Tag Archives: public speaking

A Guide to Public Speaking

Delivering an effective presentation is difficult. With the Internet, listeners have access to more information that ever before and have higher expectations for content from speakers today. In addition, because most people are saturated with entertainment, audiences want a presentation that is entertaining.

Here is a quick guide to giving an effective and interesting presentation:

Grab their attention.

Use a startling statement, statistic, or a compelling story. Listeners pay close attention when a person begins with, “Two weeks ago as I was driving to work a car pulled out in front of me….” Whatever technique you choose, when you grab the attention of the audience you are on your way to a successful speech.

Be energetic.

Speak with vocal variety. Slow down for a dramatic point and speed up to show excitement. Pause occasionally for effect. Don’t stand behind the lectern; move away to make a point. When you are encouraging your audience, step towards them. Gesture and demonstrate. Get your face involved in the presentation. Smile when speaking about something pleasant; let your face show other emotions as you speak. Be careful to make  your movements appropriate for your talk.

Organize and plan your speech.

Don’t have more than three main points. Start with an overview of the points. Support each point with examples, definitions, testimony, or statistics. Use visual aids and presentation software, but keep it simple and appropriate.

Use transitions.

These could be as simple as as “First,” “Second,” or “Finally.” Use an internal summary by simply including the point you just made and telling what you plan to talk about next. “Now that we have talked about structure, let’s move on to the use of stories,” would be an example. When you have an introduction, two or three main points with support for each, appropriate transitions, and a conclusion, you will have your speech organized in a way that the audience can follow you easily.

Tell stories

especially in technical presentations. Use examples from your experience that connects to your content. Stories work and have value because they help us understand. Through stories, facts and raw data gain meaning. Stories are how we best learn and visualize information. They simplify and clarify even the most complex information. They can hook an audience with emotion. Stories help people remember what they’ve heard.

Use the stories of others.

If you are delivering a persuasive speech, include the support of experts whom the audience respects. Add key statistics when possible to show the seriousness of what you are discussing. However, be careful not to overwhelm them with numbers and data.

Make eye contact.

Let your eyes speak for you – Your eye contact is the single most effective indicator that you’re involved in the conversation. You can communicate warmth or sympathy or sincerity or any emotion needed, through your eyes. Avoiding eye contact, makes you appear anxious, uninterested and bored. Your eyes speak and provide cues as to how approachable you are.

Don’t read or memorize your speech.

Be yourself; speak naturally. Whatever your natural self is: formal, “laid back,” understated, or hyper, use those traits. Talk—don’t lecture—about the material.

Use humour.

You’re not be a comedian but you’re going to lighten up a serious speech to make it more memorable. Make sure the humour is related to what you are saying and not just a joke for the sake of a joke. Don’t poke fun at your audience; poke fun at yourself. Keep it short. Experienced speakers know funny stories soon become unfunny if they go on too long.

End with a call to action.

People remember best what you say last. Summarize your main points, then make your last words a thought to ponder or an action the audience can take.

You never becomes a perfect speaker. Public speaking skill is a life-long development. The points discussed here will get you started becoming the speaker you want to be and a speaker your audience wants to hear.

Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

Mark Twain said, “There are two types of public speakers: those who are afraid and those who are liars.” For anyone who fits into one of those two groups, how do you overcome the fear and become better speaker?

You’re not going to eliminate the fear of public speaking, but you can learn to get past it. Here are 6 basic steps all successful public speakers have mastered:

Be Prepared

It’s not just the Boy Scout motto. If you really want your confidence to sky rocket, be totally and thoroughly prepared. The more prepared you are to give a talk, the more confident you become. Prepare by writing out your presentation, at the every least have an outline and rehearse it more than once. At the very least, practice your stories and be sure to have stories every time you present. Try to memorize your opening, your stories, and your closing.

Preparation means not only knowing your subject, but knowing your audience and what they need to hear. Evaluating your audience is a critical but frequently overlooked aspect of presentation preparation. When you you understand your audience and their expectations, you can tailor your presentation content, language, and style to communicate effectively. That will make you more confident that the material you are presenting is appropriate and useful to the audience.

