Criteria for Success
- You keep your audience engaged by speaking clearly and strategically altering your delivery.
- You enhance your message through deliberate movements while minimizing nervous tics and distracting gestures.
- You become more comfortable and confident in your delivery by practicing specific aspects you want to improve in multiple shorter sessions.
Public speaking, or the act of performing a speech in front of a live audience, is an integral part of scientific communication. Your reason for giving a talk may vary—whether you want to share your latest results with a broader audience, impress potential employers, or educate children about science. However, in all of these cases, it’s necessary to engage your audience and communicate your message clearly.
Public speaking has two main components: content (what you say) and delivery (how you say it). The content of your talk determines how impactful your talk can be, and your delivery determines how impactful your talk actually is. Without a strong, engaging delivery, you will lose your audience’s attention and fail to communicate your content. In order to become an engaging speaker, it is necessary to practice what you want to say and how you are going to say it.
These articles on public speaking will focus on the delivery aspect of your talk. From maintaining eye contact and speaking loudly and clearly, to incorporating movements that enhance your message and keep your audience engaged, there are many elements that go into being a great public speaker. Fortunately, these skills can be learned and honed and with enough practice will become second nature. In turn, improving your presentation skills will help you feel more confident standing in front of an audience and help you present your ideas and results to your audience more clearly.
Analyze your audience
As in any other form of scientific communication, your audience during a presentation can vary widely. Are you presenting a poster in a more intimate, one-on-one or small group setting? Are you presenting a talk to a room full of scientists from various fields? Or are you talking to the general public? Understanding who your audience will be ahead of time will help you pick the right tone you want to use while delivering your presentation.
During your talk, you will receive subtle feedback from your audience that you can use to alter how you proceed—is your audience engaged, dozing off, looking elsewhere, or focused more on your slides than on you? Staying present and actively adjusting your volume, tone of voice, and body language can alter how your message is conveyed, how you are perceived, and whether you can keep your audience’s attention.
We have broken down public speaking skills into verbal and nonverbal communication, and tips on how to practice more efficiently.
- Verbal – Speaking clearly, loudly, and in an engaging fashion can make or break a presentation. This article goes into more detail on how to use your voice effectively.
- Nonverbal – Standing in front of an audience can be nervewracking! This article addresses how you can use nonverbal cues like eye contact and body language to convey confidence and a strong stage presence.
- How to practice effectively – Practicing is an essential part of preparing for a presentation that often gets overlooked because we run out of time. This article will help you identify areas you want to improve and guide you through the process of practicing.
- The day of your presentation – You have enough to remember before your presentation! To help take off some of the stress, we’ve put together a short list of tips to help you be at your best.