Looking to make your next public speaking engagement your best one ever? To help get you started, here are five public-speaking tips from yours truly: someone who has been a professional speechwriter and copywriter here in Ottawa for more than two decades.
1. People want to see you succeed.
Don’t underestimate how important this is. Call it human nature or a function of self-preservation, but when people come to hear someone talk, they generally want to enjoy the experience. That’s not to say that the bar of expectations is lowered. But as a speaker, you can generally count on there being a lot of goodwill in a room…even before you start talking! Use that to your advantage…especially if you’re feeling a little nervous. Because it means people are generally going to be more receptive to what you have to say compared to, say, doing an elevator-style pitch to a small group at a social gathering.
2. It’s your audience.
Whether you’re doing a keynote at lunch or are simply tasked with doing one-minute introductory remarks, when you take to that podium, you are the speaker. The audience belongs entirely to you while you’re up there. You command their attention. Wow. That’s pretty impressive when you stop and think about it. People stop what they’re doing so they can listen to what it is you have to say. And it’s up to you how you use that power, right down to setting the tone of the room and the pace of the presentation. That can be pretty empowering.
3. Share and be remembered.
It’s always a nice touch to have copies on-hand of your presentation. Even if it’s just a one-page summary of key points along with your contact information, it can be really useful…and a powerful networking tool. Not everyone is going to want a copy, but for those who do take one, they’re much more likely to remember who you are and what you had to say.
4. But don’t hand out anything before!
If you chose to share copies of your speech, hand it out after your presentation, otherwise your audience members will spend their time with their heads down reading it instead of listening to you.
5. Write for the ear, not the eye.
One of the most common mistakes made by novice speakers is that they prepare their text much the way they might prepare a news article or even a research paper. In other words, they write for the eye, using long sentences and maybe even a lot of fancy words. But public speaking is about getting people to listen and to feel something about the experience. Write for the ear. That’s where your audience really is. Break up those sentences. Be punchy. Forget the rules about typical sentence structure. Really. Because they don’t apply when we’re talking or listening to someone.
Want to know more? Turn to Part 2 of Tips on delivering a great speech.