14 Public Speaking Tips from Leadercast #StuffLeadersKnow

Lauren Mathews

01 October 2014

In our series #StuffLeadersKnow, we give tips on how to improve the daily tasks and duties that a leader may have to face. Today, we are discussing public speaking tips! Whether you have to prepare a big speech in front of thousands of people, or you just have to speak to your team of three, we want you to be successful every time you get in front of people!

Public Speaking Tips:

  • Avoid idiosyncrasies. Meaning leave out the “ums” the loud “SO” at the beginning of a new sentence. The less you say these types of filler words, the more intelligent and knowledgeable you seem.
  • If you are transitioning speakers at any point in the speech, only the very first speaker needs to welcome the audience. The second speaker should not add in “I would also like to welcome you all and thank you for being here…”. Transitions are supposed to be smooth—just get right into your speech. Although you are just starting to speak (being the second speaker), the audience has already been listening.
  • Speak in an excited tone! THIS IS KEY. You should never speak in a “plain reading” voice. Be passionate and really enunciate your words! You will probably feel stupid the first time you try it, but it truly helps captures the audience’s attention so that they really follow what you are saying. As a side note, with American audiences, you CAN talk faster.
  • Speak with Purpose! You are speaking for a reason and you should be confident that your audience needs to hear what you are saying—you have the ability to help your audience hear your message. There is no need to apologize for speaking or apologize for “taking up their time”. You are wasting time by saying that! If you didn’t have a purpose, you would not be speaking—no need to apologize.
  • Be very careful about pauses. If you pause for more than 3 seconds, that is too long. If you do have to pause, be sure to explain why. You do not want the audience to be focused on thinking “I wonder why they are pausing for so long…”
  • If you have to apologize for something, only do it once. For example, if you have a cold (the problem has to be obvious), apologize once at the beginning and then move on. Mentioning it over and over is distracting and if you dwell, the audience will interpret your presentation as bad.
  • Speak to the audience as individual people. Use phrases such as “how do you feel about that”—don’t use “you all”.
  • It is always better to allow your audience to be active rather than passive, so if you can, ask ” what do you think…” or maybe use a poll!
    • If you do use a poll, present it by using the phrase “let’s find out together” or “I thought you might like to see…”. It makes the audience want to participate. 
  • Avoid that mouth smacking sound, by not consuming dairy or sugar before your speech.

  • Use the phrase “pay attention, this is important” to help bring the audience back into what you are saying. Audience members, can’t help but get distracted, so bring them back to focus.

  • PRACTICE in a quiet room with a door. It helps you hear yourself before having to hear yourself in front of others. It also helps you gain confidence with the material you are presenting.

In today’s world, it is common to have to speak on a webinar. The tips above absolutely apply, but keep these additional things in mind:

  • Make sure that there is not anything distracting going on in the background. This refers to visually anything visually distracting or audibly distracting. For example, make sure your dog is not barking and that no one will walk in while you are on the webinar. The idea is that if your background is plain and calm, your audience will not lose focus.
  • If you are going to have water, do not have ice. The sound of ice is very distracting to an audience—you aren’t at a bar, you are presenting.
  • Make sure the position of your microphone is not too high or too low (in terms of position) so that your voice can be clearly understood.
Lauren Mathews

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