can ever clinch a successful deal. To do so, you must come in confident and assertive yet not too aggressive at the same time. Not only will you convince the other party, you will also get the deal done on your terms.

Although not everyone is naturally confident, the first step is to look the part. A study found that 93% feel non-verbal communication affects their opinion of others. So be conscious of your gestures, your posture and how you hold your head.

 3. Asking (the right) questions

 Here’s an example: you want to buy the cheapest fish in the market. You ask all kinds of questions like how many shops sell this particular fish and which is the most expensive to the least. You even find out the name of the shop that sells the freshest fish. But, you did not ask the right question which was where you can buy the cheapest fish.

Although it’s good to ask as many questions as you can to gain insight, it’s much more important to ask the right ones. Asking the right questions not only saves you a lot of time, it provides you with the information you need first and foremost so you can negotiate much more effectively. Therefore, always prioritise and think of the questions that will benefit you the most. The other questions will provide bonus information.

 4. Lay everything out

As Harvard Business School professor, Deepak Malhotra would say, “negotiate multiple interests simultaneously.”

In his book “Negotiating the Impossible”, it explains that by having several offers or issues laid out by you and your opponent, it makes it easier for negotiators to make wise tradeoffs. This means they can fight for what matters to them most while giving up what the other side values more.

Many of us make the mistake of negotiating one issue at a time which will often lead to everyone fighting hard for whatever that happens to be offered. This will less likely provide what everyone truly wants out of the deal.

 5. Smile!

Sometimes, negotiating deals can get a little too intense between you and the other party. So what can be done to help deescalate the situation? Showing positive facial expressions.

This is because your facial expression have the ability to influence your emotions and others around you as well.

One of the ways to show positive facial expressions is to smile. It naturally creates a higher frequency of sound in your mouth, changing the overall tone of your voice. And due to the human instinct of mirroring, it will also likely make others smile along with you which then improves the mood of everyone in general. However, it is important to smile genuinely. A forced smile will only end up making you look confused and frustrated.

6. Build bridges instead of walls

The most effective negotiators are professionals who know their business and don’t let personalities and irrational behavior interfere with their mission. While they know it is good to have power in a negotiation, they are also thinking long-term for their company. This means building a good relationship with their opponent and not straining it.

Building good relationships with other parties is essential especially if you are negotiating with them on a regular basis. This is because if the other party was threatened into submission, they probably will make it harder for you in the next negotiation or worse, stop negotiating with you again, possibly cutting off any future business.

 7. Focus less on your limitations and more on your opponent’s

Focusing on your weaknesses or limitations too much will naturally make you believe your offer is less desirable than your opponent’s. This then makes you believe you are in a less powerful position which can affect your negotiating. Do not dwell on your limitations as your opponent will be able to sense your concerns and grab onto that weakness to their advantage.

Instead, focus on their’s instead. Asking the right questions and finding out what they’re trying to solve and why they need to solve them, will help you gain leverage in a negotiation. This is because gaining the upper hand when it comes to negotiating is about focusing on the pressures that your opponent face.

  8. Know your opponents

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”

By further understanding your opponents better, the easier it is for you to know what their wants and needs are which puts you in a favourable position. To understand them better, always ask as many open-ended questions as possible to gather all the details you can about them.

So if you’re going to ask for something, take the time to find out what motivates that person. Then, make an offer that fuels their motivation. It is important to make them feel as if they are the ones being satisfied as it makes them much more open to giving you what you need.

But, if they still do not want to agree to your terms, don’t lash out and attack them. Instead, think what could possibly motivate the other party while you try to achieve your desired goal as well.

With that said, this does not mean that you give them everything they want – it’s about fulfilling what their basic requirements are while fulfilling yours. Make it a win-win situation.

9. Adapt to the situation

Many of us seem to have the misconception that being assertive, dominant and fearless will be sure fire way to help us clinch the deal. But in some cases, the key to a successful negotiation isn’t exactly about being dominant but rather about finding common ground.

Experts like Researcher Scott Wiltermuth explains this concept over at the Harvard Business Review where successful negotiations are more about finding a complementary relationship than it is about being assertive. This sometimes mean being submissive.

This is achieved when two parties reach dominance complementarity whereby one person in an interaction behaves differently from the other. This means if one negotiator acts submissive the other will act more dominant. Research shows that these individuals who achieve dominance complementarity reached better deals than pairs who are not. In short, this means learning when it is the right time to be aggressive and when not to to be.

10. Listen More than You Talk 

“If I listen, I have the advantage, If I speak, others have it.”

