Updated: Mar 8, 2021
In the 21st Century, public speaking has become an essential skill in every career and facet of life. But mastering it is not that easy. In this blog post I present some useful tips from the most effective speakers, writers, and presenters that can help you become a better public speaker.
1. “If you can't write your message in a sentence, you can't say it in an hour.” — Dianna Booher, Author
If you don't know what's most important for your audience to know or what message you're trying to convey, it's almost guaranteed they won't either. Don't begin working on your speech without first planning out what its key takeaways will be. This purpose and message becomes your guiding star as you develop your piece. By laying out the foundations, you'll be able to develop a clear and concise speech that resonates with your audience.
2. “iPod. One thousand songs in your pocket.” — Steve Jobs, Entrepreneur
Don’t be superfluous. Don’t overcomplicate it by using big words just to make it seem more professional. Using complex language usually means it’s not going to be fun to listen to. Communicate your information in a way that is easy to understand for a common audience, just like Jobs did in his presentation. Your speech should be digestible, approachable, and simple. You can do this by killing the fluff in your writing, maintaining common language and shorter sentence structures, and prioritizing the understanding of the audience.
3. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou, Poet
Your audience doesn't know what you are going to say; they only hear what you are saying. As Maya Angelou said, they won't remember the exact words you spoke but rather how you spoke them and how it made them feel. Rely on the topic you know well. Memorize the central points of your speech instead of word for word and then expand upon them when you are speaking. This helps you connect more directly with your audience, and them with you.
4. “The most precious things in speech are pauses.” — Sir Ralph Richardson, Actor
Silence can be scary. When speaking, we feel forbidden to stop talking. So we try to rush through our speech in an effort to avoid the silence without realizing how important these pauses really are. When you are speaking about something especially meaningful, impactful, or powerful, take a breath- let the listener digest the information. Purposely silence yourself in these moments. You may think you look foolish when doing this, but you actually look professional, composed, and confident.
5. "It's incredible that you can stand on stage and speak so slowly that there are several seconds between each of your words and people... will... hang... on... your... every... word. It really works." — Simon Sinek, TED Talk Speaker
Going fast while speaking is inevitable as a result of nerves. But maintaining a steady pace, which may be slower than a conversational one, will enhance your delivery immensely. Professional speakers are often deliberately slow in their presentations. Not painfully slow, but at a pace that will encourage everyone in the room to hang on their every last word and completely grasp what they have to say, instead of rushing to catch up with them.
Now, it's time to practice these techniques. To get started, have a look at the variety of public speaking courses and workshops SPEAK has to offer!