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Help your team master public speaking

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

We all know how terrified most people are to speak in public. If you want your team members to master this fear and become effective group communicators, try these techniques:

Use video and audio—separately and together. All team members who want to improve their speaking skills should practice in front of a video camera. When you review the tape with the team members, first turn the sound all the way down and focus just on the picture. This makes nonverbal cues more obvious. Then, do the reverse—turn the monitor facing the wall and listen to the sound without the picture. This helps you critique the presentation of the content. Then put the two together.

Practice extemporaneous speaking. Give your people a broad topic, a stack of magazines and a half-hour to prepare a three-minute presentation. This offers valuable practice at organizing thoughts and information into spoken words. Once people know how to structure a good speech, they'll be more confident, which will show in their delivery.

Use dummy slides. It's easy for insecure speakers to hide behind the overheads, the slides or the computer projector. Combat this tendency by helping team members practice delivering presentations with dummy slides or overheads—ones that look like the real thing but have nonsense text. This helps the speakers get the rhythm of using the slides without reading them out loud or using them as cues. It also helps them edit the slides themselves, so they'll contain just the right amount of information in the right order.

Practice group talks. Instead of treating a presentation by several people as separate mini-speeches, one after the other, ask your team members to alternate in delivering the presentation, point by point (or slide by slide). Having different people present the same material in rapid succession highlights the differences—and potential faults—in their styles. It can also highlight structural or logical problems in the presentation itself.

Try these ideas, and you'll help even your most tongue-tied workers discover that they too can represent the team in public and speak in front of any group with confidence— because they'll know how. This can be an important step they take on their way to increased responsibility and leadership.

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