We often associate public speaking with world leaders or celebrities. We listen to every word they say,
sometimes wondering how they have mastered the skill of public speaking so well. Did they go through
formal training? Do they practice in front of the mirror? Does practice make perfect indeed?
In the corporate world, public speaking carries a lot of meaning. Having skills in public speaking can help
you spell your success both as an employee and as a leader. It’s a fact that your ability to articulate
concepts, ideas, or plans in a compelling and clear manner can help you reach the top of the corporate
Speaking of compelling speeches, we have compiled few of the best ones from TED Talks – a platform
where speakers share ideas about education, technology, science, business, and just about anything
under the sun that proves significant in effecting change or improvement in today’s world.
We believe that it’s never too late to improve your public speaking skills, so here are tips and advice that
speakers take to heart when giving a talk in front of bigger crowds. These pointers can work to help you
become an excellent public speaker, too.
Try applying these techniques in your next speaking engagement.
Speakers have more or less the same goals, and that’s to educate, inspire, persuade, or influence the
people watching or listening. Whatever your purpose is, you need one central message or idea where
your discussion will revolve.
Since ideas are already complex as they are, you’ll need to focus on a single aspect to allow yourself to
discuss it thoroughly. That focal theme serves as a “through-line,” so that any supporting details you
provide will link you back to it. Staying within that boundary is also an effective way of reining yourself in,
so you don’t hop from one idea to another aimlessly.
Think of your message as a seed that you plant in the minds of your audience for it to grow later on,
which means you have to provide the perfect conditions (more of this in the succeeding tips that you’ll be
reading) in order for viewers or listeners to embrace and find your “ideas worth spreading.”
Communicating in a way that everyone understands should be part of your public speaking goals. To a
great extent, public speaking is comparable to storytelling, which requires that you use simple everyday
language in your narrative. This calls for expanding your vocabulary base, so you have a wide range of
options to choose from until you’re able to come up with the most straightforward, appropriate word for
your intended message. India’s Javed Akhtar said, “The more words you have, the clearer your thoughts,
and the more clearly you can convey them.”
Even if your subject matter is a technical one, you have to bring down the level of your language so you
can cater to different types of people in your audience – from field experts to average users. When you
intend to express than to impress, you sound more sincere and relatable to your audience.
Using technical jargon that your audience may or may not comprehend doesn’t demonstrate how
knowledgeable you are in the subject matter. Perhaps you’ll even come off as arrogant or stingy with
Communication may come in written, verbal, or non-verbal form. The last one is more commonly known
as body language. Your body language pertains to gestures, posture, and even eye contact that
communicate your thoughts or emotions. Maybe you would use hand gestures as Steve Jobs often did to
illustrate a point during presentations. You also shouldn’t underestimate the power of solid eye contact in
capturing your audience’s undivided attention.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy stresses that one’s non-verbal behaviour corresponds to a particular
state or feeling. For instance, when you’re feeling confident or victorious, you subconsciously take an
upright position, standing tall and proud in front of your audience. By contrast, you tend to close up or
shrink when you perceive danger or when your self-confidence is not at its peak.
Since your body language shapes how you feel, you need to be conscious of the non-verbal expressions
that you use. Before giving a speech, walk around with your head held high to build your confidence.
Eventually, your body will act according to your state of mind so that you’re able to deliver your message
and captivate your audience in the most powerful way.
Bad speeches are every speaker’s nightmare. Perhaps the speaker got off on a shaky start. He or she
might have forgotten a line or two resulting to a lot of dead air throughout the talk.
On the contrary, good talks are those where speakers can captivate the audience through anecdotes,
humour, and questions, to name a few. Speakers employ these tools and techniques to establish a
connection or rapport with the crowd.
Another way that you can get your audience’s attention and involvement is by talking from a perspective
that’s familiar to them and then injecting your knowledge, insights, and experience into the dialogue.
Always put your audience first, so that they can learn something from your expertise and wisdom.
Public speaking and sound leadership have one thing in common: they stimulate action. When people like
what they hear or see or admire the person leading them, they are more likely to adopt the same set of
beliefs. Simon Sinek, a British-American speaker and writer of the best-selling book “Start with Why,”
proposes that you identify the purpose behind everything that you do.
When you apply this principle in public speaking, you will be able to motivate your audience better if you
have a cause that they want to be a part of. But first, there are three things that your speech should
answer, namely “What,” “How,” and “Why.” What is it that you are trying to do? How do you plan to do it?
Why are you doing it? Among these three, the why part is the most important thing for you to settle since
people get drawn to people who speak and act based on their convictions.
Interestingly, Sinek’s Ted Talks video, where he shares the Why-How-What model in helping leaders
inspire action has gained 40 million views.
A maxim says, “To each his own.” This means that each one of us has our own way of thinking or doing
things based on our personal opinions or preferences.
If you’re not comfortable delivering talks in a formal, traditional setting – a raised platform or stage,
spotlight, script – maybe you can arrange for an informal dialogue instead. It can be a sit-down type of
conversation, where you blend in with the crowd more instead of being at the centre stage. However, if
you find that scripts make you sound and look unnatural, then, by all means, get rid of them and use cue
cards to help you remember what to say.
As Megan Washington has shown in this TED talk, you don’t have to dread public speaking if you use
your strengths to downplay your less favourable attributes. In her case, Megan overcomes her speech
defect by singing the things she has to say. Now, that’s creative.
Sometimes, in their desire to sound more pleasing or convincing to their audience, speakers resort to
using rhetoric. Political speeches or campaigns often get this label because the language used sounds
impressive and in good taste. However, this technique is far from being effective because it’s construed
as a way of sugar-coating the subject or situation.
The best speakers know the importance of coming clean with the audience by sticking to the facts and
figures, so they can present a picture of what’s really happening. Get rid of the unnecessary stuff that
doesn’t mean anything to your audience. Write your speeches with this piece of advice from Clint Smith:
“… write consciously, speak clearly, tell your truth.”
The most fulfilling thing about public speaking is that it gives you the power to impart a message that your
audience will appreciate and take with them even after your talk is over and you step off the stage.
However, there is no single best formula in effective public speaking. To be an excellent public speaker,
you have to work on several aspects, such as carefully crafting and delivering your message, building
rapport with your audience, and being comfortable and confident about your skills.
Guthrie-Jensen Consultants invites you to try our Powerful Presentation Skills Seminar, which can help you enhance your public speaking skills and maintain a good line of communication with the clients you serve.