If you’re looking for some of the simplest public speaking tips out there, look no further.
Try to honestly answer these questions: Do you hate public speaking? Are you afraid that no one will pay attention? Are you nervous about getting up and talking in front of strangers, or even family?
How do you win over your audience with power and confidence, rather than the usual “Erm… thanks very much for inviting me here”…
The simple truth is that your audience will judge you from the moment you start your speech and the first five minutes are crucial. Harsh I know, but very true. So it’s a good idea to start your speech with certainty and confidence. Here are 44 tips to win over an audience.
First impressions have a big impact on how others perceive you, so how you introduce yourself to others is extremely important. Many people call an introductory speech an elevator speech because it should be succinct enough that you could introduce yourself and tell someone about your goals or interests in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
It may also be called an “icebreaker” speech, as it breaks the ice and lets others get to know you. Consider your words carefully when you write a speech introducing yourself. Crafting a good self-introduction can either build or harm your credibility.
Plan And Structure Your Speech
Planning your speech is where your success begins. You can have great diction and you can have great presentation skills, but if your words and structure are all over the place then people are not going to remember what you said.
Nothing may be more important to you when giving a speech than arriving early. We’ve all seen the speaker who dashes in the door at the last minute. The technology doesn’t work, the room isn’t set up the way they thought it would be, the handouts aren’t there and everything just falls apart.
Know Your Audience
It’s as important to understand your audience as it is to understand the subject you’ll be discussing in front of them. Respecting our audience means that we have to leave our egos at home and not use their time to tell them how much we know and how great we are. Our job is to tell them how we can help them and how what we have to say will make a difference to their professional or personal lives.
Connect to yourself by finding a method to break the distance between yourself and your speaking and the nerves that you feel. You might like to head outside for a few moments or even go to the loo; find a place that is a little bit quiet and do a short breathing exercise. Focus on your breath as well as your intentions for your speaking.
Like it or not, we’re all judged on how we look. So when you’re presenting to a business audience, be sure that you know what looks professional to them. Look professional. The common-sense rule for professional appearance is to look appropriate.
Practice With Distractions
Practice with background noise. For example turn on the tv, radio, etc. to practice with distractions.
Know The Environment
You will be able to get a feel for the floor plan, and if you arrive before other speakers, you will be able to walk the stage and start to visualize the audience.
Speakers that arrive only minutes before they are due to go on are often flustered and unprepared. This carries through to their presentations and the audience will feel it. Hosts also notice the lack of preparation and professionalism, and in many cases, these unprepared speakers aren’t asked to come back.
Test All Equipment
Does the room have a sound system, and is it working? Make sure the volume is adjusted so that everyone in the room can hear you. Test the microphone in the location where you‘ll actually use it. Do you know how to turn the microphone on and off?
Do you know how to adjust the microphone stand? Different microphones pick up and broadcast your voice in different ways. Play with the microphone until you have a good idea of its range.
Remember, communication is much more about tone and body language than the words we say. The words of course matter, but emphasis comes with movement and body language. Practicing in front of a mirror is a good way to learn the proper amount of body motion, hand usage, and facial expressions.
Use The Power Of Voice Inflection
Record yourself while practicing your speech. Listen closely, and you just might be surprised by how you sound! Your speech may be perfectly written, but your tone or pitch may leave a lot to be desired. Figure out the best ways to emphasize the right words that can make an impact on your listeners.
Find time during the hour before your speech for some solitude. Get your mind right. Clear your head. If it’s five minutes before, just relax. The time for making sure you know the material perfectly has passed.
Don’t Over Prepare
If you rehearse your presentation too much it will sound like it (in a bad way). Granted, you need to be prepared enough to know what you are going to talk about but make sure your presentation flows naturally instead of sounding memorized. Usually, if you ask experienced speakers what you shouldn’t do, they’ll tell you not to rehearse your presentation too much because then it won’t sound natural.
Don’t Plan Gestures
You can come across like a robot if you deliver a message and the audience sees nothing else aside from you moving your lips. Remember, your listeners don’t just want to hear what you have to say, they want to connect with a real person. And real people gesture naturally.
Nervous and inexperienced speakers tend to talk way too fast. Consciously slow your speech down and add pauses for emphasis.
Apologies are only useful if you’ve done something wrong. Don’t use them to excuse incompetence or humble yourself in front of an audience. Don’t apologize for your nervousness or a lack of preparation time. Most audience members can’t detect your anxiety, so don’t draw attention to it.
Identify Your Goals
What are your goals? Why are you presenting? Are you trying to win business? Are you sharing your expertise? Take time to identify your goals and keep them in mind as you develop your presentation.
