Public Speaking Tips
Tips For Public Speaking
Of course the reward is the thrill of winning over an audience—of motivating them to take action.
So whether you’re getting ready to present for the first time or you’re looking for guidance on how to up your public speaking game, we’ve rounded up 20 tips to help you give the best speech of your life. Looking for more formal and effective public speaking training? Contact us to learn more about the live public speaking training events we hold all over the country.
- Face Your Fears, don’t admit them. Unless you’re sweating profusely and pacing erratically, there’s a very good chance you feel more nervous than you look. So why announce to the crowd that you’re nervous? It serves no purpose to your presentation.
- Focus on the message, not on yourself. The reason people are so afraid of public speaking is they fear humiliation. Stop worrying so much about how you look or feel and instead focus on what you’re saying.
- Dress for success. OK, yes, this contradicts what we just said about not worrying so much about how you look, but pit stains and a big glop of chili on your tie does not make you look like a well put together person. Look presentable: Wear clean clothes, pay attention to personal hygiene, and pick the spinach out of your teeth.
- Work the room first. Visit the space where you’ll be speaking ahead of time to assess the size of the room, the sound system (if there is one), the technology available. No one wants to find out 15 minutes ahead of their public speaking event that there is no equipment available to present their Powerpoint slides.
- Know what you’re talking about. Having some knowledge or a general sense of a topic is not enough to give a presentation on it. You won’t feel confident, and everyone in the room will pick up on the fact you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Research your topic thoroughly.
- Know who you’re talking to. Knowing the demographic of your audience is extremely important; having this information allows you to tailor your presentation style and language for the people who are listening to make it most effective. You wouldn’t describe your role within a company to an adult the same way you would to a child. Likewise, the jokes you tell or references to pop culture you make can easily be lost on people depending on their generation.
- Practice makes perfect. Want to know something the pros never do? Wing it. They may make it look easy—like every word just flows off their tongue naturally, but that’s because they have spent hours rehearsing to make it look that way. Once you’ve prepared your speech, read it aloud. Then do it again and again. Practice in front of a mirror or use your phone to take a video for you to see for yourself what you look and sound like. Keep practicing until you know your presentation like the back of your hand.
- Be an authority. Not only is it easier to speak about a topic you are extremely knowledgeable about, but people will view you as an authority on the subject.
- Slow down! A nervous speaker talks too fast. Period. Take your time. If you think you’re talking at a normal speed, slow down some more (because you’re probably not). Give your audience a chance to hear and absorb what you’re saying.
- Keep your eyes on them. It’s hard to trust someone who won’t look you in the eye, and the same holds true for public speakers. Look at the people in your audience when you’re speaking. Make a connection. Reading from your notes makes you look unprepared and scanning the room aimlessly makes you look dodgy. Talk to your audience and they’ll listen.
- Move like a human. People don’t stand like a statue or wave their arms around erratically when they speak unless they’re nervous. Act naturally: Use your hands as you speak. Nod your head or shrug your shoulders. Move around and behave like you would if you were talking to a friend sitting at your kitchen table.
- Make ’em laugh. Using humor can help you make your mark. You don’t have to keep everyone in stitches the entire time you’re on stage, but a well-place joke or two shows your audience that you’re human.
- Tell a story. Nothing will get an audience’s attention like a well-told story. Stories are used around the world to sell ideas, educate, and communicate. It doesn’t matter who’s in your audience, telling a good story is the best way to get their attention. And if they can relate to your story on a personal level, even better!
- Involve your audience. Make your audience a part of your presentation by inviting them to share their stories or ideas on a topic. Allow them to ask questions. Make them feel like they’re involved in the conversation so they want to listen and participate.
- Be short and sweet. There’s something to be said for speakers who leave an audience wanting more. If you have 10 minutes to speak, wrap it up in seven or eight so there’s time at the end for questions. Don’t be the guy who didn’t know when to stop talking.
- Act confident to be confident. Even if you have no confidence at all, act like you do. Stand up with your shoulders back. Look your audience in the eye and speak clearly. Believe it or not, the more you act confident, the more confident you will feel.
- Keep it real. Be yourself and do the best you can. If you make a mistake, keep going (no one will know you missed a line in your speech but you). If you mispronounce a word, correct yourself and move on. The mistakes you make aren’t as big of a deal to other people as you think they are.
- Take a moment. Insert deliberate pauses into your speech. It gives you a chance to regroup (if you need it) and it gives your audience an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve just said.
- Change your mindset. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” If you believe you’ll give a great presentation, you will. If you think you’ll be lousy, you probably will be. Give yourself a little positive self-talk. You deserve it.
- Watch and learn. Study people who excel at public speaking. How do they gesture? When do they pause? What kinds of stories do they tell? You can learn a lot just by watching people who’ve mastered public speaking.