If you want to see all of the best public speaking tips in one place, then you’ll LOVE this guide.
After extensive research, we’re bringing you 135 ideas and resources that will make you a better speaker.
Let’s dive right in!
There are many fear types and management strategies, but in order to overcome your fear, you’ll have to get to the root of the issue. To tear down a tree, you dig up the roots—you don’t waste your time with the leaves.
Great opportunities lie just beneath your fears. Fear is valid, but it doesn’t get the final word. Yoda says, “Fear is the path to the dark side.” So let’s get that sorted out.
When you speak up, you stand apart. Eons ago, when separating from the group decreased your ancestors’ survival odds, fear kept people together and safe. Public speaking isn’t dangerous, but when fear activates your amygdala, it triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response.
We’ll help you identify and navigate through unhelpful thought patterns (neuroplasticity) or create neurological pathways to navigate in spite of fear (neurogenesis). If you’re curious, feel free to skip ahead to Affirmations.
When you take the stage, you are physically on display. Every flaw, word, and idea you share is presented on a silver platter, ripe for judgment.
When you look at a birthday cake, you don’t see the flour, sugar, or eggs. Like a baker, you consider every piece as you construct your speech, but your audience only sees the finished product.
When you present your ideas, you’re susceptible to being caught off guard. Unfamiliar faces, untimely interruptions, and technical difficulties are intimidating enough without being stared at by strangers. Familiarity feels safe because we know what to expect.
Solution: Acquire details ahead of time. Prepare well in advance for any challenging elements.
When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. No matter how you slice it, you’ll never feel confident speaking if you haven’t done your due diligence to prepare in advance.
Study. Practice. Be willing to fail. And feel free to skip to tip #13 for advice on preparing well.
Physical: Adrenaline can cause a rapid heartbeat, nausea, high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, facial flushing, headaches, and a nice layer of sweat. Your body responds physiologically to fear, so you channel stress through clenched teeth or balled fists.
Verbal: Symptoms include stuttering, stammering, or tripping over your words. Sometimes, you can’t get a word out at all.
Non-Verbal: You might resist or engaging during social events, avoid volunteer opportunities, or evasively recommend a colleague for a presentation instead of accepting the opportunity.
Everyone is affected by some combination of the fears listed. Identify the physical, verbal, and nonverbal signs that fear is holding you hostage. Share your fears with someone you trust. Tell them your plan to work through it, whether that involves yoga, mindfulness, better hydration, or hiring a professional coach. Then follow through!
Many scientific studies conclude that the more you do something, the better you get at it and the less scary it becomes. Go live on social media, download a public speaking app, or raise your hand to speak at a networking event.
If you’re nervous because of an important situation or influential individuals in the room, write out the worst case scenarios and ways you can handle them. That way, even IF they come true (which is usually unlikely), you’ll be able to stay calm and follow your plan.
It’s not a sign that your speech will flop. The same adrenaline that makes your hands clammy also makes your mind more alert. Welcome your heightened awareness without resentment. It will help you avoid a dreaded panic attack.
Common fear differs from diagnosed social anxiety disorders. Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking or speaking in general; read more here.
Take this brief test: Screening for Social Anxiety Disorder. If you’re concerned or struggling with extreme anxiety, see a licensed counselor or psychologist who can provide personalized guidance. There’s no better investment you can make than one in your health, well-being, and success.
If your fear is creating significant stress, it’s time to seek help. Signs include depression, anxiety, irritability, memory and concentration problems, low sex drive, compulsive/addictive behaviors, and mood swings (according to Healthline). There’s no shame in getting help—you’d be one of millions in the U.S. alone. In fact, over a quarter of the Americans (27% to be exact) have sought counseling.
Proactive Coping: It’s the “process of anticipating potential stressors and acting in advance either to prevent them or to mute their impact” (American Psychological Association). Gather helpful resources, name potential problems, and examine your options (Health Psychology).
Social Coping: Lean into your social support network. Be clear about what you’re looking for from friends and family members. Support includes emotion (empathy/encouragement), tangible means (material/financial), information (advice/guidance), or companionship (shared presence).