Listening sounds simple but it takes effort, energy and patience to do so effectively. Many would be surprise of how impatient others can get while a person is speaking, cutting into their conversation before the speaker can finish.

One of the biggest misconceptions about negotiating is that people feel the need to ramble on and on. They tend to have this perception that more things get done if they talk more.

Instead, of talking more time, listen more instead – Studies prove that great negotiators are those who are able to uncover more needs of others than their less successful counterparts. This finding is important especially for sales people since they make their living by negotiating.

So listen. You can find out what the other party is looking to get out of the negotiations by letting them speak more. This in turn helps you gain insights of what the other party is willing to compromise and where their position stands – The more you know about their position, the clearer it is to for you to offer a deal they can’t resist.

Here’s a video about the power of listening by William Ury, one of the world’s best-known and most influential experts on negotiation:

 

11. Remain Calm in Dire Situations

It is vital to remain calm under stressful or pressurising situations during a negotiation. A good negotiator is one who does not combust and let their emotions get the better of them. They do not panic and are able to think clearly throughout the process, coming out of the negotiation successfully and unscarred. Bad negotiators on the other hand, end up missing opportunities and creating bad relationships with other prospects which makes it more disadvantageous for themselves.

One way to ensure you do not panic when the other party is pressing you is to always think positively, focus on your strengths and always remember what your end goal is.

Furthermore research shows we stand a greater chance of success if we focus more on our strengths. When under pressure, try to think of a positive situation, thought or outcome. This will help distract your brain from focusing on the negativity when things don’t seem to be going so well.

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.      – Han Selye”

This is because thinking positively helps your brain to keep stress in the back of your mind. Just think about it, when you are happy or optimistic, do you ever feel stressed and anxious? Exactly, you don’t. This is because positive thinking shifts your attention to a “stress-free” zone in your brain.

Here’s a video explaining how we can turn our negative energy into something positive:

12. Learn to deal with negative behaviour

Humans are naturally emotionally-driven. But sometimes, letting your emotions get the better of you can end up destroying relationships and businesses. It is evident throughout history that ego and emotions have destroyed many corporations and businesses.The moment you lose your temper, you are in danger of creating bad ties with the prospect when dealing with them in the future or worse, losing them as prospect forever.

Instead, try to detach yourself from your emotions during the situation and focus on closing a deal – something much more rewarding and beneficial in the long run. It’s important to remember that negotiations aren’t personal attacks on a particular person, but rather they are just a form of business.

13. Do not rush a negotiation

One thing is for sure; no one likes to be rushed.

Here’s an example: Imagine being a customer, contemplating on whether you should buy a product and a salesperson is incessantly trying to rush you to the cashier to buy it. The same goes for negotiating.

Nothing will make you look more desperate than being in a constant rush to try and seal the deal. It’s great when a deal is closed quickly so you can reap the profits sown but it’s better to be patient.

Not only do you risk annoying the future prospect, you may also skip over the important points, which can incur losses on your end.

Furthermore, your managers or bosses will not be happy to hear you rushed to close a deal without covering all the necessary bases. Even if you are tight for time, make sure you cover every possible point and not miss out anything important.

 14. Have a win-win mindset

The best outcome is when a solution satisfies both you and the other party. To see to it that there are no losers at the end of the deal. This is, undoubtedly, the most preferred negotiation anyone would love to be in.

And this is possible. But it means being willing to put differences aside so you can listen carefully to what both of you want. And then working together to find a win-win solution.

This win-win mindset will not only make you leave the room getting what you want, but it also helps deepen the bond between you and the other person.

This is because you’ve come to appreciate the courtesy and respect the other person has shown you – and likewise with them. If you’re lucky, they may want to work with you again as a future prospect in the long run.

15. Always make sure price is the last negotiation

Never negotiate the price until everything else has been negotiated. This is because money is mostly the only thing your company will ever receive from a buyer.

Furthermore, agreeing on the price first can put you in a disadvantageous position and at risk of a loss. This is especially so if the prospect starts negotiating other terms of the deal after the price has been established.

Ensure that you’re only negotiating the price when it’s the last thing standing between you and a deal.

16. Don’t give in too early

Resist the temptation to give in too quickly when someone asks for a concession. That person is not entitled to anything. And, you shouldn’t feel pressured to meet their needs either.

Giving in too early often results in the decrease of value of your product, solution or services. It may even be the permanent set expectation for future negotiations which can be disadvantageous for you in the long run. This brings us to our next point.

