A good prop can add colour to a speech. For Jonathon Ricketts, a funny hat is just perfect for delivering a humorous talk.
A good prop can add colour to a speech. For Jonathon Ricketts, a funny hat is just perfect for delivering a humorous talk.

Don't panic over public speaking

For a maiden speech in a room full of strangers, it was a ripper.

The young mum of two, after giving clues as to what her job was – ‘demanding' and ‘24/7' among them – stripped off her clothes to reveal a Wonder Woman suit underneath.

“I'm a supermum. A wonder woman at home,” she said.

It was a speech only a few weeks ago, said secretary and treasurer of Byron Cavanbah Toastmasters Jonathon Ricketts, that ‘was right out there'.

“It was a stunning first speech,” he said.

“The courage it took to do that was amazing.”

Speaking in public for many of us, says Jonathon, is a frightening experience ‘that seems to block the brain and lock the jaw'.

And that's where Toastmasters can help, he says.

People from all walks of life – including young mums – join up to learn how to be more confident when speaking in public.

Jonathon, who operates a conference management company, joined Byron Cavanbah Toastmasters several years ago with an eye on improving his presentation skills.

“When I make a presentation, I want to do it well,” he said.

“Even when I tell a joke in a group I want everyone to laugh.”

Toastmasters, says Jonathon, is a club, ‘but not clubbie'. “It's a bit of theatre,” he said.

“We have people who come along for different reasons. People who have a conference coming up, or have to make a speech at a wedding and they are nervous.”

Jonathon offered these tips for anyone quaking at the idea of speaking in public:

  • Dress for the occasion. Your outfit can support the content of your speech and add to your credibility.
  • Introductions. If you are being introduced by someone else, help them plan your introduction to relate to your talk – a CV is not an introduction.
  • Preparation – you cannot do too much. Focus on the purpose and outcomes: Is the talk educational, humorous, informative?
  • Begin with impact. Use either words or actions to grab your listeners' attention. Never apologise at the beginning, just give it your best shot – an audience wants you to do well.
  • Use facial expressions to add emphasis to key points. Smiling, using the hands and body language, will all add to your presentation.
  • Vocal variation, pauses, repetition, body movement. Each of these is a technique you can learn and use to help emphasise a message.
  • Speed of delivery: do not rush. Practice your speech so you know how long it will take.
  • Take account of the audience's knowledge level of the topic; your explanations need to be geared to the audience's comprehension.
  • Get rid of the ‘ums'! How? By using pauses, and by practicing.
  • Make eye contact when appropriate; in smaller audiences, eye contact is a must.
  • Finishing. Summarise your key points to ensure the messages have got across. Finish with a message, put it across with impact, and be ready for the applause. A good ending is your signature; it should leave the best impression.

(Byron Cavanbah Toastmasters is open to all who wish to improve their speaking abilities. Toastmasters meets 7.15-9.30pm, the first and third Monday at the Byron Bay Bowling Club. Inquiries to Jonathon Ricketts on 6680 8853.)

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