Public speaking is just like any other area that has its gurus. However, public speaking is also an area in which many fear to fail.
So, what are these public speaking tips you should know? With little effort and sufficient training you should be able to use these great public speaking tips described below:
- Approach your presentation differently from how it’s usually done
- Make a great introduction
- Make and keep contact with your audience
- Make pauses that are long enough
- Get a bigger picture and stop worrying about what others think of you
- Use humour during in presentation
- Crave feedback
Tip #1: Approach your presentation differently from how it’s usually done
You don’t have to do as others do. Always think about what you can do to become a better public speaker. If you see a speaker who is really bad, don’t just notice it, but think about how you could avoid making the same mistakes. But if you see a good speaker, think about what you have learned from their presentation and how to use these public speaking tips.
For example: it’s standard to start your presentation with the words „Hello, my name is…“ Since the main purpose of the introduction is to arise interest, think about what you can do in the very first moments of your speech to engage the audience.
Public speaking tips about possible attention grabbers
Showing a video clip
Not a single word before, just start by showing the video clip in question. A humorous video is the best option. This will definitely draw attention and, once the clip has ended, it’ll be much easier to go on.
Starting with an audio or a piece of music
I even used to start my lectures playing the guitar! My goal for those lectures was to be speaking and playing the guitar at the same time. Quite often, it ended with a quick joint singing, which, in turn, was a good morning wake-up.
Standing in front of the audience and staying quiet
Many don’t believe how effective it is. But I’ve used this technique quite often. Go ahead, smile kindly, and just stand there. Here’s a little tip – try to establish eye contact with somebody in the audience, preferrably, a buzzer.
Once done, you’ll see how quickly the rest of the audience will signal to the buzzer that it’s time to start. My practice shows that standing there quietly doesn’t usually take longer than 30 seconds to draw attention.
You can prolong the time on purpose, making the silence last… and then you start in a way that makes everyone go wow, this was amazing!
Doing something unusual
For example, don’t start speaking facing the audience, but rather do it with your back. It might be confusing at first, but works well. As soon as you have your attention, turn to the audience because you don’t want them to break their necks, right?
What I always say about everything of the above briefly is: „Whatever you do, it’s important that you grab your audience’s attention and get them hooked right from the start. You could be piling packages if needed!“
What to keep in mind?
However, you need to keep in mind three little rules when starting a speech and using attention getters:
- The ’wake-up call’ must be related to the subject
Think for yourself, what happens if you do a somersault with a cry instead of an introduction and then start without somehow connecting this activity to the subject of your presentation? Obviously, you will get attention, but the audience may think you’re a schizophrenic. So, you have to connect whatever you do to the subject of your presentation, starting from the introduction.
- What you do must relate to the audience
Let’s go back to the example of doing a somersault with a cry: even if you manage to connect it to the subject nicely, this approach may not be suitable for a particular audience. The younger audience are likely to take it as a good joke, while the older listeners may be confused, and not in a good way. Therefore, keep this in mind: „Always think about the background of your listeners“.
- Don’t pretend to be somebody else
This means that you must remain who you are in everything you do. As soon as you try to pretend to be someone else, things tend to go the wrong way. It’s particularly frustrating when the audience know the original. In other words, find your own style and adapt it to the two points above.
Tip #2: Make every effort to prepare your speech introduction
Instead of thinking about some kind of dull self-introduction or general randomness, think about how you can engage the audience from the first moments, and so on. You may be the world’s fastest man (like Usain Bolt), but if you can’t start off at the right moment, you’ll never get the medal (it happened to Usain Bolt). The medal in terms of public speaking is a presentation that engages the audience from the very first moment.
Story: During a lunch break at a public speaking training session, we were sitting in a restaurant, waiting for lunch. There was water on the table in front of us and an absolutely delicious strawberry dessert. The dessert looked just too good.
A lovely girl right opposite me sighed looking at the dessert. I wish it was allowed to eat dessert first. I was surprised by what she said and asked, „Why is it not allowed to eat dessert first“?
Thus, your introduction is like a multi-course dinner, and nothing says that you can’t start with dessert. However, note that dessert in the context of public speaking is awakening interest.
Tip #3: Establishing and keeping contact
The most important thing is to not just start with your speech, but to create good contact with the audience. If you fail to, the listeners will be numb to your speech and won’t bother listening to you. For many people, creating eye contact is a very intimate activity that you could even compare to a touch. However, this may not work out very well with the absolute strangers in the audience.