Expect the Best

Unless your speaking in a prison, you’re not talking to a captive audience. If they didn’t want to hear what you had to say, they wouldn’t be there. Take courage from the fact that you have been asked to speak because the organizers feel you have something to say to their group.

Use Your Nervous Energy

The trick is not to get rid of the fear, but to harness and control it. Your fear is energy and you can channel that energy into your speech.

Before standing up to give a presentation, it is a good idea to try to release some of this pent up tension through a simple, unobtrusive isometric exercise. Starting with your toes and calf muscles, tighten your muscles up through your body finally making a fist. Immediately release all of the tension and take a deep breath. Repeat this exercise until you feel the tension start to drain away.

Get Out in Front

Don’t hide behind your material. When we are nervous we tend to read our speeches, focus on the Powerpoint notes and hang on to the lectern for dear life. The audience wants to connect with you. Get our from behind the lectern. The movement will help release your tension and will draw the audience into the presentation.

This is another area where your preparation comes into play. Set aside your materials and communicate a bigger story than data or facts can provide.

Don’t stare at your notes or the back wall. Connect to your audience as individuals. Look into peoples’ eyes as you speak. Make your presentation personal. Eye contact can help you relax and judge audience reaction to your presentation.

See Your Success

Don’t focus on what could go wrong. Replace that image with one of you successfully delivering your presentation. If you are using props, handouts and technology, prepare a back-up plan for anything that could go wrong.

  • Know how you will proceed if the projector breaks down.
  • Decide how you’ll interacted with the audience if they seem to be losing attention.
  • Be prepared to answer tough questions after your presentation.

Visualize a successful outcome. It is not the mistake the audience will remember, but the way you handled it.

Experience, Experience, Experience

An important factor to success as a public speaker is to speak. You can’t buy confidence on eBay. Confidence comes with experience. Get out there and speak. Building successes will lead to new public speaking challenges. You’ll be amazed at the reaction of others to your ideas, authority and leadership, when you begin speaking in public.

10 Ways to Avoid Bombing While Public Speaking

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc’d it to you, trippingly on the tongue, but if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. —Shakespeare, Hamlet

You’ve been asked to give a speech. You do your research, you prepare what you’re going to say and you practice, practice, practice.

Now you’re on stage, you’re picturing the audience sitting in their underwear and you’re ready to go. Only thing is, you can’t remember why you’re there.

For all the time you spend getting ready for a speech, things can still go horribly wrong, once you are on stage. Here are ten things you can do to avoid crashing and burning when public speaking.

  1. Stick to your plan – the following three points will always form a logical presentation: This is where I was, This is where I am now, This is how I got from there to here. Or you can use the familiar outline: tell them what you will tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them.Have a plan, rehearse the plan and stick to it. Two sentences in is not the time to decide to say something else. You are less likely to lose your train of thought if you have spent time preparing your speech.
  2. Keep it simple – Clarity is almost alway synonymous with simplicity. You run two risks by making your speech complex, you will lose audience attention and you increase your chances of mucking up what you say.
  3. Make each point clear – Don’t blend your material so as to blur your topic and make it incoherent. Make each point distinct. Use what, how, and why in covering each point.
  4. Use good English – You don’t have to be a grammar expert, but the more your presentation conforms to good language usage, the easier it will be to understand. Follow these five rules:
    1. Use a common word instead of an uncommon word: ancestor rather than progenitor
    2. Use a specific word instead of a general word: knife rather than cutlery
    3. Use a single word instead of many words: He was vague rather than the specificity of his intentions did not immediately manifest itself
    4. Use a short word instead of a long word:  bank rather than banking institution
    5. Use the Saxon word instead of the Latin word: hot rather than torrid
  5. Use emotion appropriately – Channel your stage fright into emotional energy that heightens the effect your communication. This doesn’t mean blubbering like some over-mascara-ed televangelist, or uncontrolled laughter at your own jokes. Nothing will destroy your credibility faster than inappropriate emotions.
  6. Use humour – Humour can go a long way to keeping the listener’s attention. However, if you can’t tell a joke or aren’t particularly funny, skip it. Humour that is badly used will quickly turn off listeners.
  7. Control interruptions – There will be times when you have listeners who try and control your speech with questions or comments; you may even have hecklers. Don’t allow these people to control the pace of your speech.You also need to practice skills for handling interruptions. Whether you burn the heckler with a zinger or ask the excessive questioner to see you after the presentation, you need to know how to respond. Most of all, you must never lose self-control.
  8. Make the most of a mistake – There are any number of mistakes you can make while speaking. You might get someone’s name wrong; you might lapse into a ; or just plain warble your gurds. Don’t get rattled. Apologize if you have too. Correct your error. Make a joke, if you can. Don’t dwell on your mistake: move on.
  9. End on a high note – You’ve told your audience where you were, where you are and how you got there. Now it’s time for your call to action. This is not the place to trot out or review facts and statistics. Up until now, you’ve been talking from your mind. Now it’s time to open up and speak from the heart.
  10. Finish on time – Stand up, speak up, shut up!


