I’ve given 100+ speeches from Alaska to Miami.
Still, I don’t consider myself to be a good public speaker. Nerves sink in every time. It’s not something I enjoy doing because I don’t think the format is beneficial for everyone in the room. As such, I’m an “as needed” public speaker.
With that said, I had to learn the hard way on how to improve my public speaking skills. I’d love to be a better public speaker, so I asked Terkel for public speaking tips.
How Can You Be a Better Public Speaker?
From bringing summarized notes to being yourself, here are 13 answers to the question, "What are your helpful tips for being a better public speaker?"
- Avoid Scripts, Carry Pointers Instead
- Record Yourself and Watch the Video
- Share Your Experiences
- Go to Your Local Toastmasters’ Chapter
- Let Passion Be Your Guide
- Show Your Expertise on the Subject
- Evaluate Other People's Presentations
- Convey Your Message With Nonverbal Communication Skills
- Use Personal Stories to Connect
- Learn How to Pause
- Practice in the Mirror
- Engage Your Audience
- Be Confident and Authentic
Avoid Scripts, Carry Pointers Instead
Always carry notes while giving a speech. There's nothing wrong with looking at your notes occasionally to ensure you have missed nothing. The best speakers in the world do it, and you can, too. But the one thing you should avoid is carrying an entire script.
In the middle of the speech, looking down at the script and trying to find your place in it will only leave you confused. Besides, with the whole script in hand, you'll refer to it repeatedly, breaking the connection with your audience and turning them off.
Instead, carry notes with essential points of your speech. Look into them only to ensure you haven't left out anything important. This will have you looking into your notes less often and help you engage your audience better.
Record Yourself and Watch the Video
The best piece of advice I can give someone who wants to become a better public speaker is to record themselves and watch it back.
This will allow them to see their body language, how they pace themselves, their eye contact, and any other gestures they make. They can then use this as a baseline and make improvements as they go.
Share Your Experiences
If you want to deliver public speeches that are captivating, hold the audience's attention, and leave them feeling inspired and uplifted, there is one valuable piece of advice you should follow: share your personal experience.
This trick has multiple benefits! It transforms you from an educator to a storyteller, which helps engage your audience on a more emotional level. Sharing your own story allows you to become more invested in your speech.
Speaking about something that has affected you personally taps into your emotions and makes your speech more passionate and interesting. Incorporating your personal experiences into your speech shows your expertise and allows you to use practical and real-life examples.
Overall, sharing your personal experience in your public speech can improve your delivery and make it more impactful and memorable for your audience.
Go to Your Local Toastmasters’ Chapter
This is one of the biggest public-speaking organizations in the world, so odds are you have a chapter close enough to your residence to make going fairly easy.
This is a great venue to practice your public speaking, listen to others practice theirs, and both give and receive critiques in a safe and consequence-free environment.
I can't recommend it enough for those who are looking to get more comfortable, confident, and just overall better at public speaking.
Let Passion Be Your Guide
It's been said that no one should speak if they aren't passionate about the message they are delivering.
Therefore, it's important to focus on the gift that you're giving the audience. Doing so takes your mind off of yourself. Think about how much you long for the crowd to learn or get the knowledge that you can deliver! That's what matters! Think of yourself as a vessel!
Share Your Expertise on the Subject
As someone who has made many presentations to large groups, the major tip I would offer on becoming a better public speaker is to be an expert at the content you are delivering. It's key to start by thoroughly researching what you're communicating so that you are truly an authority on the material.
When speaking in front of a crowd, there's nothing worse than being called out on not knowing what you're talking about. Be sure to practice your presentation also before getting up in front of people so that it sounds smooth and well-planned. Having a good handle on your subject and being comfortable in delivery will be an effective public speaker.
Evaluate Other People's Presentations
I've been involved in Toastmasters International for a long time. The curriculum and practice are great. The best part is the evaluations segment. When you give a speech, you can get some great feedback from other members.
But if you want to really understand how to be a better speaker, then give an evaluation of someone else's speech. You'll actively listen, paying attention to their words, body language, vocal variety, and other attributes. You'll also follow the way other people choose to structure their presentations.
From there, you'll elevate your own awareness of what works and what doesn't, and you can apply these lessons to your own speeches. I've taken these skills and applied them in my professional life beyond giving presentations.
Part of my work includes media training and one-on-one presentation training for company spokespeople, political candidates, and others. Every session is a learning experience for them, and for me.
Convey Your Message With Nonverbal Communication Skills
One of my favorite tips for becoming a better public speaker is improving your nonverbal communication. Your body language, facial expressions, and gestures can have an enormous impact on how you connect with your audience and how they receive your message.
One technique you can use is to record yourself speaking and then watch the video on mute. By removing the distraction of your voice, you'll be able to focus on your body language and identify areas for improvement.
You can observe your posture, hand movements, and facial expressions and adjust them to better align with your message and enhance your delivery. Good nonverbal communication should include eye contact, positive facial expressions (be emotive!), good posture, and using hand gestures to emphasize key points.
Tell Personal Stories to Connect
In marketing, mastering the art of public speaking is a crucial skill, and I've always found the use of personal stories to be soothing to the speaker and the listeners. Personal stories, whether about the speaker, the audience, or just about anyone else, have a unique way of connecting people.
To the speaker, these stories allow them to talk about familiar anecdotes and situations, enabling them to relax and gain the confidence they need to speak comfortably. To the audience, they serve as a bridge built upon common ground, enabling them to connect with the speech and gain confidence in the speaker.
Also, personal stories serve as a perfect premise for whatever topic one may plan to expand upon, thus creating the ideal foundations for speeches.
Learn How to Pause
When a speaker says "um," "uh," and pauses often during a speech, it can show a lack of confidence or even knowledge of what they’re talking about. Pauses, however, shouldn't blind your brain.
Quite the opposite; public speakers should know pauses and their power during a speech. At the right moment, pauses can bring attention back, enhance a point, and leave a lasting impression.
Practicing when to pause for effect can give you time to think about your next talking point and also give the audience time to absorb what you’ve already said.
Practice in Front of a Mirror
If you want to get better at public speaking, I think the best method to do so is to talk in front of a mirror as much as possible. The more you practice, the more you will feel at ease and competent in front of an audience.
You can practice in a variety of ways, including practicing in front of a mirror, filming yourself and watching the playback, and even practicing in front of friends or family. When practicing, I believe it is critical to pay attention to your body language, tone of voice, and delivery.
To keep your audience engaged, employ natural gestures and motions and vary your tone and tempo. It's also a good idea to practice your opening and closing statements, as these are the parts that will have the most impact on your audience.
Engage Your Audience
Engaging your audience is essential for making a great presentation. Asking questions or soliciting comments throughout your speech is one approach to accomplish this.
This keeps your audience interested and allows you to assess their comprehension and alter your message as needed. Another effective technique to engage your audience is to use storytelling or personal tales.
This can help your message become more relatable and memorable. Make eye contact with members of your audience and use their reactions to guide your performance.
Be Confident and Authentic
Be yourself and speak from the heart rather than pretending to be someone you're not. Showing confidence also entails being at ease with the content and having faith in your abilities to provide an excellent presentation.
Focusing on your skills and accomplishments is one method to enhance your confidence. Remind yourself of your previous triumphs and the qualities that make you an excellent public speaker. Before your presentation, take deep breaths and employ relaxation techniques to help reduce your nerves.
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