Ced operated a marketing communications agency for 18 years before retiring in 2017. He now devotes his time to online writing.
A public speaker is literally up on a pedestal, subject to the scrutiny and judgment of a large group. Any mistake will not go unnoticed. In some cases, it might even be magnified and unforgotten for a long time.
When books discuss stage fright and anxiety, what they are referring to is thus the dread of impending humiliation. A speech giver crippled by stage fright doesn’t fear the audience. Instead, he fears the widespread mockery resulting from slip-ups and bloopers.
There are many ways to manage stage fright; a humorous and well-known technique is to imagine the audience naked. Effective as these methods might be, they do not remove the actual “threat,” this being the blunders that invite ridicule in the first place.
To put it in another way, effective public speaking goes far beyond managing fear, the larger and tougher tasks being to communicate with, impress, and convince the audience.
To put it in yet another way, strengthening your content and streamlining your presentation style vastly minimizes the risk of gaffes and screw-ups. Properly executed, you will not have any reason to fear speaking to a crowd. Anyone, including you, can be a great orator.
How to Be an Effective Public Speaker – 25 Tips, Skills, and Techniques
- Use Cue Cards
- Effective Public Speaking Always Engages
- Don’t Get Carried Away
- Don’t Speak Without Rehearsing
- Don’t Dress Inappropriately
- You Need to Know Your Audience
- You Need to Know Your Topic
- Be Mindful of Your Opening Content
- There Is No Need to Fill up Every Second
- Use Storytelling Techniques Carefully
- Be Conservative with Metaphors
- Give Your Audience Something to Go Home With
- Know That There Are Three Types of Speeches
- Do Not Overload
- Inform, Don't Simply Tell
- Be Comprehensive
- Avoid Being Too Technical
- Limit Your Objectives
- Avoid Fallacious Arguments like the Plague
- Forecast Audience Resistance
- Structure is All Important
- Adapt to the Audience
- Do Not Hog the Limelight
- Don’t Forget the Importance of Background Information, When Applicable
- Remember to Thank the Occasion, If Necessary
For easy understanding, the following techniques and tips are divided into:
- Style Tips: Tips and techniques involving proper delivery of a speech.
- Content Tips: Suggestions on how to craft an easily understood statement.
In other words, speechwriting tips.
- Informative Speech Tips: Areas to pay attention to when presenting information, processes, instructions, etc.
- Persuasive Speech Tips: Important things to note when convincing an audience to support your viewpoints.
- Special Occasion Speech Tips: What and what not to do when speaking about a special occasion.
Refer to Tip 13 for descriptions of the three types of public speeches.
1. Use Cue Cards (Style Tip)
One of the worst things to do when giving a public speech is to read from a script. Vice versa, it is also needlessly hazardous to entirely depend on memory. The proper technique is to use cue cards.
Cue cards. Neatly prepared written or printed reminders containing your main points.
When you read from a script, the only thing you accomplish is isolation from your audience. Your attention is occupied, denying you opportunities to read and respond to the reactions of your audience.
Worse, you might fumble with your script. Just imagine yourself looking away for a moment, or sidetracking to answer a question, then realizing, oh gosh, you can’t find the line you stopped at. All that’s before you is a dense sea of words.
Likewise, depending on memory is needlessly perilous. You can never entirely predict the circumstances during your delivery. Tension or environmental factors could overwhelm you. Or you could lose your train of thought after being interrupted.
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To minimize the risk of the above-mentioned crippling situations, use cue cards instead. Write down your key points and practice speaking about those points. Doing so inherently forces you to understand your content, which is an important and beneficial end goal.
With practice, you might even be able to improvise because you are no longer dependent on pre-prepared content. You can do so because you have achieved mastery of the content. Your speech is just the channel that delivers your message.
2. Effective Public Speaking Always Engages (Style Tip)
A speech is in essence, public communication. As the term implies, this needs to be a two-way process for it to work. Effective public speaking is thus not just a robot droning a prepared statement. It is a successful conversation between one person and many.
There are many ways to accomplish this conversation, or “engagement,” as expert orators call it. Eye contact is foremost, this itself another good reason why you should never read from a script. (See tip 1).
Appropriate pauses are also crucial. You want to allow your audience time to digest your message. Also, not impress upon them that you are insensitive to their reactions.
Additional delivery techniques include spontaneity and scrutiny. For example, you should constantly check your audience and when appropriate, throw an impromptu question or a joke, or invite feedback.
The crux of it, it is communication. You want to give your audience the impression that you are not talking down to them. What you are doing, instead, is establishing a mental connection.
3. Don’t Get Carried Away (Style Tip)
Never, ever, get carried away when delivering a public speech. You might think you are speaking with passion. In reality, your audience will quickly find you incomprehensible and comical. Worse, your agitated body language could come across as threatening.
Moreover, getting overly worked up stresses your system, setting you up for that nasty, nasty pitfall of not being able to respond to ad-hoc situations like requests for clarifications. You can’t respond because you are so lost in your own heat.
In summary, stay composed. Speak evenly and clearly throughout no matter how agitated you feel. Do not rant or shout into the mic; static electronic feedback is a massive turn-off.
Don’t roar, shriek, growl, thump the podium, curse, crush your cue cards, or whine either. Theatrics like these only work in the hands of the most competent orators. They certainly wouldn’t work when your head is clouded by fervor.
4. Don’t Speak Without Rehearsing (Style Tip)
I’m not just referring to rehearsing the actual speech or presentation, that’s elementary. I’m referring to props, especially electronic props.
Think about it. Ever had that situation when your laptop suddenly freezes because of some unexpected update? Ever been in the middle of a slideshow when abruptly, something happens, and no matter what you do, you cannot continue the slideshow?
Know your room, as is said. In the context of effective public speaking, this includes the things in the room that you are working with. Not only must you be utterly familiar with them, you should also factor in contingency measures because no prop is ever entirely dependable.
While at that, evaluate whether the equipment you are using is so complicated they suck away your audience’s attention or add to your burdens. For example, slides packed with so much information, your audience would be too busy deciphering them to hear what you’re saying.
Finally, never use props that require numerous assistants. Each person you add to the show exponentially increases the chance of blunders. In many cases, a trio is already too many.