Humor: It’s the omnipresent solution to deflating your stress. Laughter increases endorphins while reducing “stress hormones like cortisol [which then reduces] stress, depression, anxiety, and fear. It elevates mood, increases energy levels, improves memory and alertness… improves your cognition, and encourages creativity” (Behavioral Health Clinic).
Negative/non-coping: Techniques can be as simple as avoidance or as complicated as substance abuse. It temporarily relieves symptoms but delays the inevitable, making fear stronger. If public speaking creates stress, be honest with yourself and figure out why. Resist the urge to run from it.
Take stock of your body through meditative breathing. Notice where you carry tension, and release it. Relax your tense shoulders, tight neck, clenched hands, and furrowed brow. External relaxation calms our minds and reduces anxiety. Curious about body language? Head to Category 7: The Secret Sauce: Leveraging Your Body Language.
Strengths: What do you already do well when speaking? Read through strengths via the Strengthsfinder Gallup Test. Here’s a sample of the 34 listed strengths:
Analytical: searches for reasons; considers factors affecting a situation.
Context: enjoys thinking about the past; understands the present by researching history.
Positivity: has contagious enthusiasm; gets others excited about their ideas.
Weaknesses: Where can you improve? Remember that our flaws and imperfections make us human. Read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.
Opportunities: What technique do you want to learn more about? Do you have a favorite speaker who already does it?
Threats: What truly sabotages your public speaking? Are your threats external (boss/supervisor) or internal (self-talk)? Contact us for help here.
Improving as a speaker is a process; overnight success is a myth. Some amount of discomfort exists during any skill development. Remember the first time you used a can opener? Awkward, right?
Clinical psychologist Noam Shpancer, Ph.D., explains habituation this way: “Nervous system arousal decreases on repeated exposure to the same stimulus.” What’s familiar becomes boring. Most people (ineffectively) try to cope by avoiding challenging situations, but avoidance prolongs the problem by preventing habituation. “Therefore, avoidance guarantees that the feared object or situation will remain novel, and hence arousing, and hence anxiety provoking.”
When you avoid public speaking, that fear overflows into other areas. If you avoid raising your hand in class, you’ll speak less at the dinner table, and eventually you’ll miss opportunities to present your ideas at work.
Psychological: Exposure provides feelings of “accomplishment and empowerment… Every time you confront your fear you accumulate evidence of your ability to cope (I did it yesterday; I can do it again today).”
Behavioral: Exposure “helps develop skills and mastery. Mastery decreases the chance of failure and reduces the need to worry.”
Emotional: “Anxiety problems are, at their core, a ‘fear of fear.’ Most people who fear elevators or planes know these objects are not dangerous... they fear the sensations of fear itself” (Noam Shpancer, Ph.D.).
The negative opinions you think others have of you are based on fear, and fear rarely corresponds to reality.
People speak to themselves with words they wouldn’t dream of saying to their friends. If someone else spoke to you the way you talk to yourself, would you put up with it?
Your thought patterns outside of speaking are the ones you bring in. If you’re critical of yourself, you’ll evaluate your presentations harshly. Audiences rarely critique speakers as harshly as we critique ourselves.
There’s no way around it: you need to know your talk inside and out. Proper preparation diminishes fear. Record yourself reading your speech aloud. Spend extra time on the trouble spots.
Beta Test your talk: try it out with friends, colleagues, or family members. You can even Beta Test with pets, although they seem to give less constructive feedback…
Practice using the props or equipment that you’ll use in your speech.
Practice your speech like it’s a sport: “With a sport [you train] your body and mind to achieve feats of skill—building your muscle memory with repetition… Get it out of your head that you have to ‘perform,’ to be someone else, to be fascinating, to hold their attention like a Johnny Depp or a Natalie Portman. To be a better public speaker, you just need to get out of your own way, so we can see you for who you really are.”
For some, the fear of public speaking is up there with death: The 2017 Chapman Survey of American Fears ranked dying 48th and public speaking 52nd.
Mandy Gonzalez performs on Broadway in Hamilton, but “when she can’t sleep before a big performance, she draws three columns on a piece of paper. The first column has her fear. The second column has the worst thing that could happen if that fear came true. And the third column has the best thing that could happen.” - HBR.org
Some people struggle to quiet their jitters whereas others must amp themselves up. Either way, successful public speakers struggled (and often may still struggle) with the same fears that you do.
