Communication Skills

30+ Techniques About Killing It With Public Speaking

People skills | Public speaking

The shape of great speeches:

All great speeches are in the shape of 'What is - what could be - and you call out the gap'.

- Nancy Duarte


The things speakers obsess about are the opposite of what the audience cares about. They want to be entertained. They want to learn. And most of all, they want you to do well.

- Scott Berkun, ‘The Art of Public Speaking


The 10 kinds of speeches


1. Introduction: Name and relevant details about a person/topic, told in a style that builds up their importance/or lack of.


2. Welcome: Introduction (see above) plus brief orientation - how things work, how the lay out like, and other useful tibits about the new environment.


3. Nomination: Formal kinds of speeches, focused on building up the person (qualification, experience)


4. Presentation: A bit of a welcome/introduction speech, explaining the a basic theme/idea and presenting all supporting information/arguments.


5. Tribute: Praise speeches for people/things no more in existence (dead).


6. Thanks: Repaying the kindness (praise, award, promotion, gift etc) displayed by other person/s


7. Acceptance: Where you thank you for the good words/deeds (awards etc) where you also commit to continue being worthy of their praise/belief in you etc.


8. Information: Also a kind of presentation speeches, where you present facts related to a topic using multiple media formats - text, video, images, audio, animation etc.


9. Persuasion: Also in the information/presentation mode of speech, for example, political or sales pitches/presentations using all kinds of persuasion tactics.


10. Entertainment: As it says - funny stuff, great facts, unique stories etc. People use entertainment to get their ideas across or to teach.


(Source: Changing Minds)



The Techniques


1. First, accept you need to work on public speaking


Public speaking phobia affects all of us.


According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.

- Jerry Seinfeld


Bit, when we accept something, we become ready to improve ourselves.


All the great speakers were bad speakers first.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson



'Imagine they are all naked.'


3. Record yourself speaking and watch it.


Things to watch your public speaking tape for:

- Lazy speaking habits, like ummms and aaaaws.

- Lack of eye contact (reading isn’t presenting) and presence.

- Body language issues and distractions.

- Moments when you’re confused by your own material.

- Energy level (do you seem to care about what you’re saying?).

- Personality: are you indistinguishable from a presentation robot?


4. The magnificent seven:


- Understand the purpose of your speech

- Know your audience: their interests, attention span ( 5 W –Who? What? When? Where? Why? 1 H)

- Keep your message clear and concise (Keep it Simple (The ‘KISS’ principle)

- Be prepared: get information on the topic

- Be vivid (unforgettable delivery - give examples, upbeat body language, talk slow, use variety of tone of voice, use visual aides) - Can you deliver a joke?,

- Build on your strengths: Some people have a great voice, some are great with presenting the facts (using metaphors, proverbs), some just wing it

- Detailed information is best given in Print; Speeches should deliver concepts and motivate.


Pro tip:s


A. Four kinds of audiences

- Hostile (challenge them - explain they have faulty/incomplete evidence - show how their ideas do not work - be calm)

- Critical (give them lots of supporting data)

- Uninformed (question them to find how much they know, give examples of famous names and cases to reinforce your arguments)

- Sympathetic (create a bond by showing familiarity between you two - use personal appeals - ask nicely)


B. Check out the venue in advance, if possible: Do a Google search at the very least. Once you are there, familiarize yourself. Know the guards etc as well - you need everyone's help to succeed.


5. Effective relaxation techniques: Meditating before speech; deep breathing exercises, or medicine such as Inderal (United States) that fend off hyperventilation. Or, slow everything down. Control your nerves by deep breathing and talking slowly. Apart from simple deep breathing in private (even before a stressful meting), you can relax by making faces in the washroom mirror - this reduces tension effectively.


Feeling upset? Close to tears? Breathe, Breathe, Breathe.


Repeat the 'Nothing lasts for ever' mantra.


Research by the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that instead of trying to be clam before a public performance, it is better to think of it as an exciting game (where the audience wants you to succeed as you entertain and enlighten them) - so. hum to yourself your favorite uplifitng tune and go get them.


The Prep


6. Plan and prepare your speech: People want insight. They want an angle. Make your speech relevant to them by weaving your points around people's wants, needs, hopes, and desires. People never fall asleep if they are at the center of the experience.


7. Start with a strong title. Take a strong position in the title.


8. Compress each point into a single, tight, interesting sentence. And then put up all the arguments for that point.


9. Know the likely counterarguments from an intelligent, expert audience.


10. Use cue cards to remember your speech: For example, a short outline of five or six points - often with just a few words per point.


11. Avoid pompous words that you wouldn’t use in normal conversations: Avoid the buzzwords like, 'paradigm', or 'big data'.


The Performance


12. Warm up your voice before you go: Keep your mouth loose - as if you were in your dentist’s chair.


12. 'Take the stage' before you speak: Capture their attention first by giving people time to look at you before they listen.


13. The three rules of performing: Speak louder, take stronger positions, and behave more aggressively than you would in an ordinary conversation.


14. Have a great opening, which fills people with excitement and anticipation.


Idea: Do a cold open

Try to open with something in the real world - an anecdote, a memory, an image, something that grounds your talk in the 'right now' and that skips the whole 'Here are the nine things you will learn today…' jibber jabber.


15. Set the pace: Never spend more than 10 minutes on a single point. The whole speech is one point after another, beginning and starting with an arresting summary.


