Public speaking tips are everywhere. But if you are starting out as a public speaker, you want to make sure you get the best advice available.
I asked a wide range of professional public speakers and coaches for their best public speaking tips for those just starting out in their career.
Here are my top 10 favourite tips, tricks and ideas to improve your public speaking skills.
Never read from typed scripts.
Translator and interpreter Jonathan Downie’s top public speaking tip is that you should never read word-for-word a typed out script. Having a script can be useful to help you keep on track, but use it as a guideline. You don’t want to sound as if you are reading from a completed manuscript. Consider using bullet points, or short notes, to keep your talk relaxed and natural sounding.
Great speakers know their talk so well that their eye contact, pacing and audience interaction is spot on. You can’t do that if you’re reading your talk off a piece of paper. Read off a piece of paper and your intonation will be flat, you will ignore the audience and your pacing will be awful. You’ll lose the audience within less than a minute.Jonathan Downie
Practice and rehearse.
A simple tip from speaker, coach and presentation expert Eugenio Jaramillo is to practice and rehearse your speech until you feel confident, calm, and ready. It’s never advisable to just wing it and hope for the best.
We all know we should practice our talks. It’s amazing how many first time amateur speakers don’t put in enough time into rehearsals and practicing. After all, practice makes perfect.
Research your audience.
Juliet Landau-Pope is a coach, speaker and organisational expert, who really knows what makes her audience tick. Her top public speaking tip is to always research the audience that you will be speaking to. This will allow you to customise your talk directly to their needs.
Finding out exactly who your audience are, what they want to learn, and what kind of presentation style they respond to will really help you gain confidence and success as a speaker.
Career coach and trainer Neil Urquhart from the UK gives a great tip that can often be overlooked by new public speakers. A few well placed pauses in your talk can give an incredible effect.
Sometimes, nerves can make an inexperienced speaker babble on at high speed. By choosing the perfect place to add a pause, you can:
- Slow yourself down
- Give your audience time to think
- Add gravitas to the words you say
- Create humour, drama or tension
- Leave breathing space between different parts of your talk
When you are on stage, one second of pause can feel like a lifetime. Don’t be afraid to take things slow.
Don’t read your slides.
Marcus Cauchi is a sales training expert, working to help business people present and develop their sales in a professional way.
So many terrible business presentations end up with the speaker simply reading off the powerpoint slides. It’s boring, dull, and uninspiring. And of course, the audience can read the slides faster than a speaker can say them out loud. Don’t do it! Let your slides speak for themselves, and you should say something different!
Look for loops.
Louise Jenner is a coach, author and speaker. Her most useful public speaking tip is to make sure that your talk loops.
Find a key point that you can make at the start of your talk, and revisit it at the end of your talk. This can be a wonderful way to finish your talk and give it an impactful end. As Louise explains:
Start with something compelling and link back to it at the end. This loop closing signals to the audience that you’re finished and that they can start clapping!Louise Jenner
Keywords for personal stories.
For over a decade, David Winch has helped business owners to improve their sales.
His top tip is to remember a handful of keywords for your talk. Then, re-tell your own stories from memory, as though you were sharing them with an acquaintance.
When you tell your own personal stories your talk becomes easier to remember, and you don’t need to learn them word for word. It will make your public speaking more relatable, more honest, and more personal.
David then uses each keyword as a mental trigger for the story to tell. He then moves on to the next keyword, and the next, and the next. Pretty soon you can remember an entire 30 minute speech with just a handful of keywords.
Don’t sell snake oil.
Ivor Tymchak can teach anyone to give a great presentation. His top presentation tip is perhaps the most important of them all. Don’t try to “sell snake oil” to your audience.
It can be tempting in the heat of the moment to make wild claims, to say that something is better than it really is, or that perhaps your talk will make all the audiences problems go away.
Audiences value honesty, integrity and truthfulness. Some of the greatest speeches in the world are the ones that tell it like it is, rather than try to sugar coat the world around you.
Know your format.
Expert storyteller Trevor Perry has a great tip:
If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a speaker, speak. Find every opportunity to speak – even if the crowd is just one person.Trevor Perry
Don’t end with questions.
Andy Edwards is one of the UK’s top business and conference speakers, and he really knows how to leave the audience on a high note.
Never ask for questions at the end of your talk. Thats a guaranteed way to fizzle out. Instead, you need to end on a BANG!Andy Edwards
Andy’s technique for ending on a bang is simple. Once all questions finished or time is running out you can say “And so I’d like to leave you with this final thought….” and hit the audience with a few lines of memorable words that inspire the audience to take action!
Use these public speaking tips and you will be well on your way to mastering your presentation skills.
Thank you so much to all of the wonderful speakers and coaches from around the world that have helped contribute to this blog post. What is your favourite speaking tip? Leave it in the comments below.