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5 Steps to Becoming a Better Public Speaker

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For many, the thought of talking coherently in front of a group is nerve-racking, be it accepting an award, giving a toast, or presenting to your team at work. And with a litany of “how to” tips from experts available, narrowing down best practices can be just as difficult. Lucky for you, we've done the legwork. Here are five foolproof tips for wowing a crowd from Toastmasters International and other public speaking experts.

1. MAKE YOUR SPEECH CONVERSATIONAL.

As tempting as it may be to type up a speech and read it word for word, refrain from doing so. Audiences listen better when the speaker talks to them instead of reads to them.

Public speaking coach Tammy Miller, a Pennsylvania-based international speaker and auctioneer with Tammy Speaks, recommends building your speech around a structure of key points you want the audience to come away with. “Structuring a speech can boost confidence,” she said. It will also prevent you from sounding robotic.

She uses an organizational “speech cookie” she calls OREO: Give your opinion, then reasons behind that opinion, offer an example that correlates with that opinion, and wrap it up reiterating the opinion again.

Matt McGarrity, principal lecturer in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, says writing a conversational speech should not be too difficult. “We as humans have evolved to where we have the ability to spontaneously speak” in ways that help get our point across easily, he says. “It is bad for us to deviate from what we’re used to doing.”

In other words, if you change your natural speech patterns to give a speech that's written like an essay you're setting yourself up to fail. He suggests using short phrases and smaller, simple words—avoid superfluous big words the audience would have to look up.

2. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. 

A great way to ensure your speech goes smoothly is to rehearse what you’re going to say. Miller recommends using a timer to make sure your speech isn’t too long and drawn-out or too short and missing key points. Also, memorize those key points so you’re ready to move into the next topic smoothly.

Another method used in the path to perfection is to videotape yourself giving the speech; this allows you to critique your mannerisms and plan out your pace. Practice should help ease the jitters and make sure your speech is a hit.

3. CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE.

In addition to using an outline to guide your speech, Miller recommends making eye contact with people in the crowd to encourage engagement and gauge audience interest. If they’re yawning, you need to infuse a spark in the conversation, perhaps by asking the audience a question that leads into your next bullet point. If they’re taking notes and nodding their heads, you’re on the right track.

4. DELIVER YOUR SPEECH WITH PASSION.

The best way to get your audience to care about what you're saying is to show how much you care about the topic. The content of that toast for a best friend getting married or loved one who has passed away is most likely near and dear to you; use that emotion to drive your speech home.

“The best presentations are those that come from the heart,” Miller says. But be careful how much you practice a passionate speech. “If it is so powerful, like a speech about your son passing, and you practice it 50 or 60 times, it could lose the passion,” Miller says.

On the flip side, be careful not to get overly emotional. Keep out tears, anger, and overblown elation or you might be taken less seriously.

For those speeches where you don’t care about the topic but you have to talk about it anyway—and you know there will be times like this—McGarrity suggests going with your gut. Your natural pitch, tone, gestures, and timing will give your speech the semblance of passion. If you tend to freeze up in front of a crowd, McGarrity has a couple tips for feigning confidence: “One way to control pitch and tone is to write the speech for the ear instead of the eye,” he says. As for timing? “The most vibrant speakers pause at the right time, like before making a valid point.”

5. TAKE YOUR TIME.

Your presentation is not a race. Take your time as you interact with the audience and slow down if you make a mistake. Many tend to speed up when they slip up in order to get past the blunder as soon as possible, but that could disrupt your ability to get your message across and often causes more mistakes. Instead, breathe evenly and ease back into your speech with calm confidence.

If you've been pacing while lecturing, Miller recommends you "pause and walk casually to the podium and look at your notes," rather than scrambling back to your script. "Know that the audience doesn’t know what you’re about to say,” she says.

More than likely, the audience has no idea you even made a mistake. “Speakers often think the audience has a high expectation for a flawless performance,” McGarrity says. “But if you mess up and they notice, just move on.”

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25 Polite Compliments You Can Pay a Coworker
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January 24 is National Compliment Day, and a great way to celebrate is by making a concerted effort to praise the people you work with. Be sure to consider when an appropriate time and place for a compliment would be (for instance, shy people would rather be commended on their stellar presentation in private rather than in front of a crowd), but know that whether a coworker is a longtime friend or more of an acquaintance, lauding their work performance and letting them know you appreciate their skills could really make their day.

