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Techniques on breathing, eye contact and filler words

Techniques on breathing, eye contact and filler words

Since joining toastmasters, I have learned a lot but here’s my first list of three basic areas on public speaking that I think will benefit every beginner:

1. Breathing

When you’re cast into the spotlight, especially for the first time, have you ever experience one of these?

  • Dry mouth
  • Sweaty palms
  • Shaky hands
  • Jittery knees

You may even find yourself also speaking too fast and before you know it, you’ve ran out of breath.

Don’t worry, these are simply signs of nervousness and they can get the better of us at times. The good news is that you can control these by doing just one thing: improve your breathing.

Pause and take a deep breath before you speak and you’ll find that you’ll command your voice better. This will give more power and presence to your opening sentence and you’ll have achieved your goal of having a captive audience.

2. Eye contact

Your body language is important to delivering a good presentation and eye contact is the first essential technique you need to master. It helps you to
  • Build a rapport with your audience
  • Keep their interest throughout your presentation 
  • Judge your audience’s feedback through their reactions
I was first taught in secondary school that as long as I lift my eyes up from my notes once in a while, that is good eye contact. Of course, we’re no longer students in English class so that just won’t cut it anymore.

So here’s two quick tips that I’ve learned to improve this technique:

  • Let your eyes wander around the room so that you are speaking to the whole room
  • Look at specific people so that you build a real connection

3. Fillers

As a native English speaker, I’m guilty of saying the following filler words a lot: um, ah, uh and like. Toastmasters is a great place for you to practice speaking with more purpose and here’s two ways you can limit this bad habit:
  • Get an Ah-Counter: Having someone who can note when you tend to fall foul. This will help you understand when and why you do it and come up with tactics to avoid it in the future. Our Grammarian at our Toastmasters often act as the Ah-counter at our meetings so you can always practice with us.
  • Pause for thought: One of the best practices I’ve seen from others is their use if pauses. Instead of being intimidated by breaks in their speeches, they used the silence to their advantage. So next time I feel the urge to use a filler word, I will instead embrace the pause.

To put these into practice, I recommend joining a public speaking club such as our Toastmasters group. You get the support in trying out these techniques and feedback to progress further.

What tricks do you use to master these three techniques? Are there other techniques people need to also learn? I’d love to hear from you.

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