Mel Robbins combines the 5 second rule with an anchor thought, which is a thought that stabilizes your brain.
“Action cures fear.” - David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy." - Dale Carnegie
Merriam Webster says it’s “a feeling or consciousness of one's powers; the quality or state of being certain.” Confident means “full of conviction; having or showing assurance and self-reliance.” What resonates? What would you add to that definition?
You can’t start at the top. All buildings are built from the bottom up, and the foundation takes the longest. If your confidence is found externally (hinging on others’ opinions), it will always be at risk. Like the foundation of a house, it will take time and effort to build confidence. However, it’s one of the most worthwhile endeavors you could ever undertake, and we’re here to help you.
Affirmations redirect negative thought patterns. Over time, neural pathways make us think the same thoughts repeatedly. Affirmations rewire our brains to help us think positively and behave confidently. According to this article, “Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired; neurogenesis is the even more amazing ability of the brain to grow new neurons.”
Affirmations are a form of meditation in which we can dwell on encouraging thoughts instead of the ones that weigh us down. Learn more here.
My imperfections make me unique, not defective.
I’m doing my best, and that is enough.
I’m worthy of respect and acceptance.
My ideas matter and my contributions are valuable.
A powerful, expansive body position changes body chemistry, making people feel and behave confidently. For example, people who sit in high-power positions feel more powerful than their low-power pose counterparts. For more, head to Body Language.
At BostonSpeaks, we have a female client who shared,
Try the Goldilocks approach. With too much confidence, you’ll seem egotistical, unrelatable, and unpleasant. With too little confidence, you’ll be a doormat. There’s a reason we have a backbone but not an exoskeleton.
“Too much ego, and you won’t be vulnerable enough to connect with your audience. Too little ego, and you won’t earn your audience’s trust enough to deliver your gift.” - HBR.org
You’ll feel more comfortable when you know what to expect, but you’ll never know what to expect if you don’t try. You won’t feel 100% confident your first time up front. You aren’t supposed to, and nobody else does either. It’s okay.
Action - Little accomplishments stack up. It can start with making your bed.
Integrity - Make choices based on your values, especially when nobody is looking.
Progress - When it comes to success, improvement is worth 10x more than perfection.
Competence and capability - What do you want to learn?
Failure - It’s an opportunity disguised in disappointing clothes. It’s your best and greatest teacher.
Managing external factors is a fine place to start building confidence, but it’s a terrible place to finish. Untouchable confidence can only come from within because there will always be factors beyond your control. You’ll know that your confidence is growing when:
No matter what’s happening out there, you can stay steady.
You attract other confident, positive people.
List 10 ways you want to be seen. Circle the top 3, then define each one. Captivating, confident, authentic, passionate, comfortable, knowledgeable… You pick.
What do those words look like if you act them out in charades? How do they sound?
Write your three words on a notecard. Carry it with you in your wallet.
Who are your favorite speakers? How would you describe them?
Watch them on YouTube with the sound off. Their body language likely matches your perception of them. If they are peaceful, their body language is calm.
How is the seating arranged? How does it affect the energy in the room? Are people openly engaging with one another and you? Is it an academic setting or more relaxed? Are people moved emotionally, perhaps even to tears?
It’s about packaging. Your dress must match your message.
Once, a preacher showed up at church dressed as a homeless person. He didn’t smell or look great. Nobody recognized him or greeted him. When it was time for him to take the stage, the audience was silent. The pastor used his attire because he knew his physical appearance was evaluated by those around him. And yours is too.
Pitching a product to a group of executives necessitates different dress than teaching first graders. When in doubt, go a bit overdressed. Your audience sees you before they hear you, and it only takes 3 seconds to form an impression.
To seem personable or foster unity, keep your palms up and toward your audience.
How close are your feet? A narrow foot position suggests congeniality while a wide stance indicates authority and assertiveness. For more body language tips, click here.
It’s not just the vehicle for your speech; it’s your superpower. Your voice can make people believe you, trust you, and want to be friends with you. Work on:
Power - how loudly or softly you are speaking
Pitch - like a musical performance, don't play the same note the whole time.
Pace - faster or sl..o..w..er... Change it up to keep your audience interested.