If you don’t keep contact with your listeners, your entire presentation might be at risk – the audience will feel you’re not talking to them and, moreover, you’ll be unreliable or uncertain in their eyes. So below during the next public speaking tips, I’ll outline 5 ways to better keep eye contact with the audience.
Start creating a friendly atmosphere even before presentation
When the audience start to arrive, welcome them and start a small-talk conversation. For example: “How did you hear about this presentation (seminar, event, etc.)?” You can just say something polite. The idea is to get the so-called “familiar faces in the audience”, and if you want to get support at some point in the beginning of your presentation, you’ll first look at your “old acquaintances”.
Trust me, it’s much easier to look them in the eye than do the same thing with the people you haven’t talked to yet. When you’re over the first few most nervous minutes, it’s easier to keep contact with the rest of the audience.
Imagine talking to one person at a time
Are you used to explaining to, say, a sausage seller, without worrying too much, what kind of sausage you want and how much? You can do the same when it comes to your presentation. When you look someone in the eye, imagine that you are talking only to one person at a time. When you look at another person in a few seconds, you will be talking only to them.
I can promise you that if you continue with the sausage-seller technique, you’ll be able to keep very good contact with everyone, and you will soon discover that it’s easier for you to do the presentation as well.
Use a random eye contact pattern
This means that you don’t have to follow a strict pattern, but move your gaze from group to group. As soon as you’ve established eye contact with one person, the rest of the group around the person will think that you’re in contact with them specifically.
Do not gawk at your listeners
As a rule, look for a maximum of 3-4 seconds at one person. If you do it longer, it can be uncomfortable for the person, but if you do it for a considerably less amount time, you will leave an impression of being restless and nervous.
Find people looking at you with a friendly gaze
These are the listeners who support you (with nods, smiles, etc.). You can always use their support to your advantage when you’re feeling most nervous. For the same reason, avoid people who are obviously looking at you in an unfriendly way – these characters impose extra strain on you. Moreover, it’s simply impossible to be liked by all people, and you shouldn’t aim for it.
Tip #4: Make pauses that are long enough
One speaker from Ancient Greece once summed up the fundamental truths about public speaking tips:
- Speak clearly to be heard.
- Stand straight to be seen.
- Be quiet to be enjoyable.
With the latter, he clearly wanted to point out that we don’t have to talk all the time during your presentation. It is important to make pauses from time to time. You don’t do it so much for yourself, but for the listeners – this way, you give them time to think over what you’ve been talking about and digest what’s been said. So these public speaking tips below will talk about main reasons of making pauses.
I’ll outline five reasons in favour of making pauses.
- Allow your listeners time for reflection
If your presentation style can be described as „I’ll hit the imaginary Play button and talk my 30-minute talk in 20 minutes“, your speech is most probably not very effective. This way, you’ll be inviting to listen, but the audience won’t be able to focus very much.
- Pauses during presentation help you control your speech rate
Keep in mind that the average reading speed is 200-400 words per minute, but the speech rate in terms of public speaking, only 90-120 words per minute. What’s in this information for you?
If you speak too fast, it may be difficult to understand the structure of your speech, or what’s important and what’s not, for that matter. However, if you speak too slowly, it will simply be annoying.
- Pauses help avoid filler words and voiced sounds
Indeed, the same familiar voiced sounds we all know – oh…, erm…, hm…. So, practise being quiet during pauses. This gives the audience an opportunity to better understand your story and also gives you an opportunity to catch your breath.
- With pauses, you can emphasise a point
There are things that you may not be able to express using mere words. Sometimes, making a pause instead of saying something out loud is much more effective than words. In addition, it also gives you an opportunity to engage the audience who, thinking about it, will understand what you left unsaid anyway.
- Pauses give you an opportunity to catch your breath
Don’t think you have to keep talking for the entire scheduled time. Oh no, far from it! Take some time and have a small break. You can even have some water in the meanwhile.
Tip #5: Get a bigger picture
This particularly means that you should stop worrying about what others think of you and focus on the benefits of your presentation for the listeners. Think of an even bigger picture and better worry about what the audience will remember in three days after your presentation. When making preparations, ask yourself, „What do I want the listeners to think about or do differently at the end of my presentation?“
No-one cares about what you’re wearing (if it’s not blocking your message, and that would be your poor preparation), whether you’re tall or short, chubby or lean. If you are worried about what others think of you, you are focussing on the wrong thing. Be worried about what others think of your presentation because that’s important.