1. "YOU HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR."

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Every office has one person who knows how to ease tensions at work by cracking a quick joke or sharing a funny link. If this person's sense of humor makes your job a little more enjoyable, make sure to let them know.

2. "NICE JOB ON THAT PRESENTATION."

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Public speaking is intimidating, especially to someone who's new to their job and not used to giving presentations. Notice your coworker is nervous before a big meeting? Seek them out afterwards. Letting them know you enjoyed and learned from what they said will hopefully make them feel more confident next time.

3. "YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHEN TO LEND A HAND."

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You probably know someone who's always willing to help out with a project when you need it most, and odds are they rarely receive the recognition they deserve. Next time a coworker offers some relief when you're feeling overwhelmed, don't let it go unnoticed. Set aside time to tell them you see the great work they're doing and you appreciate it.

4. "YOU'RE A SAVVY PROBLEM-SOLVER."

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Being able to see problems differently is a valuable skill in the workplace. It can open up a team to new ideas and save precious time and resources. Sometimes you may be the person to spot the way out of a problem, and other times it's a coworker who points out the solution that was right in front of your face. If you're grateful for their point of view, they deserve to hear it.

5. "YOU'RE A GREAT COMMUNICATOR."

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Without communication, collaborating with the people in your workplace would be impossible. A great communicator knows how to understand other people's perspectives, explain their own, and make sure they're never keeping anyone in the dark. They're also not above receiving a compliment every now and then.

6. "I LOVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM."

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For some people, getting up and going to work each day is easy: They're personally invested in the company they work for and enjoy helping it succeed. Maybe you're not there yet, but you might see this level of passion and enthusiasm in at least one person you work with. Don't let that inspiring attitude go unrecognized.

7. "I APPRECIATE YOUR TRUST."

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Effective management is just as much about offering guidance and support as knowing when to back off. Sometimes leaving employees room to breathe is the best thing managers can do to encourage growth and creativity. It's also a thankless move that often goes unrewarded. Expressing your appreciation to your manager can make a big difference in their day.

8. "WHAT A FUN PARTY (LUNCH/HAPPY HOUR/ETC.)."

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People take certain work events for granted without stopping to consider the employees who make them possible. Birthday cakes don't magically appear and after-work happy hours don't plan themselves. Behind every fun break you get from your day-to-day duties, there's a coworker who took the initiative to make it happen, and they would like to hear that you enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

9. "YOU'VE GOT A KILLER WORK ETHIC."

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We all wish we could be the employee who blows through projects without breaking a sweat. If you're not that person, the least you can do is pay the tireless person in your workplace a compliment—especially after a big project that had them tackling most of the work.

10. "YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE IS INFECTIOUS."

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Just like one pessimistic employee can bring down the whole office, a positive person can have the opposite effect. It's hard to feel grumpy about starting a new week when the colleague sitting next to you does everything with a smile on their face.

11. "YOU ASK GREAT QUESTIONS."

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Asking about something you're not familiar with at work can be intimidating, whether it's about a new policy or procedure or perhaps about the ins and outs of a department you don't usually work with. But asking for help or clarification is also the only way to learn and grow. Complimenting a coworker who asks a lot of questions lets them know that not only is that OK, it's valued.

12. "I LOVE YOUR IDEAS."

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When someone introduces a great idea at work, people often respond in one of two ways: They get upset that they didn't think of it themselves, or they admire the person for their brilliance. If you want to strengthen work relationships and feel better in the long run, we suggest expressing the latter.

13. "YOU'RE GREAT AT TAKING INITIATIVE."

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Employees who take initiative help businesses run smoothly. Managers don't have to worry about babysitting them, and their coworkers never end up picking up their slack. Next time you go into work, find the person you know who always takes initiative and compliment them for their efforts.

14. "YOU'RE VERY CREATIVE."

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Even if your job isn't particularly inspiring, you may have coworkers who find everyday opportunities to be creative. Their creativity might shine through in the form of a sharply designed flyer, a well-written memo, or an innovative solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes people who don't work in a traditionally artistic field are rarely complimented for their creativity—you can change that.

15. "I APPRECIATE YOU TAKING RESPONSIBILITY."

