10 hints and tips on public speaking
Following a post on building a great presentation deck (the what), I wanted to follow up with a post on on actually delivering a presentation (the how) to an audience. Today, anybody can be a public speaker, and chances are high you will be on stage at some point in time. Don’t sweat it. It’s fun.
Here are some personal tips and tricks I picked up over the past few years of public speaking:
- Rehearse. When you listen to some talented public speakers, it might seem as if it is the most natural thing to them to be on stage. Only a few are talented speakers, but even so, they also rehearse hours on end. Look how Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk have stepped up their game over the last few years in public speaking. Rehearsing your talk can take days or weeks. That’s normal. Don’t mind the work.
- Gain experience. Truly, there is no substitute for experience. Although some people are naturally gifted with an exceptional ability to achieve an emotional connection with an audience, the mechanics of planning and executing a first-rate speech simply have to be learned. Enlist to Toastmasters, start a debate club, speak to groups of friends, and grab every opportunity to pitch, speak and present!
- You’re not performing. You’re having a conversation. A total misconception is that most speakers feel they are performing. The problem here is that performances can go wrong. Conversations (hardly) don’t. In fact, a public speaking gig is an opportunity to have a conversation with an audience. So structure your talk as a series of questions you want to answer, and I guarantee your talk will become more natural and conversational by itself.
- Be fierce. Chances are the audience is already half asleep before you get on. So shock and awe! If you have a point to make, don’t hesitate to make a bold statement. Shake things up. You’re on stage because you want to inspire. Don’t be afraid to bring contrarian views. People have paid, or at least took the time, to get inspired. So be different! Don’t fear using metaphors, hyperbole speech and other often used rhetorical mechanisms in literature, but always keep it simple, and conversational.
- You don’t always need to talk. A strategic pause is worth a thousands words. Most speakers believe they always have to be talking, and therefore they start to use stopwords, like “um”, “so”, “and”, etc. It’s perfectly ok to add a strategic pause, look at the audience, and take a breather before you go on. Try it.
- No stress, just have fun. Even with hundreds of talks under your belt, you will feel anxious before you go on stage. Simply don’t focus on trying not to screw things up, but focus on having fun! I personally always look forward to get on, so I can connect and engage with the audience. I can’t help it, but I love engaging with people. And the last thing I always mention while walking up on stage is ‘let’s have fun!‘. But we all have our ways to get rid of stress, some perform pushups (true story), others go for a walk, … Whatever it is you have to do, do it.
- Delivering a talk means connecting. Talking, debating or public speaking are all channels that requires the speaker to master the science and art of persuasion. Face it. You’re on stage for a reason. You want to connect to the crowd, and embed your message in the minds and hearts of the audience. Therefore, you will need to persuade. Study PSYOPS, stand up comedians, persuasion tactics, improv, NLP, and become a better speaker.
- Let your body speak. Most of our communication is non-verbal, so pay attention to it. As you are practicing the words, also rehearse your body language. When appropriately used, gestures and general body language are a very powerful tool to help deliver your message. Be sure you are groomed for the occasion, keep good posture, and be aware of your gestures.
- Reframe the argument. When you’re in a Q&A session, take the time to rephrase and reframe the argument so that you can answer it properly as well as your arguments are hard to argue against. Reframing is a powerful tool, and when applied in debates and public speaking, helps you to be more comfortable answering questions.
- Be genuine. While your message can be as bold as announcing to colonize Mars, you always have to stay genuine. You’re not a superman, or God. You’re a human, with dreams. Like everyone else. Now, let your audience dream, because dreams become ideas. Ideas become action. Action becomes change…
In closing, one talk I found to be extremely helpful was Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques by Matt Adams. I look forward in being in your audience soon!