Public speaking: all the keys to becoming an outstanding speaker

Published on December 13, 2022 at 6:00 p.m.

© Luis Alvarez

In our professional life, we are not always prepared for public speaking. When this challenge presents itself, the challenge must be taken up. Two experts help us adopt the right reflexes.

Because public speaking is a real discipline, eloquence competitions and public speaking coaching are developing. At Eloquentia, an association made famous by the documentary film “A voix haute”, Véronique Colignon leads educational workshops. Its ambition: “to give all young people a chance to speak fluently and convincingly. A goal also pursued by Sophie Helene, president of Find your voice associationwhich is aimed at young people from working-class neighborhoods. Since expressing oneself well is learned, they give us the keys to a successful intervention.

The preparation stage

No question of launching without a net. A good public speaking requires upstream work. For Sophie Helene, “what is really very useful is to have a mental map of what you want to say. » Structuring your thoughts with important points and key words allows you to combine expertise and naturalness by leaving yourself the possibility of changing your presentation. “Letting yourself have this ability to adapt means remaining in control of your speaking. It is also possible to write your speech beforehand. This is what Véronique Colignon of Eloquentia advises, for whom the text will be a welcome cheat sheet in times of stress. His method? Write down your ideas before prioritizing them according to their importance. “Rehearsing his speech, saying it several times – possibly in front of a mirror – will help. But beware, a speech must not be a recitation, it must be alive! »

Release the stress

It is completely normal to feel a small spike in stress before speaking. If for some people this feeling is a driving force, for others it can be extremely paralyzing. To deal with it, several techniques exist, such as the ritual with a lucky charm or a positive mantra. “Breathing or sophrology exercises help enormously to calm stress,” observes Sophie Helene. Like great athletes, it is also possible to try mental projection, which consists of imagining the first moments of your intervention. Visualizing the scene is conditioning your brain for success.

Find the right words

“You need a catchphrase, which can be a question, a short story or a strong number. It’s a way of grabbing the audience from the very first moment,” recommends Sophie Helene. Not hesitating to involve the public by challenging them, for example with a rhetorical question, is also a technique that works. Changing register, using humor for example, will always be appreciated. In the same way, the conclusion should not be neglected. “There must be something left of your intervention. The conclusion must be fireworks,” says Véronique Colignon.

The voice, this major asset

While we often tend to talk to fill the void, silence is actually a very good weapon. This allows us to breathe, of course, but also to highlight important moments in our speech by pausing. For Sophie Helene: “the speeches that have the most impact can be those where you lower your voice. Tempo variation is also a good technique. To master it, the president of the association Find your voice suggests training with a metronome by speaking at a more or less rapid rate. Véronique Colignon says the same thing: “the enemy of good speaking is monotony. Do not hesitate to provoke breaks in rhythm, volume and intonation! »

The importance of the body

A speech also passes through the non-verbal. For Sophie Helene, smiling before starting her intervention is a reflex to adopt. The look is also important. “We can set ourselves a challenge: that of looking five to ten members of the public in the eye. To capture your audience and manage your breath, the ideal posture is to anchor your feet to the ground. No question of remaining completely static, but also be careful not to be on the move to evacuate your stress. “The body should not take precedence over the words”, summarizes Véronique Colignon. She adds that hand movements can help accentuate an idea. “I often say to my students: imagine that your hands are Stabilos! »

The debriefing

Once the challenge has been met, taking stock can be positive. Exercise isn’t easy, so it’s important to be kind to yourself. “The first question to ask is how did I feel during my speech? “says Sophie Helene. In case of anxiety, we can say that sophrology exercises will prove useful for the next few times. Asking someone you trust about the positives and areas for improvement is often a good idea. If the intervention is filmed, looking at each other can be constructive. Since we tend to judge ourselves a little too harshly, doing it with a caring person is again recommended.

This article was written on the occasion of the ELLE Active event. All our articles and videos can be found on active.elle.fr.

Public speaking: all the keys to becoming an outstanding speaker – Elle Active