7 Ways to Being a Better Public Speaker


You know as well as we do that speaking opportunities are an important part of raising How Can You Be a Better Public Speakerboth your personal profile and that of your business. But like the majority of the population the thought of dry mouths and words stumbling to get out terrifies you.

Public speaking can potentially be a career defining move but if you dread public speaking then join the club. Captivating an audience can be tricky business and usually a skill that takes a while to truly hone in on and perfect. So here are a few things to help you on your way:


Start With an End in Mind

Before you try to work out the whole script of your presentation word for work make sure you are clear on what the purpose of your speech is. Ask yourself; what are you trying to accomplish?

If you know what your purpose is it will help you stay focused through the whole preparation process and actually completing the presentation itself. Your natural inclination will be to impart lots of knowledge on your audience but it is important to resist too much and ensure that you simplify your messages. Focus on conveying a powerful idea that your audience will remember.

Memorise a Concept and Not the Entire Content

Trying to remember your speech or presentation word for word is not a good idea; you will generally only cause more problems for yourself. Memorisation lends itself to sounding over rehearsed and completely unnatural. And if for some reason your mind goes blank during your speech you are more likely to lose your place, create an awkward silence and worse of all begin to panic.

So instead focus on a few key concepts and ideas that you want to portray. Make it easier for yourself and create a list of bullet points to guide you through; think of a couple of interesting stories and anecdotes, data and key points. A looser structure allows you to speak naturally as well as the flexibility to revise stories and information during a speech based on the audience and their responses encouraging a more natural and engaging environment.

Death by PowerPoint

Just like your teachers bored you to death at school with endless PowerPoints crammed with chapter and verse, you’ll do the same to your audience if you follow in these steps.

Holding the attention of your audience is key. So, if you must use slides ensure that there are few of them and those you do use are compelling and visually appealing. An audience will likely stop paying attention to you as they can more efficiently read the slides themselves. Not only will too many words cause trouble for you audience but will likely affect your performance too. If you forget a point or cover something different than what was originally written nobody will know because they have no visual reference point.

Engage With Your Audience Before You Speak

If you have the opportunity try and meet the people you will be delivering your speech to beforehand. It will warm them up to you as well as allowing you to gage their sense of humour, a critical element if you want to inject energy, fun and perhaps rest assured if a few choice words slip. It is effective and engaging (sensing a theme here) to use your audience members as example or transitions in a speech creating intimacy.

Take a Pause

Many suggest that pausing for just the right amount of time during you speech can have profound effects on the way the audience engage with you. Stop for just 2 – 3 seconds and people assume that you have simply lost your place. Pause for roughly 5 seconds and the audience thinks your pause is intentional and begin wondering why. However, if you stop for 8-10 second and even those immersed in their phones or staring blankly into space can’t help but look up. Then when you speak again the audience assumes that the pause was intentional and subconsciously decide that perhaps you are confident and you are an accomplished speaker.

Never Do Your Prep Onstage

How annoying is it when you are sat in your seat, which is likely causing you a bit of back ache already, and the key speaker is still setting up? They’re tapping their mic, checking the remote is working, the lighting it right and the presentation is ready eating into the time they should be delivering a thought provoking speech.

So don’t be that person.

Always do your checks ahead of time. And if something does fail mid speech just smile and try to look confident whilst you, or even the event organisers, take care of the problem. Remember that the audience will be watching your reaction.

Always Repeat Yourself

It is quite likely that your audience will probably only really hear half of what you have said. And let’s be honest it is also quite likely that they’ll filter that through their own perspectives too.

So why don’t you create a structure which allows you to repeat and reinforce key points. Explain it, and then give examples (perhaps how that particular point can be applied) and then you could even provide audience action steps. Since no one will ever remember everything you say you have a much greater chance of getting them to remember when you repeat certain points.

Jump at the Opportunity

Despite perhaps being a tad scary remember that you are where you, and you have been invited to speak, because someone has faith in you and the depth and breadth of your expertise.

For more public speaking tips we suggest that you take a look at Toastmasters who offer an extensive set of public speaking tips or follow Public Speakers on twitter who provide daily advice on improving your public speaking abilities.

Posted by Paul Randall
15th May 2015