Whether you are a beginning public speaker or a seasoned one, there is always room for improvement with your public speaking skills.
In this post I’ll share how to improve your public speaking using using 7 easy-to-do tricks which helped me when I was starting out as a presenter, and continue to help me to this day.
The best place to begin is with a sheet of blank paper.
When you need to deliver a speech or presentation, start your planning in analog mode.
Start by asking yourself some questions:
- What is my topic?
- What does the audience need to know?
- How can I help the audience with their frustrations around my topic?
- What would I like the audience to do after my speech?
Next, plan out what you need to talk about in your speech. At this point, you don’t need to write lots of detailed information. Just draft the main points of your speech and supporting information.
For more information on planning your speech check out this blog post:
Throw away your script
That’s right!.. Throw it away!
To improve your public speaking ability you need to be able to speak naturally; conversationally. It’s hard to achieve a natural, conversational speech when you have learned a speech line-by-line.
Instead of trying to remember your speech word-for-word, practice delivering your speech without a pre-written script. If you have time, record yourself (video or audio). You’ll find areas where you need to elaborate and give additional information. You’ll also find areas you can cut.
To read more about how to remember your speech without using a script or cue cards check out my blog posts here:
Use PowerPoint to support you
PowerPoint is an awesome tool, when it is used correctly.
Trouble is, most speakers use PowerPoint as a prompting device. By writing bullet points all over their slides it helps them to remember what they need to say. Unfortunately this usually causes the audience to focus only on the slides. This isn’t helped by the speaker, who often looks towards the slides and talks to the screen.
PowerPoint should only be used once you know what you are going to say. At that point it’s much easier to design slides that will support you rather than detract from you.
Remember, the audience is there to see you and PowerPoint is there as your support, not the other way around.
Check out my blog posts here about how to design amazing PowerPoint slides:
Plan the first thing you are going to say
The toughest part of your speech is knowing what to say first. What can you say that will make a good impression, display confidence, and engage the audience?
Knowing how to open your speech is even tougher when it is your first time.
Here’s what to do:
- Make sure the PowerPoint slides are turned off when you first walk on stage (blank screen) and don’t turn the slides on until you have opened your speech
- Your first line should be related to what you are going to talk about in your speech. This is your hook. Ask a question or make a statement and pause. Pro tip: The first thing you say shouldn’t be “Good morning, thank you very much for coming.”
- It’s okay to talk as you walk to the middle of the stage
My blog post below goes into more detail about how to open your speech with a hook:
Leverage natural body language
When you are on stage you want to appear as confident as possible. You can do this through speaking conversationally and maintaining natural body language.
To leverage natural body language, be well practiced and know your topic well.
When you are speaking on a topic which you are familiar with, your body language will be much more natural. When I watch business-presenters-in-training, their first attempts have terrible body language during their speech followed by major improvements in body language during question handling. The bad body language is down to the presenter feeling stiff and nervous when trying to remember their speech word-for-word. It improves during question handling because they are no longer following a script.
Read my blog post on visual communication:
Be comfortable with silence
You don’t need to fill every second of your speech with words.
If you speak quickly or use filler-words your speech will be hard to follow.
Being comfortable with silence displays your confidence in any kind of social dialog, most especially public speaking.
Speak at a slower than normal pace, and don’t be afraid to pause. Where you would normally use a filler-word at the end of a sentence or ask a repetitive confirmation question, instead pause for a second or two and then move along to the next point.
Keep answers to questions short
When you get to your question and answer session you’ll be feeling relieved that the speech is over. Don’t let that relief allow you to lose focus.
Stay on the ball during Q&A and make sure you answer question succinctly.
Answering questions in a succinct manner helps to show your confidence with the topic and your confidence in your answer. It also helps to get Q&A over and done with. Long, winding answers serve no purpose other than to generate more questions from the audience.
Keep it short. If you feel an answer will take a really long time to give, consider asking if you can give a summary and defer the full answer due to time constraints.
Read my blog post about Q&A handling here: