Public speaking is a skill that any leader should master. Still, it can be a daunting task, with many people worried they are constantly being judged or that their words are not as powerful as they would like. As with any skill, public speaking can be learned. Using these tips, you’ll be sure to make an impact whether you’re speaking to a board room of 10 or a stage with hundreds of audience members.
1. Keep It Simple
It can be tempting to use big words and technical jargon, but this can make the message difficult for the audience to understand. Instead, keep it simple. Use short, straightforward sentences that get your point across quickly and effectively. Explain complex ideas in an easy-to-understand manner and avoid confusing language.
“Getting the audience’s attention is the most important aspect of public speaking,” explains Christy Pyrz, Chief Marketing Officer of Paradigm Peptides. “Simplicity is the name of the game to ensure your audience stays engaged and understands your message.”
When speaking using business language comes naturally, it may take some practice to avoid using terminology that’s too technical. Prepare for a presentation by writing out a speech or figuring out how to rephrase common terms you may need to use.
2. Know Your Audience
Take some time to understand the audience you will be addressing. Consider factors such as their age, gender, background, interests, and education level. This knowledge will help you tailor your speech in a way that resonates with your listeners.
“The more familiar you are with your audience, the easier it will be to anticipate their needs and create a connection with them,” explains Stephanie Venn-Watson, CEO of Fatty15. Research to gather insight into relevant topics so you can deliver a speech that is interesting and engaging.”
Understanding your audience also allows you to adjust the tone and language of your presentation. You should be aware of cultural sensitivities and any technical terms or industry jargon that may require explanation.
3. Make It About Them
No matter the size of the crowd or the subject of your speech, you should always keep the audience in mind. Make sure they are the ones who benefit from your words and can gain value from the expertise you provide.
“Ask yourself what the audience needs to hear from you,” recommends Susan Kim Shaffer, President and Co-Founder of Pneuma Nitric Oxide. “Think about what questions they might have and how you can address them. Speak using language that they understand and incorporate stories or examples that make them feel connected to you and your message.”
Don’t forget to show appreciation for your audience. Let them know that you are thankful for their attention and that their opinions and feedback matter. This will help ensure that your message resonates with them and sticks with them.
4. Have a Strong Opening
Your opening is the first impression you make on your audience, whether you know them or not. It can set the tone for the rest of your presentation. Try starting with an attention grabber, such as a surprising statistic or a funny joke to engage your audience right away.
“The best way to start a speaking engagement is to speak with enthusiasm and conviction,” suggests Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB. “This shows your audience that you know what you’re talking about. They will be engaged and eager to listen.”
Try to keep your opening brief as well. You want to create interest and provide context for your presentation, but you don’t want to bore your audience with too much detail. Plan out your opening well, as it can set the stage for a successful presentation.
5. Use Storytelling
Stories have a unique way of captivating an audience, making your message stick, and emphasizing important takeaways. These stories have the potential to draw listeners in and demonstrate the values that you and your company value most.
Andrew Chen, Chief Product Officer at Videeo recommends, “When crafting a story, you don’t have to be overly creative or embellish the details. What matters is the underlying meaning behind it. Pick a real-life experience that has significance to your message and break it down in a way that’s easy to follow.”
When using storytelling in a speech, make sure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end with an obvious takeaway or lesson that ties back to your main point. This strategy can be a powerful tool for leaders to really bring their words to life and keep their audiences engaged.
6. Find the Humor
When appropriate, humor can be a great tool to engage your audience. Strategically-placed moments of humor can help lighten the mood, increase engagement, and make your audience more likely to remember your talking points.
Jason Panzer, President of HexClad offers a strategy for using humor in speeches: “To use humor effectively, you must be aware of your audience and the context. For instance, if your audience is more conservative, avoid using anything controversial or offensive. Jokes should be kept brief and relevant to the topic at hand. Avoid using jokes that are too long or off-topic, as they can detract from the impact of your speech.”
The best way to use humor is to sprinkle it in sparingly. Don’t rely too heavily on jokes. A few well-timed jokes can go a long way, but ultimately, it’s the substance of your speech that matters.
7. Be Passionate
Passion can be intoxicating. When you speak, you want your audience to feel the enthusiasm and energy radiating from you. Deliver your speech in a way that makes your listeners believe in your message.
“Demonstrate passion by speaking in an animated and engaging manner,” advises Omid Semino, CEO and Founder of Diamond Mansion. “Your words should be clear and concise but also filled with emotion and excitement. You can also use your body language to convey your emotions. Make eye contact with the audience, smile, gesture with your hands, and move around the stage, if possible.”
However, if you decide to convey passion in your speech, make sure it’s authentic to your personality. Don’t try to overcompensate for the sake of it, as it could end up coming off as disingenuous. Use passion to show your excitement and motivate your audience.
8. Use Visual Aids
Using visual aids to support your presentation is a great way to engage your audience and keep them interested. This resource can help explain complex topics straightforwardly, making it easier for your audience to understand the information presented to them.
“When possible, some effective visual aids can include infographics, slideshows, charts, graphs, and even videos,” explains Drew Sherman, VP of Marketing at RPM. “Ensure the visuals are relevant to your topic and can be easily understood by everyone. Keep any text on the visuals minimum so as not to overwhelm your audience.”
If you plan to use visual aids, prepare beforehand to ensure you are comfortable using the technology and referencing them in your speech.
9. Practice, Practice, Practice
The best way to get better at a skill and increase your confidence is with practice. Before delivering any type of speech, you should always rehearse to ensure that you are fully prepared and have a strong understanding of the material.
“Create a realistic environment by practicing in front of a mirror, recording yourself, and giving your speech to a trusted friend or family member,” Max Schwartzapfel, CMO of Fighting For You recommends. “This gives you the opportunity to identify areas where you can improve and perfect your presentation. If you can, practice in the same environment that you plan to give your speech in to become comfortable and familiar with the space.”
By taking the time to practice ahead of time, you will not only increase your chances of delivering a successful speech, but it will also help reduce any nerves or anxiety you may feel when presenting. The more practice you put into it, the more confident and polished your speech will be.
10. Enjoy Yourself
Public speaking can be nerve-wracking, but if you can enjoy the experience, your audience will too. Try to stay calm and collected during your presentation. Take a deep breath and allow yourself to get comfortable. If you are feeling anxious, take a moment to relax your body and mind before beginning. Remember, you are in control of the room.
“The key to public speaking is having fun,” Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce Luggage Storage shares. “Keep your energy up and remain positive throughout your speech. If you are having fun and genuinely enjoying yourself, your audience will respond positively to it.”
Don’t forget to smile during your speech, as well. Smiling has been proven to have a calming effect on you and your audience. Make eye contact with members of the audience to make them feel as though they are part of the conversation. Embrace it, enjoy it, and watch as your message resonates.
Ultimately, the best way to become comfortable with public speaking is to dive right in. While these helpful tricks can help you prepare, the most important tip to remember is to believe in yourself and in the power of your message. You’ve got this!
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