 17. Always get something in return

It’s perfectly normal to give concessions in a negotiation from time to time. However, do it in moderation.

The biggest mistake people make is to constantly give something away without getting something in return. This will make your opponent feel entitled to these extra concessions. In the long run, it can make them feel dissatisfied during future negotiations since they’ll start to expect more.

Instead of giving in all the time, try getting something in return as well. Make them earn these concessions so they’ll appreciate everything you’ve given up to them. This is to ensure they do not take you for granted.

For example, if a prospect wants a discount on the price, make it conditional on a longer contract. Or, if a prospect wants something else thrown in with their purchase, make it conditional on signing a deal immediately.

The arrangement can be made in any way so long as you’re also getting something in return.

18. Be realistic

A study conducted by Forbes found that negotiators who do better than the average have high but realistic goals.

Great negotiators observe, calculate and rely on their gut feeling to get a good read on what might happen and what might not.

They also have a profound understanding of what’s in the field of play and what’s beyond, making them good decision makers. As a result, their trades, ideas and solutions are often a success.

19. Learn to walk away

Sometimes, we know a deal can’t be made and that’s okay. There’s no point wasting you and the other party’s time if both of you cannot settle.

However, many seem to have this misconception that they must clinch the deal which may backfire on them. For instance, if you constantly give large concessions just to get deals, you’ll only be incurring losses at your end.

In short, know when a deal is no longer attainable so you know when to stop. If a deal cannot be salvaged or does not benefit you, it’s okay to walk away. This can be challenging  when sales are slow but remember that there will always be someone to sell to if you keep your pipeline full.

20. Practice, practice, practice!

This is the most important and most the underrated strategy. Without enough research on the topic, we can all agree that not many are able to sound convincing when negotiating. Well, the same goes for practicing.

Negotiating like any other skill, requires practice in order for an individual to be good at it. To improve, try to condition yourself to negotiate at every opportunity.

Not only will it help you become more attuned with negotiating, it also increases your success rate over time. In addition, you become much more confident and well-respected amongst your peers, customers and even opponents.

Summing it Up

 Overall, negotiation is a mix of art and science. It takes a combination of street smarts, unwavering discipline and dedicated time spent on research, the thought process and execution.

Once you’ve mastered negotiating, the hard work will be worth it. It’ll help unlock your ability to get the best deal possible under any circumstances.

With that being said, negotiating does not have one format or structure that’s always the right answer. Instead, it’s about understanding how to convince your prospects with the tips provided in the right situation. So what method you use will determine whether you successfully clinch the deal.

And there you have it! Make full use of these 20 tips to help hone your negotiation skills. Leave a comment below if it worked for you!

The Ultimate Public Speaking Guide To Impress Any Audience

According to experts, public speaking is one of the most important and beneficial skill sets for your career. It helps to increase confidence and shapes the perception of others about you when you deliver a presentation.

Despite these benefits, however, many seem to fear public speaking. According to experts, roughly 80% of people get increasingly nervous and lose sleep before a big public speaking moment. Some experts even suggest that the fear of public speaking rivals death. Yet, public speaking is inevitable. Many of us, like it or not, will be put in a situation where we will be expected to speak in front of a crowd and these moments can sometimes be career-defining.

If you tirelessly – and unsuccessfully– have been trying to get the butterflies in your stomach to settle down before a public speech, you’re not alone. Here’s an easy to follow public speaking guide (with all the public speaking tips you need) on how you can overcome your fear of public speaking and impress your audience even if you’re a beginner.

1. Prepare for your presentation

A speaker’s worst fear is to see that the audience is bored or has gotten no value from the speech. This is why thoroughly preparing for your presentation is vital.

Here are a few easy steps to prepare and research for your presentation:

Identify the context of the event

If you’re speaking at an industry conference on AI Technology, you can be sure that your audience will include practitioners and technicians in that space. Recycling basic content that they’re already aware in their industry is definitely a way to quickly lose their attention.

Instead, it’s likely you’d want to introduce big ideas that challenge what they already know about the industry currently, where it’s moving towards or new information about the topic.

When Steve Jobs famously unveiled the iPhone in the 2007 Worldwide Developer’s Conference, he was tackling an existing industry norm of buttons on cell phones. Needless to say, his gamble paid off and set the foundation of the smart phones we now know of today.

With that said, Steve’s presentation style might not be for everyone, it’s up to you as a presenter to decide how best to deliver your speech when the time comes.

Know the demographics of the audience

It’s important to know the demographics of your audience because it determines how you can make your tone suitable for them and make the content relevant.