Pauses - if you pause, your next word will have more impact.
Prepare with a tongue twister: 1. Read it normally. 2. Say it louder or softer. 3. Change your pitch. End a sentence like a question? Or like a statement. 4. Say it faster. 5. Add a long pause.
Running out of breath? Slow down. If your pace prevents you from getting enough oxygen, your audience can’t keep up anyway. - PeterMargaritis.com
The moms of the world were right: good posture is everything.
Proper breathing allows for good projection (volume), perceived confidence, and better oxygen in the blood flow to your brain so that you can concentrate.
Your audience won’t be more invested or focused on your speech than you are. Write outside distractions down and deal with them after your speech, or try meditating.
A distracted mind is subtle but obvious. Your audience can read your face, body language, and slight changes in your voice. If you’d rather be somewhere else, so would your audience.
The success of your speech hinges on your ability to connect. Meeting audience members beforehand means friendly faces in the crowd and higher engagement. Connecting afterward makes you look confident, accessible, and invested in your topic/content.
It’s like being photogenic but for speakers. "Turn it on" like you’re at a job interview or on a first date. Be your best self.
A sincere smile indicates a positive and powerful state of mind, which transfers profoundly to your presence. It also releases hormones that calm and stabilizes you internally.
Your audience depends on you to set the tone. If the atmosphere of the room isn’t ideal, it’s your responsibility to change the temperature. Combine several tips to command the room. For example, combine a smile, a pause, and palms up. What’s the result?
The secret to warmth is empathy. Think of three things you approve of about your audience.
Think of all the things you’ve overcome to get to this point, and consider how many things each attendee has overcome to be where they are, too.
Start working on your presence one area at a time: outward persona, inner state of being, connectivity to others, or personal credibility.
Remember the tortoise and the hare? The hare wanders while the tortoise keeps a straight path. When communicating, most people are like the hare. The hare and the tortoise represent a chaotic mind and a calm mind.
Do you remember the last time you were in the presence of an impeccable communicator? They were probably not speaking like a rabbit running in circles.
What is essential? Make sure every part of your speech supports those words. If it doesn’t...
If something doesn’t support those 10 words, snip it. You may like an idea best, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. Pool ideas together and let the best ones win.
“Kill” sounds aggressive, but if you cut all the content you should, you’ll get it. Archive those thoughts elsewhere; they might work for your next speech.
Your audience isn’t a landfill, and you aren’t a dump truck. This isn’t a venting session or a verbal encyclopedia; it’s an opportunity to add genuine value to others’ lives.
Actress Helena Bonham Carter said, “Imperfection is underrated.” Perfection is overrated. Be you. Be weird. Be original.
If you feel flustered, take a moment and a breath. Take a few notes before speaking. Then, when you do, be concise. People appreciate thoughtfulness and resent excessive rambling.
If you’re stuck, pass the hot potato back to the audience. Ask them a question. Tell them you need a moment to think in order to phrase something well.
If you don’t know your subject, either ask questions or don’t chime in at all. People have strong BS radars. It’s not worth sacrificing your credibility to impress people. Remember: “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Are you addressing executives, parents, or college graduates? Is the average audience age 15 or 51? What’s the education level? Knowledge of socioeconomic and demographic information will help you craft your speech to best serve them. For more, go to Category 6.
Memorize your introduction and conclusion. Besides that, bring notes. They help effective speakers stay on track and organized. If you are dependent on notes, though, it looks unprepared. Just glance.
Keep It Simple, Stupid (or Keep It Stupid Simple) was first implemented by the U.S. Navy to discourage unnecessary complexity. Don’t try to impress people with unfamiliar vocabulary. A good speaker never leaves their audience in the dust.
You shouldn’t have to speed up to share everything in your given time slot. If you’re worried, cut some material. Create space for pauses. Going over your allotted time isn’t an option.
According to VirtualSpeech, consider whether you’ll give demonstrations, how knowledgeable the audience is on the subject, how interactive you want it to be, time constraints, and setting.