Make Eye Contact
Eye contact plays a huge role in a presenter’s ability to connect with their audience, and in turn, their overall effectiveness as a public speaker. Presenters who don’t know how to maintain eye contact with their audience appear unfocused and uninterested.
Presenters who do, exude confidence and enthusiasm for their topic. Eye contact is a sure-fire way to make your audience feel included and engaged.
Connecting Is Everything
The only thing your audience wants from you is to connect with you and your message. Connecting really is everything and the way to do so is by treating your audience with the utmost respect.
As you set about doing so make sure you: smile, make eye contact, be honest and open, tell them stories, be authentic and passionate. Build a relationship with your audience by engaging them, and listening to what they say.
Tell A Joke
Humor treats things lightly, even serious matters, not to ridicule them, but to keep people from taking themselves too seriously. That’s why self-deprecating humor — the ability to laugh at oneself — is the most effective type of humor a speaker can use.
Humor is almost always appropriate and appreciated in a speech. (It’s also almost always appropriate and appreciated in life.)
Every presentation expert extolls the power of stories. There’s evidence that people are hard-wired to listen to stories. When you say “ I’ll tell you a story about…” your audience will perk up. Your stories should of course reinforce the point you’re making.
Take a look at your presentation from the point of view of stories. Are they sprinkled throughout your presentation – or bunched together? Sprinkle them out for best effect.
Know Your Time Limit
Make sure you know how long you will have to present. It’s vital to know if you’re delivering a 60-second elevator pitch, a half-hour tutorial, or a two-hour presentation before you start preparing your content.
Have A Break
Pauses help engage your audience. Speaking without pauses means your audience expends all their effort just to keep up with you. Using pauses, on the other hand, gives your audience time to reflect on your words, and start making connections with their own experiences or knowledge in real-time.
Surprise Your Audience
Don’t tell your audience everything you are going to do and when it will occur. Instead of showing a detailed outline that shows exactly when an activity is going to occur, use a high-level outline that doesn’t reveal every aspect of your presentation. This way, they can be surprised by what happens and when it happens.
Conversations unfold in a series of moves or triggered associations. Someone tells a story about their dog and that prompts a response from another person about their own pet. Or a confession of sorrow gets a response of comfort. Conversations travel on a give and take, back and forth, a two-way street.
So, for example, if you need to present a list-like talk, you need to be more careful about how you move from one to another.
Talk To Your Audience, Not AT Them
People hate it when they get talked at, so don’t do it. You need to interact with your audience and create a conversation. An easy way to do this is to ask them questions as well as letting them ask you questions.
Show Your Passion
Hopefully, you’re passionate about the subject matter. Let your enthusiasm come through in your delivery. It can be contagious and the perfect way to engage your audience.
Find The Truth
Most people think that acting is about pretending, being someone else, and being a good faker. Actually, it’s all about finding and demonstrating a sense of truth in what you’re saying.
Actors are not judged by what they say, or even how they say it, but by how they make the audience feel, and how effectively they create belief in the reality of the story they’re enacting. They’re judged on how convincing they are. Successful actors do this in their own way, by using parts of themselves to bring their characters to life.
If you don’t do something unique compared to all the other presenters the audience has heard, they won’t remember you. You are branding yourself when you speak, so make sure you do something unique and memorable.
Keep It Interactive
Surprise your audience and have them physically participate. Applied improvisation is a phenomenal tool that aids in public speaking because it acknowledges your audience as active listeners and not people idly sitting and taking in information. Before presenting, think about an exercise that will either rearticulate the point you are trying to make in your presentation, or functions in the beginning as a high energy ice-breaker.
Ask questions to specific audience members and learn their names. Try to weave their names into examples that you use in your presentation. You can do a whole lot of planning, but the truth is that you can’t anticipate everything, including questions that might come up. Goodfellow stresses that it’s okay to say, “That’s a great question, let me get back to you on that.” In fact, that’s far better than stammering through and making something up.
Use PowerPoint Wisely
Like any tool, PowerPoint can be used or abused. The best PowerPoint slides are crisp, clean, and short. As a bonus, they also have good graphics that illustrate the concepts on the slide without being overly cluttered or cute. The biggest mistake that people make when using PowerPoint is to cram too much information in one slide.
The second biggest mistake they make is reading the information directly off the slide. Bullet points should be three to four words, and there shouldn’t be more than three to four per slide. If you put a quote on a slide, don’t read it out loud. It’s on the slide for your audience, not you, to read. If you need help creating a presentation, we can help.
Don’t Just Read Your Speech
Reading a speech is not a recommended way to deliver a speech. But, there are many occasions where you may find yourself in exactly this situation, whether due to the circumstances of the event or unavoidable constraints on time.
