A Short Guide to Effective Public Speaking

Delivering an effective presentation to 20 or to 200 people is difficult. Because listeners have better access to information since the internet became commonplace, audiences expect more content from speakers today. In addition, because of the entertainment slant of most media today, audiences want a presentation delivered with animation, humour, and pizzazz.

If you would rather spend your time preparing your content than reading a book on public speaking, this is an article especially for you! From my experiences in delivering over l500 speeches during the past 20 years, here is a quick guide to giving an effective and interesting presentation your very first time.

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Tip: Natural gestures

Natural gestures are basically the aim for any public speaker.

If you are not a natural gesturer, it may be that with enough practice, you can develp gestures.

Nevertheless if you speak with passion – for your subject and for your audience’s outcomes – your body will support your message.  Even if you make no gestures, your stance, your facial expressions and your eye contact, will work powerfully to support that passion and your message.

It is necessary, however, to be aware if you are repeating the same gesture many times.  It may add emphasis the first time, but after that it will distract.  Watch television journalists and sooner or later you will notice this.

Be aware of your gestures, when you practise your speaking, until you are comfortable that they are natural, and not distracting, and then forget about them.  Work instead on your message, your enthusiasm and the outcomes you want.

Today’s quote about public speaking

Publius Terentius Afer said:  “In fact, nothing is said that has not been said before.”

Hmmm.  Have we learnt nothing new to communicate?

Or is communication more about what is of relevance in the new things we learn?  I would like to think that we are continually learning new things as a species.

And yet our basic conditions of existence and operation tend to remain the same.  And yes, we tend to say the same things about them.  The successful public speaker is the one who can put a new spotlight on things, find new words …  and ways of saying …. those old things so that we are reminded of them, how they operate, and how we can look at them in a better light… and use them to be better at this existence and this operation.

So, Publius Terentius Afer, I would like to think that you are wrong in some ways.  But thank you for the reminder that our creativity is just so vital if we are to create new speeches and presentations.

Thought for the Day

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

Edward Abbey

Give your audience something to flip over

Give Participants Something to Flip Over

Let me start off by saying that I do NOT like toys or other distractions in training. I’m NOT one to provide little widgets to keep participants’ hands occupied or provide cutesy pens or such trinkets. I’ve always viewed them as distractions that shouldn’t be necessary if your training is engaging and relevant. I recently “discovered” a technique that simultaneously:

  • Provides motivational, upbeat phrases for participants
  • Reinforces key concepts
  • Ensures that everyone is paying attention and following along
  • Allows the instructor to tell whether each participant grasps the concept


Prepare for new or unpredictable speaking situations

Would you like to feel safe and centered, no matter what is about to happen, no matter what the audience throws at yourself, no matter what you do? Give yourself the advantage of preparation.

Would you like to:

  • Feel competent in uncertain situations?
  • Handle unpredictability with comfort?
  • Reduce the fluster or paralysis brought on by some events?
  • Stay centered during new experiences?
  • Optimize your preparation for performance?
  • Go with life’s natural flow?

If you would like to have the preparedness advantage, then Preparing for Uncertainty is sure to excite you.

Mastering the art of public speaking

A very workman-like article this. Yes it covers many of the success basics for public speaking.

Is public speaking an art, by the way? I like the fact that creativity is so vital, so I guess I’ll agree, but there is a certain amount of science in it, as this article seems to suggest in many ways.

But what I like is the last point….

… and it can be such a challenge to be yourself in public speaking. If confidence and self esteem are low, then the challenge is huge, and the temptation equally huge to be someone else!

Speaking science: Boost your memory by talking out loud

A good memory can be a great gift, whether you’re a new speaker trying to remember your core message or recall the punch line of a joke. Looking for a way to plant those key points firmly in your head? Say them out loud.

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Today’s book: The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever

~ Cliff Atkinson

Armed with laptops and smartphones, audiences today are no longer sitting quietly taking notes during live presentations. Instead, they’re carving out a new space in the room called the backchannel, where people are online searching for resources, checking your facts, and connecting with others inside the room and out.


Improving the voice starts with the breath

The voice is the richest, most versatile communication tool we possess.  It is also the most overlooked and underrated in terms of the attention  we give it when thinking of our presentation skills. Most people take  their voices entirely for granted. Ninety percent of Americans have  never taken a course in singing, breathing, enunciation or any other subject that would improve their vocal skills. That’s a shame, because  just a little time and effort can bring valuable rewards.

Find out how in Pivotal Magazine