Pick the organizational structure that best serves your message. Here are a few:
Categorical/topical (information chunks)
Spatial (how things fit physically, like countries or bodily organs)
Chronological: time-based (world history)
Causal (take a cause and explore effects, or take an effect and explore causes)
Greeting > Intro > Body > Conclusion > Thanks/Q+A
Here are some quick formats from Matt Button:
STAR: Situation > Task (what you did) > Action (how you did it) > Result
Pros > Cons > Recommendation
PREP: Point, Reason (back up point), Example (back up reason), Point (again)
“It’s great because…” (Why is the product valuable?)
“It’s necessary because…” (Why do they need it?)
“You won’t have to deal with…” (What problems does it solve?)
“Watch this.” (Show them how it works.)
“There’s more! It will also…” (What else can it do?)
Support your introduction with three points. Support each of those with three facts, details, or stories.
Don’t do it earlier, or your intro may sound separate from your core message. Everything that matters must be in the introduction, so it’s best to add it last.
How should your audience feel when you’re all done?
Pick the result you want, then pick the approach that leads there. You can’t drive a Ferrari from Boston to London, and you wouldn’t take a jet plane to cross the street. Pick the best fit based on your intended result.
Goals: Think of three goals your audience may have. For example: A client wants to work on communication skills. Why? They need to land a job. Goal: land a job.
Emotions: How will they feel when you stand to speak? Have they been looking forward to this, or would they prefer not to be pushed too hard after a long day?
Meet/Exceed Expectations - Are they looking for a 5-step formula? Do they just need some hope? When you know what they need, you’re really onto something.
Create a short video or give a well-written intro to the person introducing you. It increases credibility, builds anticipation, and confirms you’re worth listening to.
The biography: a personal experience or a decision-making breakdown
The crystal ball: speculate or predict the next steps after an event
The discovery: find an underlying thread
The explanation: may describe a process, idea, concept, or product/service
The history lesson: explore studies or recognize trends; learn from the past
Get to the point. Share your conclusions, but don’t deep-dive into the minutiae.
Represent data visually. Avoid convoluted charts or crowded numbers. Nancy Duarte recommends making numbers relevant by comparing them to familiar objects.
Pick a strategy that matches your content. Captivate your audience quickly, but don’t sprint to the meat of your speech. Try to memorize the first 30 seconds of your talk.
Attention spans are evolving: “the firehose of content we face each day is forcing us to become more selective about what we devote our attention to.”
The article continues, “Catering to this choosier, modern-day attention span is difficult, but not impossible… [winning] content features a compelling narrative combined with stimulating visuals and dialogue.”
If it’s for you, just give the speech to a mirror. Don’t write a word until you’ve learned as much about your listeners as you can. Ask others about your audience, creating surveys to see what they want, and research them online.
There are four types. Pick an approach to match their needs.
A hostile audience doesn’t want to listen.
A critical audience is intelligent and enjoys disproving your points.
An uninformed/apathetic audience may be familiar with the basics of your topic.
A sympathetic/friendly audience is eager to listen.
Peers: Superiority create enemies. At best, they’ll disengage. At worst, you’ll lose their respect. Instead, give them credit. The workplace isn’t a zero sum game.
Supervisors: Always speak to their needs before yours.
C-Suite: They do not have time to waste. They appreciate a thoughtful, brief speech over an elaborate performance. Find tips to keep it short in Category 4.
If you’re presenting in a meeting, you may see all four personality types.
The Owl (analytical/thinker): logical, thoughtful, methodical, critical, organized.
The Eagle (director/driver): decisive, assertive, action-oriented, impatient, bold.
The Dove (amiable/supporter): connector, supportive, values peace, friendly.
The Peacock (expressive/promoter): engaging, visionary, creative, enthusiastic.
Avoid wording that could suggest discrimination toward age, gender, religion, ethnicity, class, job, and education.
Thoughtful: Will you meet their needs? Honor their time (be punctual and brief).
Authentic: Connect with the people you meet without conditions. Being yourself means that your fans genuinely like you for you, not for a facade you put up.
Generous: Are you willing to give even with no guaranteed ROI? Being generous often doesn’t cost you a thing! Be generous with praise and gratitude. A note, share, or referral shows your appreciation.
Andrew Sobel, author of Power Relationships, says: "You can't operate with reciprocity in mind. If you go around with that mercenary attitude, people will think you're a self-interested schmuck."