How to Give an Impromptu Speech

Has this happened to you? You’re attending a meeting. You’re not expecting to say anything, just sit and listen. During a presentation, your boss is asked a question about the department’s plans for the coming year. He turns to you and says, “Ian, you’ve been working on our major project for the past year. Maybe you could say a few words about how this project got started, where it stands and where it is going.”

If something like this happens to you, you don’t need to panic. If you know how to organize your thoughts, and you know your job, you’re most of the way to giving an effective impromptu presentation.

You can effectively respond by taking the following steps:

Stop and think:

Take a moment to organize your thoughts. Any topic can be split up into components. Choose a common pattern of organization. Break your topic into a pattern such as:

  • chronological sequence (e.g., past, present and future),
  • topical (try and keep to three areas, e.g., production, advertising and marketing);
  • the pro’s and con’s of an issue (useful in persuasive situations).

In the example above, a chronological sequence fits.

Start to speak:

1) Give a few introductory remarks.

Before you launch into your topic, give yourself time to get collected. Make some general introductory comments, such as, “I’m pleased to be here today to provide some information. I don’t have a formal presentation but would be happy to describe the project we’ve been working on.”

2) Develop a clear preview sentence of your main points. (Tell them what you are going to tell them.)

Tell your audience what your key points are. From the example above, you could simply say, “I would like to tell you about how we started this project, where we are today and our time-line for completing the project”, which is a chronological sequence.

3) Deliver the body of the presentation. (Tell them)

Talk through each point from your preview sentence. Having set an organizational pattern and knowing where you are going takes some of the stress out of the situation.

4) Review the main points. (Tell them what you told them)

Reinforce the main ideas you’ve touched upon by briefly restating them. Something like, “I’ve tried in these past few minutes to give you an overview of how this project started, where it is now and where we think it will go.”

5) Conclude the presentation.

Don’t leave your presentation hanging. Conclude with a strong, positive statement. From the above example, “I hope to attend next month’s meeting to report a satisfactory conclusion to our project. I would be happy to take any questions at this time.”

4 Basic Types of Speeches

The four basic types of speeches are: to inform, to instruct, to entertain, and to persuade. These are not mutually exclusive of one another. You may have several purposes in mind when giving your presentation. For example, you may try to inform in an entertaining style. Another speaker might inform the audience and try to persuade them to act on the information.

