Public speaking ranks among the top highest fears among humans. In this article I’d like to share some tips you can utilize to overcome your fear and become a fantastic public speaker.

Why Public Speaking is Important?

Before we dive in to some tips on public speaking, it’s important to understand how important the skill of public speaking is.

  • The opportunity to speak in front of an audience is frequent. You can’t go too long without the opportunity to speak.
  • You have the unique opportunity to educate, inspire, and entertain when you speak. You can change opinions, cause action, and ultimately change the world. Next time you have the opportunity to speak view it as a calling.
  • Public speaking is one of the most effective ways to establish your credibility and maintain your reputation.

Preparing For a Speech

Preparation is crucial for a successful speech.  I suggest you read articles, listen to podcasts, write content, and talk about your topic with other people. This will help you continually prepare for you to speak at anytime with little to no notice.

For example, when you’re in the middle of a presentation you can say, “I was talking to a colleague the other day about his small business and what he’s finding in the financial sector is….” This is very effective and I’ve seen a lot of success doing this.

DO NOT USE NOTES. Your audience did not come to attend your speech to hear you read. “But Adam, what if I need to quote something word for word?” Memorize it. If people wanted to attend a speech where people read notes they would go to their local library for story time. Don’t use notes. Never ever ever use notes. Notes are gross.

Delivering the Presentation

wedding cake
Yumm, wedding cake. (This is actually my wedding cake from 10 years ago)

To me public speaking can be compared to getting married. When you start a relationship with your audience you’re asking them to marry you, then you have to keep them interested, and then by the end of your speech you’re already celebrating your 10 year anniversary. This brings us to the outline of your speech.

When you deliver your speech it should have the following outline based off the number three. Three is the easiest number for your audience to retain information and easy to stay on track when speaking.

  • 1) Introduction
  • 2) Body
    • Main point 1 <- each main point can have up to three supporting points. But that’s it, stop there, don’t get crazy. Three is your max.
    • Main point 2
    • Main point 3
  • 3) Conclusion

Introduction: In the introduction you tell your audience what your going to tell them, in your body you tell them, and in your conclusion tell them what you told them. Simple. No need to step outside those parameters.

The introduction serves as the marriage proposal and wedding of your speech, it’s the way to grab the audiences attention and kick off your relationship. Get them scared, get them worried, get them excited, get them a Diet Coke, whatever it is; GET THEM.

Body: The body serves as the first couple years of marriage of your speech, your introduction was the wedding, now you gotta keep your audience interested. Weave elements of your introduction through the body, remind them why you got married in the first place.

Conclusion: If the body is the first couple years of marriage, the conclusion is the 10 year anniversary. You’ve spent time together as a couple and it’s time to celebrate your relationship with a bang. Close your speech with a call to action, give your audience control to act on what you just delivered, and drive home the message you just gave them.

Avoid saying ‘thank you’ as the last think you say to your audience. The last thing you say to your audience needs to smack them in the face and stick hard. Here are a couple alternatives:

  • “During the time I’ve spoke to you today 10 children will go without dental care. And today by following the steps I’ve shown you, we can change that forever.”
  • “You now know the importance of a video strategy for your brand presence on Facebook. You can’t live without it and I invite you to start this week by publishing your first video following the steps I’ve shown you today. I believe you can do it and you’ll see great things for your brand.”
  • “Now that you know three ways to enhance your job search it’s time to act. Go out there and do great things. Your time is now!”

Do’s and Don’ts of Public Speaking

Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do during a speech.

  • Do not apologize or gripe about being asked to speak. You absolutely turn off your audience when you say, “I can’t believe I was asked to speak today.” or “I’m sorry I’m not more prepared and a better public speaker.”
  • Avoid crying. One trick you can do if you feel emotions coming on is to look up. No seriously, look up. When your eyeballs go up they block your tear ducts. This is a common practice and one thing that you’ll see someone crying often do without knowing why they do it.
  • Don’t use notes. You need to know your material well enough that you should never have to read note cards. They are terribly distracting. Not using cards will accelerate your public speaking skills.

Here are some do’s for public speaking.

  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Make sure to pay attention to the speaker before you or something happening during your speech. If you use the same joke the speaker before you used, that’s really bad. If the lights are flickering on and off while you speak, you’ll want to pause until it’s fixed. Some of the best opportunities for humor are just by addressing your surroundings.
  • Talk with people BEFORE and AFTER your speech. I gave a presentation to a board of directors once. The average age of the audience was 60+ and the majority of them were skeptical about social media. Instead of waiting for my presentation to sway their opinion, I found one of the older gentleman in the crowd and made friends with him. During my presentation I referenced our conversation and little did I know I had chosen one of the most influential members of the board. The audience bought into what I was talking about not because I had smart things to say but because the audience had a lot of respect for this board member.
  • Make it interesting! One thing I always bring with me to smaller audiences is Peanut Butter M&M’s. I make sure to advertise them as part of the presentation and people really love it. I even use them as a reward if people engage and answer questions. At first they act like they don’t want them, but about 10 minutes into your presentation they’ll be reaching for the bowl. Every time. This also eases potential tension is a sneaky way of breaking the ice.

Stop Being Afraid of Public Speaking

The days of pretending your audience is naked to overcome the fear of public speaking are over. You need to practice and practice often. There isn’t a quick fix to be a good public speaker. I know you can progress in your public speaking no matter what level you’re at. I believe it’s one of the most important skills to have.

What are some tips you live and die by to be a good public speaker?