Presenting without reading off notecards or slides isn’t impossible, and you don’t have to worry about memorizing your entire speech word-for-word. You simply have to make sure you’re creating and memorably practicing content. You need to speak the way your brain is born to think. Thankfully this is the same way that people are born to listen. It’s a win-win.
Observe Great Presentations
The prospect of giving a presentation fills some people with dread, while others relish the experience. However, you feel, presenting your work to an audience is a vital part of professional life for researchers and academics. Presentations are a great way to speak directly to people who are interested in your field of study, to gather ideas to push your projects forward and to make valuable personal connections.
Once your content is in good shape, it’s time to focus on how you feel when you’re delivering it, in other words, on yourself. Of course, you’ll also have to think about what you’re saying; and you should think about the people you’re talking to, and how much they’re going to enjoy, respect, or benefit from your ideas. But keep most of your focus on yourself.
Don’t Try To Cover Too Much Material
Yes, your presentations should be full of useful, insightful, and actionable information, but that doesn’t mean you should try to condense a vast and complex topic into a 10-minute presentation. Knowing what to include, and what to leave out, is crucial to the success of a good presentation.
I’m not suggesting you skimp when it comes to data or including useful slides (some of my webinars have featured 80+ slides), but I am advocating for a rigorous editing process. If it feels too off-topic, or is only marginally relevant to your main points, leave it out. You can always use the excess material in another presentation.
Welcome People’s Opinions
We all want to be heard, in one way or another. If you’re talking about a controversial topic and you know not everyone’s going to accept your opinion, then you may want to consider hearing what other people think about the issue.
Now, the thing is it’s your presentation. You control the narrative. If you feel like the discussion’s getting out of hand or your audience’s consuming far too much time, then you can simply put a stop to it, and go back to discussing the next point in your presentation. The good news is you’ve got your audience’s attention, and they’re most likely going to be awake for the rest of your presentation!
There are no ifs and buts about it – enthusiasm is a must if you want to engage your audience! It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the most boring topic on earth. In short, your enthusiasm is going to manifest itself in your body language. So, that’s what you need to do – make sure your body language shows just how enthusiastic you are about your topic!
Know How To Work The Stage
Think of the stage as your grounder. When you outline how your content flows, your movement on the stage should follow. For example, the way we command our use of space often signals our perceptions and mindsets. If a speaker enters the stage, goes behind the podium, and stands small and tight, this can signal to the audience that the speaker thinks or feels nervous or closed-off.
On the other hand, if a speaker enters the stage with no notes, open body language, and works the entire space, it signals to the viewer that this speaker feels comfortable and this translates to comfort with the content.
Silences are not wasted time. They are necessary pockets of time your audience will use to process and understand what you’re saying. They help you to control the flow of information you’re sending to the audience.
If you were to send everything you know in one dense block of information, people would feel overwhelmed. By doing it in smaller chunks, separated by 1-2 seconds of silence, you give them time to grasp what you’re saying and remember it.
Solve A Problem
All great speeches start with a problem we all recognize—this instantly taps into a common pain that we can relate to and want to be solved. It is the problem of ‘what is’ or what is happening right now that is wrong. This captures people’s attention.
Then the speaker promises a solution to this problem—which alleviates worry and provides relief to the audience. This is ‘what could be.’ The best speeches go-between problems and solutions, taking the audience on an emotional journey.
There are many creative audience participation ideas out there. One of the most popular ones is by asking your audience to play a game. If you research your audience in advance, then you should have an idea of the type of games that’ll be a good fit for them.
Try to think outside the box. Ask yourself if the activity you’ve got in mind will help achieve the desired effect, that is, it will get people to pay attention to your presentation’s message!
Ask Someone Else To Go Up On Stage With You
One of the best presentation tricks to keep your audience awake is to pick a random audience member and ask them to go up on the stage. Of course, you can pre-arrange to have someone share their story or their testimonial, but if you want to do it randomly, that’s totally up to you.
Just make sure you lay down a few ground rules beforehand. For instance, you can tell your audience you’re looking for volunteers who want to share their insights, but they should limit their speech to a few minutes only.
Leave Something Behind
Handouts are a great way to drive home your message and give attendees something to refer to after they leave. Be sure to include your contact information and invite the audience to contact you with questions. And always attend events with a handful of business cards. Presentations can be nerve-wracking if you don’t deliver them often.
But don’t be intimidated by the process. Follow the tips here to deliver a winning proposal with confidence next time you need to get in front of an audience.
Public Speaking Tips Summary
Now you know the most basic, most important tips regarding public speaking. What about your pitch? Is it on point or it needs more work? If you think you’d need some more pointers on your pitching, feel free to check our guide here.