If you’re speaking to audiences from a particular generation, consider including examples that will resonate with them.

Here’s an example: when speaking to millennials, try referencing recent news on developments in technologies they use every day (e.g. SnapChat or Netflix) to be more relevant to them.

Organising your content

You can have the best ideas and content or feel so strongly for a certain issue that you speak of it passionately, but if they aren’t sequenced in the right order, you’re basically back to square one. You may even confuse the audience at the end of your speech since they may not understand what you’re trying to say.

“An outline is basically a blueprint for your presentation.” 

Creating an outline for your speech is essential because it helps organise your content and ensures your message gets across in a coherent and organised manner. Most experts agree that various presentations follow different ‘story arcs’ where they usually fall within three big acts: the Start (or Hook), Middle and Conclusion.

These structures can exist in all sorts of ways such as a Problem, Solution, Call-To-Action type framework for sales. We see this mirrored by numerous presenters where they establish a cause for concern upfront before addressing these concerns with a product or method.

After you’ve decided ideas you’d like to flesh out, begin organising them in an outline that will keep the audience hinged on your every word.

Here is an example of a speech outline:

Basic speech outline template

1. Introduction

  • Establish topic
  • Key message
  • A short summary of the supporting points that will be discussed in detail later on

2. Body 

Supporting Point 1

  • Sub point 1
  • Sub point 2

Supporting Point 2

  • Sub point 1
  • Sub point 2

Supporting Point 3

  • Sub point 1
  • Sub point 2

3. Conclusion

  • Recap the main points
  • Summarise the key message
  • Provide a call-to-action

This formula is simple yet extremely effective. It can commonly be seen in novels, short stories, speeches, movies, reports, business briefings, proposals and many more. So, if you’re unsure of how to start, this outline can help you kickstart organising your content.

Here’s a video of Aimee Mulins telling a story about adversity followed by resolution later on in life:

 

Understand not memorise

After organising your content in the best structure it can be, now comes the hard part – To be able to connect to your audience while knowing your content at the tip of your fingers.

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from the slides or their cue cards as they couldn’t memorise their content word for word. Not only is this sure fire way to lose their audience’s interest, you also sound rigid, monotonous. Boring.

One of the ways to prevent that is to understand what you’re speaking of rather than just plainly memorizing your script. This is because according to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This makes it easier to ‘memorise’ what  you want to say because you know what you are talking about.

As a result, this will then allow you to talk more comfortably – and naturally– with your audience which in turn makes you connect with them more.

2. Develop a presentation that will captivate your audience

Picking a good topic and conquering your stage fright is half the battle won in public speaking. Putting it all together in a presentation that flows well and that engages your audience is what differentiates a blockbuster speech versus a lackluster talk.

Start strong

It’s been said that the first 30 seconds of your presentation determines whether the audience want to listen to you or not.

Here are some proven ways to grab the attention of your audience:

a) Start with an anecdote

If you can draw relevance to your speech topic – sharing a quick story related to the topic is a great way to appear more relatable and lead audiences into your punchline.

Here are some of the purposes of anecdotes:

  • To lighten the mood

Telling a story can help make people laugh which then brightens their mood. This can prove useful if your audience needs a good laugh before being engaged in your presentation, especially if the topic is a little dry.

  • Caution

Sometimes, the topic we need to talk about are risks and dangers we face. This can be about kidnappings or people falling victim to scams. However, just laying out the rules and regulations for individuals may not be as effective. Sometimes, to get the audience’s attention, we need to hear frightening stories of danger in order to get them to listen. Only then will they follow-up on how to avoid facing these very situations.

  • To Persuade or Inspire

If the topic you are speaking about is a social issue like poverty or sex trafficking, an anecdote can help inspire your audience to do something about it. Of course, anecdotes do not have to serve such specific purposes all the time. They can just be part of a natural conversation with other people.

b) Use an analogy

Analogies are a fun and interesting way to begin your presentation. Comparing two seemingly unrelated things can help build a case for what you’ll say next. Not only that, it can be helpful if you need to explain a complex situation that your audience may not understand.

“Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.” 

This analogy, is often used from the film, Forrest Gump, showing that life has many choices and surprises just like a box of chocolates.

