How to be better at public speaking

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Photo of a woman with a microphone addressing the room to illustrate public speaking

Whether it’s a presentation pitch to 10, or a conference keynote to 1000, public speaking can be a daunting prospect, no matter how large your audience. However, with the right preparation and approach, you’ll be able to deliver an address memorable for all the right reasons. Here are five golden rules from Nick Gold, MD of Speakers Corner

Know your audience

I have seen plenty of speeches in my time which have fallen flat because the speaker did not conduct prior research. It’s essential when drafting your content to ensure that you ask for pertinent information about the audience. Consider the breakdown of delegates in terms of age, culture and language; factor this into your delivery in order to create the desired impact.

Create a content journey

At the start of any speech, you should clearly define what you will be talking about. A breakdown in communication, and subsequently reduced engagement, occurs when an audience gets lost in the nuances of a message. This problem can be avoided by establishing your aims and mapping out the structure of a speech early on to help others follow its flow. The content should be broad and relevant in order to create an experience which appeals to the interests of any type of individual.

Sensing humour

Individual sense of humour varies tremendously and needs careful consideration if it’s to be incorporated into a speech. Everyone has a personal threshold which varies. The golden rule is to never be offensive, even if the audience is familiar to the speaker. One person’s meat might be another another’s poison. An awareness of this, with regards to humour, will go some way to ensure its appropriate usage under any circumstances and, indeed, can be extended to any type of content.

Strike the pose

How you comport yourself from the start of your speech will define how your audience relates to you throughout your address. In the most part, the things to consider are fairly obvious, such as avoiding slouching, limiting hand gestures, and speaking in a measured, modulated tone. Body language has a powerful impact on perception so be confident and upbeat. Clinging onto the lectern for dear life will give the impression that you’re out of your depth.

Create an experience

A speaker should strive to achieve long-lasting impact on an audience irrespective of its composition. This means utilising every tool available to deliver a full experience that makes each and every delegate feel they have truly been ‘in the moment’ with that speaker.  Visual enhancements, such as presentation slides and videos, can be useful here. These should be content-light and will allow, in a diverse audience, different delegates to focus on different stimuli while remaining focused on the speaker’s content throughout.

speakercorner.co.uk

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About author

Nick Gold

Nick Gold

Nick Gold is MD of leading speaker bureau, Speakers Corner, and former chairman of the European Association of Speaker Bureaus

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