You can control what others will think of your presentation
Have you ever seen a good friend or acquaintance of yours doing a presentation? Did it ever happen that their performance was a complete mess? You were sitting there for an hour, feeling bored, wasting your time and didn’t get anything out of it. What do you think of your friend? You think that „They’re still my friend, but the presentation was a complete mess!“
Note what kind of opinion you’ve just shared – your opinion on the quality of the presentation, not on a person’s personality is important. But you can control that through proper preparation.
Read also this article about “How to Give A speech Without Crying”
Tip #6: Use humour during your presentation
Next public speaking tips will talk about using humour and jokes during your speech. Using humour, your message will hit home a lot faster. Every story can be spiced up with good humour – your task is to discover how. However, I’ll outline some of the mistakes that are made when using humour during presentation.
„Well, I guess it was a joke… but it’s not funny“
It’s quite common to believe that you should start your presentation with a joke. Sounds like a good idea, right? But now think about how many times you’ve been in a situation where the speaker starts their presentation with a subtle joke that’s not funny.
As soon as the joke’s over, the audience start thinking, „Well, I guess it was a joke… but it’s not funny“. The speaker is thinking at the same time, „…but it was a good joke, why nobody reacted“? There is awkward silence, and the only thing that can be heard is the rotating fan under the ceiling. Nobody likes those situations.
Humour doesn’t mean that you should only be telling anecdotes
We all have dozens of great stories to tell. Unlike anecdotes, personal stories are also easier to tell. The audience may not know that you’re feeding them a joke, and they don’t feel obliged to laugh. Anecdotes, on the other hand, are popular, and it’s very likely that you’ll tell them something they’ve heard many times before.
Don’t start your story with „I’m going to tell you a joke!“
By saying so, remember that your audience will be expecting a joke. Unfortunately, we all know too well that often, instead of a joke, we get something awkward that only gets us to grin at best. It is better to tell your own joke as an educational story, and if it makes the audience laugh, it will be an additional benefit for them.
Tip #7: crave feedback
Feedback is something that helps you further improve your speech, even if you’re already quite happy with it. Therefore these public speaking tips are about getting feedback.
So always ask the audience for as much feedback as possible so that your next listeners become part of an even better experience.
Being praised is like sitting in a swing-chair in front of the fireplace
If you get feedback that you don’t quite like or that you think is negative, you should actually be happy. Being praised is like sitting in a swing-chair in front of the fireplace: it gives you something to do and warms you up, but it’s not getting you anywhere.
Anyone who is worth anything as a public speaker today has failed in life – probably, not even once. What distinguishes a good public speaker from a bad one is courage and desire to learn from their mistakes and use them to their advantage.
Very few people keep in mind that failure is a valuable negative piece of information that brings you closer to your goal. Failure is never a step back, but always a step forward. It is important to take the next step and analyse what went wrong and what you could do better next time. So, be ready to fail and learn from it.
The more direct feedback and criticism you receive, the more it will help you. Occasionally, it’ll make you feel bitter, but from the perspective of self-development, this is one of the best options. In addition to helping you, it will also help your audience – they’ll be able to better understand your message.
I also recommend filming your presentations, if possible. I know – watching them might be a painful experience for many, but I promise you that it’s likely to be the best feedback you’ll ever get… and one more thing – watching your presentation on tape, you’ll find it’s not that bad after all.
To sum up: 7 good public speaking tips that you should use
As you can see, those public speaking tips above are not very complicated. With little effort and sufficient training you should be able to use them and if you do that, you will see that public speaking is just like any other area, that is, the one who tries their best is better than those who don’t.
What is audience analysis? Audience analysis gives you the opportunity to get as much information about the background of your listeners as possible. Using this information, you can prepare your message so that it builds on the interests, needs, and expectations of your listeners. (full article here)
What’s the main purpose of a speech introduction? A good speech introduction draws the audience’s attention to you, raises interest and tells the listeners that something exciting is coming. But if your introduction leaves the listeners thinking, „Meh?“, you’ll find yourself in a difficult situation. (full article here)
Is public speaking really more feared than death? It depends. On the one hand, the results of the studies seem to suggest it, but on the other hand, it should be taken into account that the fear of flying, heights, deep waters, etc., are all related to death. (full article here)