Improve your public speaking skills: 12 insightful tips

Whether you're pitching to investors or sharing an exciting idea with a few colleagues, how you present the information is just as important as what you share. 

If you’re a strong public speaker, you can easily connect with any audience while selling an idea. But great public speaking only comes naturally to a few. For most, it takes practice. 

Fortunately, with time and dedication, anyone can become a confident public speaker, enabling them to win friends, influence people, and gain new clients. 

Keep reading for tips to help you improve your public speaking skills and grow in confidence.

Why is public speaking important?

If you’re a strong public speaker, you can capture your audience's attention and keep them interested in what you have to say. 

While many believe public speaking skills are only necessary in certain industries or top roles, everyone can benefit from being a confident public speaker. 

Public speaking skills can help you with career advancement. They can ensure you stand out when applying and interviewing for jobs.

These skills can also benefit you in your professional and personal conversations, increasing your network of connections.

That’s not all. Strong public speaking abilities can boost your confidence, increase personal satisfaction and help you in many areas of your life.

How to overcome fear of public speaking: 5 tips to build your confidence

To improve your public speaking skills, you'll need to do some prep work and put in specific practice. Being prepared is vital to the success of any project, especially with public speaking. 

These five tips will help you prepare for a confident, clear speech.

Understand the expectations

Every detail in your presentation matters and can affect the content and delivery of your speech. 

Gather all the facts you can beforehand, including venue location, dress requirements, technical setup, and information on the audience. 

Preparation can help you avoid technical and logistical issues while better understanding your audience. This will help you build rapport and assist in "selling" your speech.

Know your audience

The audience is key in any public speaking gig. While developing your speech, learn as much as you can about the audience and tailor your presentation accordingly. 

You should know their level of knowledge about the subject you're speaking about, topics that might interest them, and any sensitive details. 

If you're speaking to an organization, consider their professional roles within the company. After all, the information you share with marketers and creative types might differ from the presentation you give to CEOs and investors. 

The more you talk their language, the more they relate, and the more you’ll connect with them.

Structure your speech

Just like a great research paper, an effective speech should have a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. 

Plan your speech around a structure, including one central point or value proposition, and keep bringing everything back to that primary message. 

This will help your speech resonate with your audience and give them something memorable to chew on well after you've stepped offstage.

Practice in advance

Practice is necessary to master any skill, but it is especially vital with public speaking. 

The more you practice your speech, the more you'll fall into the natural rhythm of the words. 

You'll also figure out areas of emphasis, revealing new opportunities in your messaging and parts to trim down or remove entirely. 

When you think you've practiced enough, practice some more.

Get feedback

Constructive feedback can be incredibly useful when refining your speech. 

Ask a friend or someone who understands the topic and whose judgment will be objective. Some people who are too close to you might say they like it because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. You want an honest critic to help you improve. 

Any feedback they give has good intentions. Don't be offended if they call out any tics, like saying "umm" too many times during your speech. Practice makes perfect. 

Your speech delivery: 7 essential tips

Once you've done the research and prepared a speech to be proud of, you're ready to present it to the crowd. 

To grow in confidence and help your message land effectively, consider these seven tips:

Breathe and get in the zone

Take a deep breath before speaking, and continue taking measured breaths throughout your presentation. 

If you're already nervous, it can be tempting to rush through your speech, but that can lead you to skip past vital information and appear unprepared.

Make eye contact

Don't gaze over your audience as you speak. Instead, make eye contact, showing them you are happy to be there and value their time. 

When you look over their heads to the back of the room or stick to reading your notes, you risk coming off as indifferent or even impassive rather than a dedicated public speaker with valuable information to share. 

Eye contact can help you build a strong emotional connection with an audience.

Become comfortable with "the pause"

In public speaking, people often think silence is a bad sign. 

However, don't underestimate the value of a well-timed pause. A pause can emphasize your speech, draw your audience's attention to your point and invite them to consider what you just said. 

Use pauses sparingly, as too many can confuse the audience. Incorporate them where it makes sense.

Repeat yourself as necessary

Don't be afraid of repeating yourself to make your point. Sometimes, repeating yourself is necessary to drive your point home. 

When outlining your speech, avoid repetition, but think of different ways to return to your main point or value proposition. 

These "a-ha" moments will help you capture your audience's imagination and reinforce the ideas you want them to take home.

Take it easy on yourself

Giving a speech can be hard, and giving a great speech can take days and weeks of practice. 

Don't beat yourself up if everything doesn't go perfectly, and give yourself grace for any minor flubs that might take place during your speech. 

Remember, the audience is on your side, and many won't even notice the small quirks or minor hiccups that might happen during your speech. It’s only human to make mistakes.

Move around a bit

Standing perfectly still at the podium might read as overly nervous, so incorporate some body movement when possible. 

Moving around during your speech can help keep the audience's attention and give you something to focus on other than your nerves. 

However, avoid sudden, hasty movements, and don't start pacing up and down the floor nervously. 

As with the other parts of your speech, practice your movements ahead of time and do them in front of a mirror so you can see where you can improve and what looks most natural.

Incorporate visual prompts

Visual aids aren't always necessary, but they can draw and sustain an audience's attention. They can also add value to your speech, helping to prove a point or provide evidence for your central theme.

Using a visual prompt at the beginning of the speech is a particularly good tip to help captivate everyone's interest up front and keep them with you until the end.

If you want to tell a memorable story that influences and inspires your team, customers and clients, Pip Decks can help. Use the Storyteller Tactics deck to tell stories that sell and easily upgrade your presentation.

FAQs

Improving your public speaking skills can take time. There's no universal way to become a confident public speaker. 

Rather, it is a series of practices and habits that can help you become effective and appealing when speaking to an audience. 

These FAQs offer additional insight into the art of public speaking.

What is the best opening line for a speech?

While we’d love to give you the secret code to the best speech opener, it doesn’t exist.

Witty openers can be effective depending on the situation or the audience. But generally, the best way to start a speech is to introduce yourself and share your credentials with the audience. 

It's also a good idea to thank the event organizers for having you speak at the event.

Another opener that always works is a great story.

What are the 5 most important skills in public speaking?

If you want to master public speaking, you need to focus on five elements:

  • Calming your nerves
  • Practicing your speech
  • Understanding your audience
  • Displaying appropriate and confident body language
  • Using the right tone and timing

These five things are key to a solid speech that’ll impress any audience.


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