Think about the greatest talk you ever watched or heard, a speech that is still so vivid in your mind years later… recall what moved you during the talk and the ideas that stuck with you. What made it memorable? Public speaking is a nerve wracking experience for most, and others appear to have been born with the talent. Yet, the greatest public speakers of our time practice more than they would like to admit.
If you are keen to hone your talent to connect with audiences through public speaking, whether small teams or larger groups, here are some public speaking tips for you.
Prepare, enhance, practice (and practice some more)
Preparing for a speech, a presentation or a difficult conversation, requires a lot of effort and practice. Writing down notes or the entire speech is recommended. Once all your ideas are on paper or on screen, leave them aside. Then revisit them with a fresh and open mind to see what can be improved. Once you are confident with the presentation or speech in hand, present it to a controlled group of people that you trust, or record yourself delivering it. Ask your friends or family members for constructive feedback and factor it into the delivery. When you watch the recording, pick up on where you could speak slower or if a point is unclear. And continue to practice, practice, practice.
Know your audience
When you speak publicly, whether to deliver a message, inform others or are inciting a call to action, knowing your audience is key. The message needs to be tailored to them, based on their existent beliefs and the behaviors that you are seeking to shift or change. Think about their pain points, what moves them, what motivates them, and then tailor the content based on these factors.
Main message and supporting points
Before delivering a talk, think to yourself, “if my audience remembers just one thing that I say, what would I want it to be?” Consider this your main message that you can then reinforce with 2 to 3 supporting messages, ideas, facts or anecdotes. Once your main idea is defined, ask yourself “why should my audience care?” This should help you further define the idea and simplify it for higher engagement and retention rates.
Keep it simple
You can deliver the finest presentation in the world – according to your standards – but if it is too complex and no one understands a word that you said, then the chances of it resonating with others is limited. Steer clear from jargon and phrases that are too technical. If you must present technical information, ensure that your audience understands what the terms mean. Also, watch out for words that are hard to pronounce or make you nervous just at the thought of saying them out loud. It is better to deliver a talk, speech or presentation that others actually understand, than you appearing to know really big words to impress them.
Remember the audience is on your side
When you go into a team meeting, sign up to watch a keynote address, or stream a talk online, you probably never say “I hope the person speaking messes up and is boring.” 9 times of out 10, the audience is on your side before you even begin, and wants to hear something new, captivating, moving or convincing. With that in mind, it is up to you to keep them engaged with how you deliver the message. With the audience already on your side, small mistakes or glitches with the projector or presentation will be overlooked. But it requires you to authentically connect with them and be yourself.
Monotony killed the audience
That isn’t a quote, but it is something to live by. Talks that are monotonous, with no variation in tone, no pauses or any sort of emotion can put an audience to sleep, really fast. You will find them scrolling on their phones or becoming agitated in their chairs. To avoid monotony, when drafting your speech or presentation highlight the main points that you really want to resonate with your audience. Make sure to emphasize them with your tone, body language or on your slide deck. Also, continually monitor the silent cues the audience is giving you. If you feel you lost them, ask them a question, make a joke (only if you have a sense of humor) or check in with them to reconnect.
Don’t be afraid to tell a story
Humans are bombarded with and consume an overwhelming amount of information every day, whether via email, through conversations, or while idly scrolling on social media. We are constantly on the search for something that stands out, a story that we can retell, an idea that inspires us. Many of the greatest talks are based on a storytelling approach. An anecdote, something personal, an idea that others can relate to. Use your authentic voice to connect with your audience, centered on your main message.
Practicing to improve your public speaking skills is key for a successful delivery. Practice in front of a mirror, a camera or in the shower. And just remember, before a big talk, speech or presentation to breathe, deeply. The majority of the audience is already on your side, make sure they stay there.
Here are some additional resources to support your public speaking journey
- Download or buy the book – Talk Like Ted
- Most popular Ted talks of all time
This article is authored by Ceem Haidar, Founder & Managing Director of -ment. She has been working alongside clients and professionals for years, to support them in their public speaking journeys.