Visual/Spatial (pictures and images)
Physical/Kinesthetic (move and touch)
Auditory/Musical (hear it or make a song)
Verbal/Linguistic (say it or write it)
Logical/Mathematical (reasoning and systems)
Social/Interpersonal (learning in groups)
Solitary/Intrapersonal (working alone/self-guided study)
Nope. Do your best and forget the rest. Adapt, but don’t shape-shift and pretzel-twist into someone else. Connect kindly, but stay authentic.
Notice the audience’s volume, movement, laughter, and facial expressions. Gauge their feedback and adapt. Go off script if you need (as long as you can bring it back).
Self-disclosure triggers the reward centers in the brain, and this predisposes us for the “I/me” trap. Instead, address your audience as “you” to make individuals feel as if you are speaking directly to them, or use “we” to build a sense of community and shared interest.
It’s contagious! If you’re giving a speech, you have something worth sharing. The more enthusiastic you are, the more curious and engaged your audience will be.
Think of times when these tips, featured on Business Insider, worked for you without your conscious awareness:
Mere exposure: spend more time around them
Spontaneous trait transference: give compliments you want to be associated with
Emotional contagion: stay positive and people will be happy around you
Pratfall effect: reveal your flaws/share your mistakes periodically
Similarity-attraction effect: affirm shared values
Reciprocity of liking: act like you like them, and they’ll probably like you back
The Steeple: You’ll seem intelligent and confident with your hands in a triangle shape (fingertips touching). Fun fact: blind children naturally use The Steeple when they feel confident.
Palms Up: To seem personable and foster unity, keep your palms up.
Cut: Slice through the air assertively to add "umph" to your words.
Outside the Box: Hands typically stay within an imaginary box. Bring your hands outside the box to add emphasis.
Staring is creepy, but scan the audience to help them feel connected to you. You’re not an astronaut, so stop staring into space. Even if you’re on topic, you’ll look disengaged.
Don't just look at the audience with your eyes; turn your feet toward them and they’ll feel your presence. A narrow stance seems congenial while a wide stance is assertive.
42 muscles in your face portray emotion. Primary facial expressions are nuanced by combining different facial muscle groups. Take a video of yourself practicing, but watch it back on mute. What do you notice?
People can read others’ facial expressions in as little as 17 milliseconds. Heard of RBF? Make sure you don’t have it. Keep a pleasant look about you.
Move around to seem more friendly and personable to your audience. Stand in one place to seem more authoritative.
Smiling is the arch-nemesis of public speaking anxiety and the shortest distance between you and your audience. For the audience, mirror neurons in their brains make them smile back. So, just like yawns, smiles are scientifically contagious.
Your smile demonstrates friendliness, sincerity, and confidence. It makes you and your speech more accessible.
When we feel uncomfortable, we take up less space in an act of social self-preservation. Instead of hiding behind the podium, gesture or hold an object. Before taking the stage, strike a power pose to increase your confidence.
“Our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.” - Amy Cuddy
Power poses raise testosterone levels and lower cortisol levels. This leaves you feeling confident, capable, and less stressed.
Up to 90% of communication is nonverbal. Kinesics is an entire field of study dedicated to interpreting the meaning of body position. Proxemics is a related field centered around the human use of space in communication.
For example, you face someone squarely during a private conversation. To open up the conversation, you face slightly away to create an opening.
During your speech, don’t face straight forward the whole time. “Sing a few songs” to the people in the wings.
There are five ways gestures contribute (from The Importance of Effective Communication):
Gestures reinforce words. (As you list items, count them on your fingers.)
Gestures contradict words. (Engage in conversation but with feet turned away.)
Gestures substitute for words. (Give a celebratory high five.)
Gestures complement words. (A spring in your step augments an eager greeting.)
Gestures accentuate words. (We’ve all seen the classic hand-in-palm fist slam.)
Talking is an ability; storytelling is an art. Great speakers inspire audiences through memorable stories. Facts wrapped in a good story are 22x more memorable.
Brains like stories; in response, they release dopamine (feel good), cortisol (healthy stress to help us focus on the story), and oxytocin (human bonding).
When audience members aren’t listening to a story, their thoughts are scattered. When the story begins, their brain waves sync up, uniting your audience.