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Do you know someone at work who's taken responsibility—whether for a botched performance, a failed pitch, or a missed deadline—even when they could have gotten away with keeping quiet? That's not easy to do. Recognize their actions, and they may be inclined to do it more often.

16. "YOU'RE SO FLEXIBLE."

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Sure, you can promise your coworker this is the absolute last time you'll ask them to push a meeting back a couple of days or move up a deadline by a week. Or, you can compliment them on being so flexible and thank them for working around the changes so efficiently.

17. "I LOVE YOUR CONFIDENCE."

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Confidence in the workplace is hard to ignore. It radiates from everything a person does, and when you're working on a project with such a person, it can make you feel more confident as well. Let this employee know that you appreciate their poise and self-assuredness.

18. "I APPRECIATE HOW TECH-SAVVY YOU ARE."

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Who do you turn to when your screen freezes, or when the long email you spent the last 15 minutes crafting suddenly disappears? Likely, instead of running to I.T. every time, you ask a nearby coworker who always seems to have the answers. Even if they don't share their know-how for the praise, they deserve a compliment and gratitude.

19. "YOU'RE A GREAT BAKER."

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People who bake for their coworkers are a special breed. By sharing what they made with the office, it means that they not only took the time to cook with you in mind, but also that they're sharing a bit of their personal likes or hobbies with you. What better time to compliment the chef than when they bring platter of fresh cookies to the morning meeting?

20. "I ADMIRE YOUR LEADERSHIP."

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A good leader is many things, including fair, compassionate, and hard-working. But whatever qualities your manager exhibits that make you appreciate working for him or her, find a chance to let them know you commend their leadership, and that you're a better employee because of it.

21. "YOU HAVE A MIND FOR DETAIL."

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Details make a big difference at work, whether you're writing a big report or a thank you email. Sometimes the details that make the biggest impact on a project are hard to notice on their own. See if you can spot the smart, subtle details the next time you're evaluating your coworker's work, and tell them if you're impressed by what you find.

22. "YOU'RE ON MY WAVELENGTH."

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It may not always top lists of most valuable skills to take into the workplace, but empathy can do wonders for office culture. When team members practice empathy and really make an effort to understand the people they work with, they make everyone's job easier. This is one skill that definitely deserves recognition.

23. "THANKS FOR BEING SO RELIABLE."

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No matter what you do for work, it's impossible to do your job entirely on your own. Reliable coworkers you can depend on for support, guidance, and inspiration are a priceless resource. If they make the effort to show up and work hard consistently, the least you can do is show them you appreciate it.

24. "YOU'RE A REAL TEAM PLAYER."

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In order to succeed as a team, your colleagues need to have the right attitude. Maybe there's one person on your team who sets a good example for the rest of you: They know exactly when to step back and listen to other people's ideas and when to come forward with their own. Sometimes being a good team player means swallowing your pride to do what's best for the group, and that's behavior worth celebrating.

25. "YOU GIVE GREAT ADVICE."

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At some point in your career, you've likely relied on a more experienced coworker for advice. Without mentors, many of the world's most successful people wouldn't be where they are today. Never be ashamed to ask for guidance, and once you receive it, make sure to show your gratitude.

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Why Your Phone's Airplane Mode Isn't Just for Flying
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There are plenty of steps you can take to boost your productivity: You can design the perfect home office, buy an organizer, and pack your schedule efficiently. But none of that matters if you can’t help but check your phone every five minutes once you finally start a project. To avoid this distraction, Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek, uses a surprisingly simple trick that he recently shared on his podcast.

As Business Insider reports, Ferriss has his phone on airplane mode for 80 percent of his day. That includes the hours after he's finished dinner and is winding down for bed all the way through the morning hours when he's planning the day ahead.

Cutting yourself off from all calls, texts, emails, and social media isn't always practical, especially during the work day when your coworkers might need to contact you. But if you ever set aside time to be alone, either for mindful reflection, personal projects, or general downtime, the only way to make sure you're really alone is to unplug. Leaving your phone in another room or powering down all together might be agitating if you're addicted to your phone, and even on vibrate mode phones can still be distracting. By switching it to airplane mode, you can get the mental comfort of checking your phone compulsively without the actual notifications to pull you away from your task.

For some people, breaking their addiction to technology isn't as easy as activating a setting on their phone. If you're serious about reducing your screen time, try these tips.

[h/t Business Insider]

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