Public speaking, for some, it’s an exhilaratingly fun task that requires you to work a crowd and command complete attention. While for others, it’s a nerve-wracking ordeal which can lead become awkward and exhausting. Fortunately, we strongly believe that public speaking is something you can train, understand and at the very least, become extremely capable at. Whether you’re an aspiring public speaker or you’re just looking to get past the next school project, we’ve gathered 20 essential public speaking tips to help you get past the public speaking learning curve.
Public Speaking Tip 1 – Know your audience
Know who you’re talking to. There are no public speaking presentations or techniques that will work with all audiences. Making a funny, humour filled presentation might be perfect for a classroom of students, but maybe not so much for a business pitch. Learn your audience and devise the best way to engage with them.
Public Speaking Tip 2 – Rehearse (But remain loose)
You’ve probably planned out your presentation – and that’s great! Make sure to rehearse the steps and follow a logical order. If you’re doing a presentation on different types of pasta, talk about the different types one at a time – don’t jump from spaghetti to linguine and then back to spaghetti again. (Don’t mix the pastas!)
You also need to prepare for improvisation though. Sometimes you might receive questions or lose your way through the presentation. Thinking on your feet and talking about your topic naturally will help you immensely. So keep it in mind.
Public Speaking Tip 3 – Distract yourself
In order to get more comfortable, try practising your presentation in different scenarios. Play loud music, try to talk over youtube videos. Test and challenge yourself on how well you can stay focused. This will help you memorise your content better!
Public Speaking Tip 4 – Get comfortable
Make sure you know where you’re presenting. Prepare accordingly, but make sure you aren’t putting too much pressure on yourself by amping it up. It’s going to be fine. Just know your space, and know what you’re there to say.
Public Speaking Tip 5 – Use the right words
Choosing the appropriate language for your presentation and audience is key. It might seem like a good idea to include huge, smart sounding words, but more often than not it can alienate your audience. Keep things simple. Keep things easy to understand.
Public Speaking Tip 6 – Read it slow
I’ve found that people with little experience in public speaking don’t allow themselves the time and space to breath and deliver their lines slowly. So once you’ve prepared and practiced, try reading your presentation at half the speed. This will let find the perfect gaps to pause and allow your audience to take in your words.
Public Speaking Tip 7 – Read it fast!
On the flipside, read your content fast! Try to see how fast you can successfully deliver all your content, as if you’re giving your presentation to the most impatient people on the planet. Not only will you find a new way to memorise your content, but you’ll get a feel of the correct pace and timing to use for your presentation.
Public Speaking Tip 8 – Know where to look
When you’re faced with a large crowd, you’ve probably heard it’s best to look at the back wall. This gives the impression that you’re looking at the whole audience. However – it also pays to browse the crowd occasionally. Especially when making big points.
Public Speaking Tip 9 – Find the friendliest face
As an extension of that – find a smiley face in the crowd! Nothing beats nervous tension like finding someone with a good smile.
Public Speaking Tip 10 – Prepare for questions
Almost as important as preparing for your presentation is preparing for the questions that’ll follow! Knowing your content is key to delivering quality answers. But it pays to write up some of the big questions you see coming up after you finish.
Public Speaking Tip 11 – It’s not a race!
I know I said to rehearse your presentation fast before – but on the day, allow yourself the time to change your pace and speak slow when needed. If you rush through your presentation, you’re not going to engage anyone.
Public Speaking Tip 12 – Practice projection
Voice is the most powerful tool in a public presentation. By practicing how far your voice can reach, you can influence your audience’s emotion and understanding of your words.
Public Speaking Tip 13 – Think of emotion
What are you feeling? What is your audience feeling? Different audiences and different people will be feeling different things about your presentation. Just by being aware of their emotions, you can navigate your presentation to suit their current needs a little better. Are they looking for inspiration? Do they want a laugh? Do they want something to wake them up? Keep this in mind when presenting and you’ll go a long way.
Public Speaking Tip 14 – Ask questions
Throughout your presentation, ask your audience some questions. Whether rhetorical or not, this is a good way to grab your audience’s attention. Especially if they seem to waning.
Public Speaking Tip 15 – Observe and become your favourite public speakers
My favourite of these public speaking tips. I think it’s fantastic to find public speakers, actors or online personalities that you admire. By emulating their way of speaking and engaging with people, you can make sure relinquish a lot of the anxiety that might harras when you perform like yourself!
Public Speaking Tip 16 – Notes can hold you back
It’s important to know your content, but the best way to do that is authentic knowledge. Notes – while helpful for prompts and general direction, will hinder your performance and create a barrier between you and your audience. Which is never good for an engaging presentation.
Public Speaking Tip 17 – Not a performance
Like #16, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a performance. You’re not acting to a script. It’s more like you’re having a one sided conversation. You’re exploring thoughts, questions and content, not acting along the lines of a script.
Public Speaking Tip 18 – Empower your adrenaline
The feeling of preparing a presentation, the feeling of giving a presentation and the feeling after a presentation are three distinct and wildly different sensations. Every single person feels nervous when they’re about to present, but once you begin, you can use the adrenaline from starting to really deliver some strong points.
All eyes are on you, and you’re in control. If you enjoy the exhilaration of public speaking, use it to your advantage.
Public Speaking Tip 19 – Tell stories
Telling stories is one of the most engaging ways to communicate with your audience. We are by nature, storytellers. If you can fit an anecdote to fully communicate your content, do it! You’ll find that people become far more attentive and enjoy your presentation so much more.
Public Speaking Tip 20 – Move your body
Physical communication is just as important as verbal communication. Standing completely still in one spot will bore your audience. Even if it’s just small hand gestures, get used to using your body while you talk. You’ll see that you can draw better attention to yourself this way, and in turn, your audience will enjoy your presentation more!
Whether you’re an expert or a beginner, revisiting these public speaking tips will see you becoming a master at the art of communicating with large groups of people. It’s an impressive skill to have, and worth investing your time into.
Caroline Schmidt writes the blogs for Kangan Institute. She is passionate about education, careers, and giving advice to students of all ages.