Time/place: Years ago, I worked at a dance studio in Boston and lived nearby.
What’s happening: One day, I found out my boss lived three doors down.
Reaction(s): Later, I smelled weed. I thought the smell was coming from her door!
Actions taken based on reactions: I asked her the next day if she smelled weed in the hall. She said, “Yeah, it’s the new kid next door. He also orders pizza at 7 am.”
Lesson learned: Don’t assume without fact-checking.
Importance for the audience: When we write emails to clients, we assume what is best for them. We shouldn’t. We need to listen before we suggest solutions.
There are many different settings for speeches and different types of audiences, but if you’re pitching a product or speaking to professionals, your stories can’t be tangential.
There are “numbers-people” and then there’s everyone else. Don’t cut out your research, but listeners will better understand and remember your data if it’s easier to chew. Skim through this short article about making facts more digestible.
Pictures are worth way more than 1,000 words: our brains process visuals as much as 60,000x faster than text. Consider using a clear infographic or a brief video.
For more tips, visit The Ultimate Guide to Visual Storytelling
Pose yourself as the guide that helps the hero (your audience) solve a problem. Give them a plan that calls them to action, and share the inevitable results: wonderful ones if they succeed and tragic ones if they fail.
What originally inspired you to discuss your topic? What has amused you lately?
How has your life been impacted? Consider personal history and daily experiences. Recall an important parable or person who has influenced you.
Share about an article, book, TV show, or movie that made you think.
Incorporate a metaphor or analogy.
Choose the best, most suitable story for your audience.
Use details and descriptive words for sensory and emotional engagement.
Include suspense and conflict to capture attention.
Everyone loves a reason to smile. Plus, laughter contributes to attraction. You don’t need your audience to fall in love with you, but you do need their undivided attention.
Most people can’t distinguish between the two. This metaphor might help: think about playing a song on the piano.
The song you play is like persuasion: it lasts briefly but can evoke applause, a standing ovation, and tears. The ten years it took you to learn piano in order to play that song is like influence. Persuasion happens in the moment. Influence develops over time.
You’d respond differently to a stranger offering a free iPhone than your close friend. You’re more easily persuaded by someone you trust because they already influence you.
Healthy influence requires a long-term investment. The dictionary says it is “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.” If someone will allow you to change them, you have to build significant trust first.
Whether you use appeal to logos (logic), ethos (credibility), or pathos (emotion), persuasion is less about convincing and more about winning people to your side.
Persuasion is affected by consequences, incentives, past success, others’ approval, a plan to overcome barriers, and modeled behavior.
The more influence you have, the less persuading you do. Think of people you admire and respect. They probably do very little persuading. They've already won you over at a deeper level.
If you alienate them, they will neither listen to you nor respect you. They didn’t show up at your talk to have fingers pointed at them.
His idea, The Golden Circle, consists of three concentric circles: the outer one is What, the middle one is How, and the center one is Why. Ineffective speakers start with what and move to why, but people are more inspired and persuaded when speakers start with why.
Legitimate: people make demands and expect compliance (like a judge or CEO)
Reward: people compensate someone for compliance (like raises or promotions)
Expert: people draw power from credibility based on high levels of skill
Referent: people are respected for their beauty or worthiness (like celebrities)
Coercive: people punish others for noncompliance
Informational: people control information others need to accomplish something
According to this article, “Persuasion is presenting a case in such a way as to sway the opinion of others, make people believe certain information, or motivate a decision. Influence is having a vision of the optimum outcome for a situation or organization and then, without using force or coercion, motivating people to work together toward making the vision a reality.”
Use these 12 Charisma Leadership Tactics
The nine verbal tactics include analogies, stories , contrasts, rhetorical questions, three-part lists, expressions of moral conviction, reflections of group feelings, high goals; and confidence that those goals are achievable. The three nonverbal tactics are animated voice, facial expressions, and gestures.
We’ve all felt unheard, whether it was by a self-consumed boss, a determined telemarketer, or a bad first date. Did you want to listen to someone who disregarded you? Don’t leave your audience feeling unheard or misunderstood. Don’t just make noise; make an impact.
Are you listening to understand rather than listening to respond?
Are you open to changing your mind?