Here are also a few examples of analogies:

  • Life is like a race. The one who keeps running wins the race, and the one who stops to catch a breath loses.
  • Just as a sword is the weapon of a warrior, a pen is the weapon of a writer.
  • How a doctor diagnoses diseases is like how a detective investigates crimes
  • Just as a caterpillar comes out of its cocoon, we must come out of our comfort zone.
  • You are as annoying as nails on a chalkboard.

c) Use a memorable quote

Starting with a memorable quote can help enhance your credibility and reinforce your own claims especially if it comes from notable figures or experts. It can also help inspire the audience which will then make them excited about your idea. The end result? It makes them more engaged with your presentation. Killing two birds with one stone!

Use storytelling techniques

Presentations are hardly ever a one-way dialogue. You’ll want to take measures to engage the audience and make the presentation a conversation.

Try to pose provocative questions or use props.

Asking questions to the floor engages your audience presentation and also demonstrates that you value their opinion on things. In some cases, getting your audiences to visualise problems might be more effectively demonstrated than theorised.

Bill Gates is an iconic example of how using props can really drive a message through. During a TED talk, he released a swarm of mosquitos during his speech to communicate how people from countries with a high level of malaria infection feel.

Another example is Cameron Russell, who talked about how she was just ‘lucky’ to become a model because she was born tall and pretty. In her talk, she showed a simple but effective way to change their mind of her as a model in seconds through the use of props:

 

Use visual aids effectively

Visual aids such as presentation slides are an opportunity to enhance and drive your message home. Furthermore, adding visual aids provide 43% added recall for presentations according to Prezi.

This is because most people learn through visuals, maybe even more than through listening. In fact, one study showed that three days after a presentation, people who only heard a speaker remembered about 10% of the information but those who heard and saw visual information remembered about 55% more.

Here are some reasons why you should use visual aids:

  • Engage the audience’s interest

It can be pretty boring to sit and listen to someone talk on and on but having visual aids will help capture and keep people interested in what you’re saying.

  • Show the depth of a story

Compare saying millions were affected and many homes were lost due to a disaster vs saying the same thing but with an evocative image. Which one would sound much more impactful? By showing an image, it helps show the severity or depth of a situation without having much to say. This can leave a bigger impact on the audience.

  • A picture speaks a thousand words

Putting all the information on a slide may steal the audience’s attention away from you as you’re speaking. To prevent that, make use of evocative images. Not only does it support your speech but it does so without saying much that it steals the attention of your audience.

E.g. picture of disaster that is evocative and memorable

  • Serves as a reminder

Finally, visual aids can serve as notes or reminders for the speaker. When you’re giving a speech, it can be very nerve-wracking to the point you could forget what to say. Having visual aids help you remember what you want to say and keeps you from going off topic.

3. Overcome your nerves and stage fright

Picture this: moments before your speech, your heart’s pounding profusely in anticipation for what’s coming next. You step behind the podium and all eyes are on you. The pressure becomes overwhelming and you freeze, unable to utter a single word.

Stage fright. Also known as imposter syndrome. It is an expectation that makes us think we have to perform but we fear that we could make a mistake and embarrass ourselves.

According to statistics, at least 75% of people get stage fright when they present or make a speech. It’s even been long known that public speaking outranks even death as the top fear of most individuals. This then leads to the question – how do the pros make it look so easy?

Stretch

If you are nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. You may find that your body is tense, breaking in cold sweat or you may feel stiff and your muscles are tight. The audience will notice you are nervous. If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen your tense muscles and relax your body.

Breathe

When you are nervous, do you tend to breathe faster and take shorter breaths? Nervousness is always accompanied by these very symptoms and if not addressed, you may end up mumbling and stuttering your way throughout the speech. To ensure that does not happen, take slow, deep breaths. This is because it helps lower your heart rate and make you focus on your breathing rather than on your anxiety and insecurities.

Fake it till You Make it

The truth is everyone gets nervous, even seasoned speakers. As Mark Twain put it nicely: “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

These liars “fake” their confidence despite their insecurities and reservations about themselves till they succeed. This can be through achieving a desired outcome, overcoming a fear or selling an idea successfully.

When you fake confidence, you naturally create a positive impression of what your capabilities are instantly, making you more confident than you actually are.

With that being said faking confidence is not always the best answer because it isn’t real confidence. But sometimes, we need to fake confidence because we don’t have the luxury to build this skillset since it takes time and effort to develop.

Be conversational and authentic

It’s easy to have a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. Public speaking does not need to be that different. Imagine speaking to one audience member at a time when you’re up on stage and you’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

Presenters like Elon Musk sometimes appear comical on stage, but always authentic. He does so by speaking directly to the audience and in a language they can understand:

 

Know your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips help reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. So one way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech. However, you don’t want to memorise your script word by word. It can work against you should you forget your content.

