11 Public Speaking Tips: How to Relax, Focus, and Shine at Your Next Presentation


It could be delivering a presentation at work, giving a heartfelt toast at your friend’s wedding, or talking to your child’s class on career day. No matter how serious or celebratory the occasion, most people experience some public speaking jitters. In fact, researchers continually report that public speaking is one of the top social anxieties. Whatever the event you’re speaking at, delivering a speech that is clear, engaging, and gets your point across is key.

Here are 11 public speaking tips to help you excel the next time you have to speak in front of an audience.

1. Write It Out

Create an outline of your speech to organize the content. Even if it’s going to be a quick one- or two-minute speech, writing a focus for the beginning, middle, and end can help you hone in on key ideas you want to convey.

If you can write out the whole speech, do it. You may end up improvising certain parts anyway, but the more you can prepare, the more seamless your speech will be. Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, writes that speech preparation is especially helpful for introverts since you’ll gain a better understanding of how you’ll come across — which can increase your confidence.

2. Start Strong

Grab your audience’s attention early. You can do this by starting your speech with a surprising statistic, a joke, or an interesting anecdote. The YPO, a nonprofit global leadership community of chief executives, offers some examples of attention-grabbing speech openers:

  • Use a well-known or thought-provoking quote that is relevant to your speech.
  • Ask a “what if” question to draw in your audience.
  • Get on stage and … wait. The silent pause can draw all eyes toward you.
  • Create a one-two punch opener by combining multiple techniques. For example, open with a surprising statistic, then follow that up with a few seconds of silence.

3. Be Yourself

If you get anxious about public speaking, it could be tempting to try to emulate more famous public speakers or even fall back on just reading your speech or notecards. The lack of authenticity will come through.

Instead, Toastmasters International recommends keeping the tone conversational while embracing your own unique style. That means avoiding using overly complicated words when possible and using your written speech as a starting point, not as something you recite.

And if you make a mistake while speaking? Don’t worry and don’t apologize. The audience is rooting for you, so just pick up where you left off and forge ahead.

4. Practice

Practice goes hand in hand with the first three tips. How your speech comes across out loud compared to how it reads in your head can be very different. Practicing a speech enables you to:

  • Work out pacing and pauses for optimal impact.
  • Make sure you’re able to clearly and confidently pronounce your speech.
  • Feel more comfortable with the message you’re delivering.
  • Test drive your opening, especially if you’re going to tell a joke.

Practice in front of a mirror and in front of a friend if possible. If you need to memorize your speech, break it down into chunks and work on memorizing one part at a time. Chunking is a cognitive principle that states information is more easily stored when it is broken down into pieces. For speeches that are several minutes long, use chunking to tackle one section at a time, then weave them together in your preparation.

5. Pace Yourself

In public speaking, pace is the speed at which you speak. Talk too fast and the audience may not be able to understand you or grasp the topic. Speak too slowly and they can become bored or frustrated. The trick, according to Toastmasters, is to vary your pace. For example, speak quickly to convey urgency, or speak slowly to build tension.

You could find yourself speaking quickly even though you didn’t plan to do so. Sometimes speakers do this out of nervousness. To help slow yourself down, try speaking in a loud voice and over-articulate. Both will force you to slow down. Additionally, you can write pauses into your notes to remind yourself to take a breath and vary your pace. kopetnews.id

6. Dress for Success

While you can’t necessarily control every detail of a speech, you can control how you look. Dress in comfortable clothes that make you feel good about yourself. This helps you feel confident.

That isn’t to say you should dress down. The BBC talked to professionals in human relations and career coaching about clothing in the workplace, and the consensus was that you should observe what others usually wear in the workplace, and then put your personal spin on it. This exudes a sense of belonging while also helping you to stand out just enough to be recognized as a leader.

7. Prepare for the Worst

It might sound counterintuitive, but imagining the worst-case scenario that could happen during your speech could help calm you down. In an article for Mayo Clinic, Craig N. Sawchuk, PhD, LP, suggests that when you’re afraid of something, you may overestimate how bad it will be.

Instead, Sawchuk says, think about the worst that could possibly happen, and then think about your best possible response. Doing this has the effect of minimizing fear, which can increase your poise come speech time.

8. Tour the Space Beforehand

Don’t let a surprising venue layout derail your speech. A setup involving a podium (or lack of one), platform, or stage may seem new and jarring if it’s drastically different from where you practiced.

Before a speech, walk around the venue if you can. Touch the podium. If you are going to be holding a microphone, hold it and walk around with it before the speech. Look out into the first few rows so you have an idea of where to look as you’re delivering the speech.

9. Get the Audience Invested

If you want to keep your audience hanging on every word, get them to be active participants in your speech.

One way to do this may be to ask for some type of physical movement, such as a show of hands if people identify with something. You can even ask for people to shout out answers to a question or ask an audience member to join you on stage as part of the presentation. Just make sure that, whatever you do, it fits the subject and tone of the speech.

10. Make Eye Contact

While it may seem easier to look at the back of the room instead of at your audience, there are a couple of reasons to make eye contact instead.

According to the National Speakers Association, you want to make a connection with your audience. If you’re staring off and away from them while speaking, the connection is never made. Instead, move your eyes across the audience, stopping on individual people every so often.

Looking at your audience will also allow you to gauge the reception to your speech. This can help you figure out when to switch gears or wrap a certain point.

11. Ask for Feedback

Get better at public speaking by asking your audience for feedback. Depending on the setting, this can be done formally (such as a quick email survey at work) or informally (by asking people you trust what they thought of your speech).

Don’t get overwhelmed by feedback. Identify the areas you know you can improve, and make small changes in each speech. If you are serious about perfecting your speaking skills, join a group such as Toastmasters International, which gives you the opportunity to practice public speaking and get feedback in a supportive setting.

Become a Better Public Speaker

At some point in your life, you’re going to have to speak in front of a group. It’s not always easy, but with preparation, practice, and a realistic view of the task at hand, you can approach your next public speaking engagement with confidence and a meaningful message.

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