However, the principle purpose of a speech will generally fall into one of four basic types:

  1. Informative – This speech serves to provide interesting and useful information to your audience. Some examples of informative speeches:
    • A teacher telling students about earthquakes
    • A student talking about her research
    • A travelogue about the Tower of London
    • A computer programmer speaking about new software
  2. Demonstrative Speeches – This has many similarities with an informative speech. A demonstrative speech also teaches you something. The main difference lies in including a demonstration of how to do the thing you’re teaching. Some examples of demonstrative speeches:
    • How to start your own blog
    • How to bake a cake
    • How to write a speech
    • How to… just about anything
  3. Persuasive – A persuasive speech works to convince people to change in some way: they think, the way they do something, or to start doing something that they are not currently doing. Some examples of persuasive speeches:
    • Become an organ donor
    • Improve your health through better eating
    • Television violence is negatively influencing our children
    • Become a volunteer and change the world
  4. Entertaining — The after-dinner speech is a typical example of an entertaining speech. The speaker provides pleasure and enjoyment that make the audience laugh or identify with anecdotal information. Some examples of entertaining speeches:
    • Excuses for any occasion
    • Explaining cricket to an American
    • How to buy a condom discreetly
    • Things you wouldn’t know without the movies

Effective preparation requires identifying the purpose of your speech. Once you’ve identified your purpose, you can move on to the objective of your speech (coming next week).

10 ways to improve your public speaking

According to The Book of Lists, the fear of public speaking ranks number one in the minds of the majority of people. Far above the fear of death and disease comes the fear of standing in front of a crowd. I was a member of Toastmasters for a number of years. I enjoyed the applause and after effects of successful speeches, but I hated the nerves and stress that went with the delivery.

It goes without saying, great content can be ruined by poor delivery. (Okay, I said it.) It is equally true that no amount of great technique will rescue bad content. You need to develop both skill-sets to deliver strong presentations.

Here are some simple tips that can improve your delivery:

  1. Develop a deeper voice – Listen to a news anchor and practice speaking in the same way. A deeper voice carries more authority. Find some exercises to lower the pitch of your voice. A quick solution: take three of four deep breathes before standing to speak. It will relax your vocal cords and your voice will be deeper.
  2. Slow down – We tend to speak quickly when we are nervous. If you speak too quickly, people will see you as nervous and perhaps even unsure of the topic. Find a comfortable pace and practice. Be careful that you’re not too slow.
  3. Give your voice some life –  gave us the definitive monotone presentation style in . You want to avoid that example. Speak louder and softer; speak higher and lower; speed up and slow down. None of these need to be carried to extremes, but variety helps you hold the listener’s attention.
  4. Speak clearly, don’t mumble. When speaking in public, you need to exaggerate the way you enunciate words. What sounds clear to your ears, is muddy 30 feet into the room.
  5. Use appropriate volume – Match your volume to the setting. You will need less volume when speaking to a small group in a boardroom and more volume when speaking to a large group in an auditorium.
  6. Pronounce your words correctly – If you aren’t sure how to say a word, don’t use it. Be especially careful with proper nouns. You’ll turn off the audience quickly if you mispronounce the name of their town in your introduction.
  7. Use the correct words – There’s nothing that destroys your credibility as a speaker like a misused vocabulary. If you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, look it up. If you can’t look it up, leave it out.
  8. Look at people – I’ve seen speakers stare at their notes, at the back wall, at the floor, anywhere but at those sitting in the room. Make eye contact with your listeners. Don’t stare at one person, but let your eyes work the room. Make eye contact for one point, then move on to another person for the next point. You’ll look like you’re trying to connect with the audience.
  9. Gesture – with your arms, your face and perhaps your whole body. Unlock your iron grip on the lectern and move your hands and arms to emphasize what you’re saying. Let your face get into the speech: smile, frown, open your eyes wide. You’ll do a better job of communicating your passion for the topic.
  10. Step away from the lectern – or, if you’re well prepared and don’t need notes, get rid of it altogether. The lectern can be a large barrier between you and your audience. If you need it for your notes, step from side to side periodically. (Not so much that the listeners get sea sick.) The best presentation you can give is the one you know so well, you don’t need any props to hold you up. It’s just you and the audience.

In one sense these are all instant fixes. You could start using these techniques in a speech you have to give ten minutes from now. However, they’re not quick fixes. Any presenter gets better through practice. Make these tips part of your preparation process and people are going to want to listen to you speak.