Instead, memorise the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch as it helps you speak more naturally. This will let your personality shine through. Speaking exactly from a memorised script may make you sound rigid and robotic.

Still, if you need to have a reference just in case you forget your speech, it is okay to have prompts in your slides or cue cards.

Mouth your words when rehearsing

Another method that most speakers use to embed their presentations into their conscience is to ‘mouth’ the words as they rehearse.

Not only do you begin to instinctively memorise your presentation each time you practice, it also aids in muscle memory when you need to deliver the speech on stage naturally.

4. Deliver an impressive speech

We’ve gone from prepping for a presentation, to finding ways to engage your audience with presentations and combating stage fright. All that is left with is for the speaker to steal the show by delivering an impressive performance during the speech.

Here are some things you’ll want to take note of to ensure you’re in tip-top shape when it’s show time:

Hand gestures

Seasoned speakers swear by this and amateur speakers use it to great success. Hand gesturing is a great way to avoid looking stiff and awkward on stage. Furthermore, consultant Vanessa Van Edwards who studies famous TED talks observed that popular speakers are the ones that who used their hands the most.

A key tip is to have your hands held high above your waist at all times and let your hands gesture naturally as you talk. This makes you look more confident and also helps you engage well with the audience.

To signify something small, pinch your fingers and if its big, feel free to gesture your hands widely in the air. However, never point. It can be interpreted as aggressive, unwelcoming and off-putting to many in the crowd.

Body language

What great speakers have in common is how confident they are. Just like any other human being out there, these people also get the jitters before every speech – even great speakers like John F. Kennedy spent months preparing his speech beforehand.

Most people struggle to sound confident and it’s okay. This is because, at times, confidence is not all about how you speak but through your body language.

Standing tall with good posture can do wonders for your perceived confidence and your actual performance. Using big hand gestures while standing firmly on your feet, a shoulder width apart, helps even the most nervous presenters open up on stage.

“Our bodies change our minds and our minds change our behaviours, and our behaviour changes our outcome.” – Social Psychologist, Amy Cudd.

Small gestures like these give signs to your audience on how to think and feel about you and whether they should listen to you in the first few seconds of your presentation. Hence, it is important to take note of your body language as it is a stepping stone to make you feel or at least look confident – even if you’re not.

Tone of voice

Your voice plays a critical role in your success as a presenter. According to an analysis of media appearances by 120 top financial communicators, the sound of a speaker’s voice matters twice as much as the content of the message and even an evaluation found one of the most popular TED talks concluded these very speakers have 30.5% higher vocal variety than other speakers that are less popular.

Technical speakers focus a lot on how they train their voice as they articulate words. Some use a higher pitch when communicating an idea with energy and a lower pitch in solemn instances.

In short, it is about matching your emotions to the idea. For example, if you are sharing a sad story, it only makes sense to match that mood with your voice in a lower tone and volume.

Pause and emphasis

Pauses and emphasis are a powerful tool in a presenter’s arsenal. When used purposefully in the right moment, it can create a dramatic flair to further reinforce what you have said, make the audience ponder over a topic or it can provide time for the audience to let the message sink in. It’s basically a ‘full-stop’ used but in spoken word.

Check out how to master the pausing technique from Brian Tracy:

Connecting with the audience

Many understand confidence is essential when delivering a speech or presentation in order to get the message across but many forget that engaging with the audience is also what hooks them to your presentation/speech.

There are many ways to engage with the audience such as asking questions, holding eye contact or even finding out the demographics of your audience to shape your speech’s tone and content to what’s relevant to them.

Practice, practice, practice!

Like most people, many of us are not naturally talented when it comes to public speaking. Rarely is there an individual who can walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation yet many people seem to mistake that it is possible to do so.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

Time management

Ending too early or too late can spell trouble for speakers that are on the clock for an event’s schedule. At times, event schedules get delayed and leave little time for speakers to deliver their full speech.

The key tip to avoid an awry moment is to be very familiar with your content and to practice several versions of your presentation at varying durations.

Summing it up

And there you have it, these four big steps are what will help you ace your public speaking.

Don’t shy away from your next chance to speak in public. Instead, make full use of the opportunity and apply these public speaking tips:

  1. Study your audience before preparing your topic
  2. Develop a presentation that will captivate your audience
  3. Overcome your nerves and stage fright
  4. Never Wing It. Practice Your Voice, movement and time-keeping

 

Leave a comment below if it worked for you!