Tell the, beforehand, for example, 'I have 30 minutes to talk to you, and five points to make.'


And, get to your first point within a minute if you getting on stage.


During your talk, you can also use the audience to get feedback about your pace.

(During a presentation) Ask, 'How many of you think I’m going too slow?', followed by, 'How many think I’m going too fast?' You now have real-time data and can adjust accordingly.


16. The bigger the audience, the bigger you need to be. Your voice needs to be louder, your hand gestures more dramatic, and your pace more upbeat.


17. The best way to direct attention is to tell a story the audience cares about.


Let the audience help tell your stories or show what they know: 'Anyone here knows who created Wikipedia?'


18. The simplest kind of tension to build and then release is problem and solution. If your talk consists of several problems important to the audience, and you promise to release the tension created by those problems by solving each one, you’ll score big.


Start with nailing the first problem you identify, and offer a practical or inspiring way to handle it, and the audience will stay with you throughout your entire talk.


19. Don’t tell jokes just for the heck of it: If you can’t maintain composure like a comedian, then more so. An anecdote from personal experience is better. And please don't start with laughing as you are telling the joke. It dulls the effect.


20. Don’t read your speech: It is monotonous, exposing you to disaster if you are missing a page/teleprompter breaks/computer shuts down. Instead, outline what you want to say and jot down key words or phrases. Speak to the audience conversationally.


21. Don’t scan the room: The sheer size of the audience will overload your senses - it will overwhelming. Keep your eyes focused one person or thing at a time and move across the room that way. Small rooms are preferable.


22. Watch your movements: Don’t prowl the room like a hungry tiger, sway from side to side or stand rigidly. Take a few deliberate steps to release some nervous energy if you have to.


23. Don’t grin, pout or frown: Use the ‘likeable’ and ‘trustworthy’ expressions’. Pretend you are talking to a baby or your dog.


24. Give positive statements: Instead of 'Any questions on what I just said?', say 'Is there anything you’d like me to clarify?'. Say ' I’ll always remember' instead of ‘ I’ll never forget'.


25. How to handle audience questions


- Always brainstorm a list of probable questions the audience may ask, and rank them on importance as well probability of being asked. Have clear, concise answers for these.


- Most speakers take questions at end of speech, but better ones show their confidence by asking for questions in the middle of their speech, but it may cut into the allotted time for the speech. Others take questions after each big section of their speech.


- When your hear a question, really hear it (the words, the body language, the tone, the emotion etc). And then repeat the question (this is very important) - 'So you want to know...?'


1. Even if they ask a question whose answer is obvious to all, give them a short and clear answer without any emotion, with respect.

2. If they ask an off-topic question, unrelated to the topic of the speech/presentation, answer briefly and clearly.

3. If they ask an interesting question, don't get carried away with enthusiasm, answer briefly and move on.

4. When they ask something you know is difficult to answer (lack of facts etc), acknowledge the challenge right away ('This is a tricky question indeed. But I will give it a shot, my best shot.'). Never bluff.

5. When they criticize you, don't take the bait. Be calm. Disagree if you want to ('I am sorry you feel that way.'). Or, ask them what they mean ('hmm, can you explain that in more detail?')

6. When they keep getting at you, even then remain calm, answer the question again, and move on. If they are aggressive, do not respond, and move on.


Answering audience questions

You can either answer just the question (after pausing to think up the right words), or expand on the topic ('I am glad you brought this important topic up...'), or give a mini-speech (introduction, main body, conclusion) of an underlying theme ('Now that you are all here, I also want to talk about....').


When you don't know the answer

Admit you don't know the answers. Ask the audience what they think about the issue. If it is a tricky question (you may know the answer, but you don't want to let others know, for example), answer the question with a question ('Why do you think that....', or 'What do you think about...?')


Idea: When answering a hostile question, introduce another topic: One the listener is passionate about.


26. Always remember the party rule: At parties, the best way to overcome shyness is by acting like a host. Remember, your role as the speaker is to make everybody in the room feel comfortable.


27. Watch your your Body language: Stand with your feet a little bit apart and try to occupy as much space as possible. Don’t glance constantly. It creates a situation in which nobody really feels connected to what you are saying.


28. Make your voice 'hilly' as you speak: If you change your tone and pitch, you will keep your audience engaged.


29. The easiest way to be interesting is to be honest. People rarely say what they truly feel, yet this is what audiences desire most. If you can speak a truth most people are afraid to say, you’re a hero.


30. Use silence. Listen to stand-up comedians: about 20–30% of their time on the microphone is spent in silence, often just to let the audience laugh and enjoy the last thing said, or to provide a pacing break to set up the next thing they want to say.


31. Silencing the audience: This writer's favorite method is to stand still, and look at everyone until they quiet down.

Use whatever technique that works for you. It also depends on the kind of audience.


Some audience will quiet down when asked politely ('shhh', 'alright, let's start'...).

Others are a tough crowd and you may have to be tactful but insisting.

Some try to quiet people down by being direct and aggressive.


The middle polite path is the best bet.


32. Focus on solutions: Be the 'solutions giver'. Always some out as you mean to say 'I have a plan that I think will solve these problems'. This also also helps you focus on the issue, instead of attacking people. Always be on point.


Tip: Please also read the guide to 'rhetoric and language' for tips on writing in a persuasive style.


Thank you for reading.
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