Are you aware of what is not being said as well as what is being said?
Are you aware of any differences and similarities between you and the speaker which may influence how you listen?
According to The Art of Public Speaking by Stephen Lucas, these include:
Appreciative listening: listening for pleasure or enjoyment
Comprehensive listening: listening to understand the speaker
Critical listening: deciding whether to accept or reject while listening
Empathetic listening: listening to provide emotional support for the speaker
It combines comprehensive and empathetic listening. Listen with both your head and your heart. Seek to understand in conjunction with offering empathy. The conversation or presentation will go beyond the word. The speaker and the listener will feel unified because it engages your full presence and all of your senses.
Memories, assumptions, prejudices, interests, attitudes, beliefs/values, emotions, expectations, and the physical environment all add dimension to communication. Do these filters clog comprehension? Or do they enable deeper, richer conversation?
Here’s what others have to say:
"A good listener is attentive. They make good eye contact, don't interrupt what the other person is saying and show an interest in what is being communicated." - Caleb Storkey (Speaker, Author)
Listening is giving “attention to sound or action. When listening, one hears what others are saying and tries to understand what it means." -Oxford Living Dictionaries
Listening is often easier said than done, which is why it requires intentional practice. Try to stay curious about what others say. How do you define good listening? Share your definition in the comments below!
Don’t use your phone or glance at your watch. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Don’t cut people off or one-up them. Don’t shift the topic to yourself. Just listen.
Name the two best listeners you know. What can you learn from them? Spend time around them to learn by osmosis.
Leave room on your plate like the classy restaurants; don’t overcrowd content on your slides. About a dozen words per slide will suffice.
Choose fonts that will be visible for people in the back. Additionally, don’t incorporate too many fonts or distracting styles. It makes your slides look chaotic and unprofessional.
If you don’t own any fitting pictures, online stock photo websites offer thousands of options. For personalized images, hire a freelance designer.
Why would they waste their time listening to you if you could have just emailed them the PowerPoint? Instead, provide context, further detail, background information, or tell a story to illustrate the point of the slide.
No more than 10 slides. Don’t inundate your audience.
No longer than 20 minutes. Expect a snooze-fest if you overstay your welcome.
Minimum 30pt font. Everyone can see it (even the guy who forgot his glasses), and it limits what will fit. Less available real estate makes you more selective.
Think about your audience; what is the best way for them to get the information? On a crowded slide, they don’t know where to look. Split up content to make it easier to understand.
It’s just a vehicle to get your ideas across. Could you substitute it with interactive exercises, a worksheet for them to fill out, or a flip-chart? In your slide notes, record the point of each slide to determine if it’s crucial.
Each slide should have the bare minimum. The slides can contain the bones of your presentation, but your speech is what must give it flesh and bring it to life.
An image or diagram captures attention and effectively supplements verbal information. Make data more story-like.
As a member of the audience, it is frustrating if the speaker gyps you out of seeing a slide. If you won’t use it, cut it. If you use it, leave it up long enough for everyone to see it.
Laughter is great; squirming is not. Incorporating jokes can greatly improve a presentation as long as boundaries aren’t crossed.
Record your speech and listen to it. Are your ummms distracting? Use a pause to your advantage, take a breath, and don’t fear the silence.
Don’t try to bypass preparation. How would you feel if your doctor decided to wing your big operation without any prep time? Your success hinges on how hard you practice.
You’re not Tony Robbins, and no one wants to wait for your grand appearance.
You aren’t there to speak to inanimate objects, especially not a screen with content you’re already abundantly familiar with. Don’t turn your back to the audience.
Don’t forget that final once-over. Do you have anything in your teeth? Use the restroom before taking the stage; don’t forget to check your zipper!
Profuse apologies, begging, and nosediving down tempting rabbit trails will negatively affect your image. Just don’t.
This makes you seem either ignorant, selfish, or both. You must honor others’ commitments, needs, and their schedule in general. You aren’t the belly button of the universe.
Anyone with a thesaurus can make a simple thought sound more complicated. Truly intelligent people are marked by their ability to explain complex ideas in simple, understandable language.
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Whether you’re delivering a high-stakes presentation, making a toast at a wedding, or pitching an idea on Shark Tank,
You’ve got this!
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