14 Tips For Public Speaking

“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” -Jerry Seinfeld

If you are terrified of public speaking, you are not alone. Many people’s hands begin to sweat just at the thought of speaking in front of a large audience. However, in most professions, you will probably find yourself speaking in front of a crowd at some point. Therefore, it is always best to be well prepared for when the time comes.

It’s not easy, but there are ways to set yourself up for success. The more prepared you feel, the more confident you will be in the moment, and the better you will perform. To help you nail your next public speaking moment, we have compiled a list of public speaking tips.

1. Stay Away From “The Big 3”

There’s a saying in speaking.  Unless you’re a comedian, you want to absolutely stay away from “The Big 3.” What’s the “Big 3?”  Religion, politics, and sex.

Many speakers are usually talking to a “business” audience. If you’re in the B2C world, you can definitely be more liberal in your topics. But be careful. I’ve seen many speakers cross that line, especially when posting their speeches on social media. When businesses are researching potential speakers, and see a speech that crosses the line, they might reconsider whether they hire that person.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is a crucial part of public speaking. To put it simply, the way you speak to your best friends is probably quite different than the way you speak to your grandma. Knowing your audience’s backgrounds is essential for guiding you in what you should include in your speech.

You must know how familiar your audience is with what you are speaking about. You do not want to overwhelm your audience with complex information if they are not familiar with your subject. On the other hand, you do not want to bore them with concepts they are already very familiar with.

3. Hook Your Audience

A great way to immediately get your audience engaged is to start with an attention grabber. This could be a personal story, a shocking statistic, or really anything that will quickly hook your audience. Attention grabbers are the perfect way to prepare your audience to be excited and open to your message.

For example:  When John Costigan speaks about the value of time, his opening slide says, “8/14/2041 at 1:38 pm”.  He then says, “What will happen on that day at that time?”   As you can see, it immediately grabs the attention of the audience.  People guess things such as the date the IRS runs out of money or the next Haley’s Comet.  

4. Practice Makes Perfect

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Rehearse your speech out loud several times. Even better, rehearse in front of a few of your friends.

When Tony Robbins began speaking, he spoke two to three times a day to anyone and everyone. In his words, “In 6 months I had more experience than someone speaking for 5 years. I had over 200 speeches completed. Most people only speak twice a week.”

The more you practice, the more your speech will feel like second nature. You will become more and more comfortable the more you practice.

5. Be An Expert On Your Content

When you walk into the room you will be speaking in; you want to be confident that you know your content backward and forwards. Do not take shortcuts, and put in the time necessary to be knowledgeable on all aspects of your content. Being an expert will put your mind at ease because you know you will be able to answer any question that gets thrown your way.

6. Body Language

Do not underestimate the importance of your body language. It is a good idea to practice in front of a mirror or on video. When you do this you can make sure you are using the perfect amount of body motion and facial expressions. You will ensure that you are not doing anything awkward or distracting that could take away from your message.

7. Slow Down

When people are nervous, they tend to speak very fast. People genuinely want to hear what you say, so be sure to be mindful of your speed. Take a deep breath and make sure your words are clear, concise, and at a steady pace.

8. Use Pauses

It may feel a little unnatural, but take pauses. Take them even longer than you think you should. Not only will this help you slow down, but pauses are the perfect way to emphasize an important point. It will draw your audience in and allow you to connect with them while driving home your message.

9. Smile

Don’t forget to smile. You want the audience to believe that you want to be there and that the content truly matters to you. That is difficult to do if you look miserable. Smiling will not only make the audience feel better, but it will also make you feel better.

Researchers have concluded that smiling makes you happier. You might as well fake it till you make it!

10. Look The Part

For better or for worse, people often begin judging each other the moment they see them. If you want people to trust what you are saying, it is important to look put together. This does not mean you have to be in a black tie every time you are public speaking, but be sure what you are wearing is appropriate to the event and the audience.

This goes back to knowing your audience and knowing what is appropriate for that specific situation. In general, especially when you speak to an audience, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Wear something that you feel good in, and it will give you that extra boost of confidence.

11. Visualize Your Success

This may sound silly, but it works wonders for your confidence. When you think about your speech, visualize it going well. Visualize yourself nailing the message, the audience receiving it well, and the applause. When you imagine something going successfully, you put yourself in the right headspace for it to happen in real life.

12. Leave The Audience With Something To Think About

A great way to maximize your speech’s impact is to leave your audience with something to think about or a call to action. This allows you to reemphasize your point and leave the audience with something to reflect on. What you leave them with should be at the core of your message.

13. Take Some Deep Breaths

Take a deep breath and remember that everyone gets nervous. Be proud of yourself because public speaking is not an easy thing to do. Believe in yourself, and you are more than halfway there.

14. Follow This Golden Rule

Finally, to simplify the overall speech, you want to have a framework or a process.

Here is a simple thing to remember when giving a speech:

  1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
  2. Then tell them.
  3. Now tell them what you just told them.

As hokey as it sounds, it’s great advice. What it does is provide you a very simple way of announcing what you’re going to discuss, you then discuss it, and at the end, you can include a final slide or handout with a summary.

These tips are sure to set you up for nailing your next public speaking endeavor. However, it is important to remember not to be too hard on yourself. Remember that the audience is on your side and to give yourself some grace. Even if it does not go perfectly, know that the audience got something out of it and look at it as an opportunity to grow.

The more experience you get speaking, the more confident you will become. Take every opportunity you can to public speak, and you will be surprised by all you learn and how much you will improve. Who knows, you may even learn to enjoy it.

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