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Published on March 26, 2018

The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

According to experts, public speaking is one of the most important and beneficial skill sets for your career. It helps to increase confidence and shapes the perception of others about you when you deliver a presentation.

Despite these benefits, however, many seem to fear public speaking. According to experts, roughly 80% of people get increasingly nervous and lose sleep before a big public speaking moment. Some experts even suggest that the fear of public speaking rivals death. Yet, most people will be put in a situation where they will be expected to speak in front of a crowd and these moments can sometimes be career-defining.

If you have been tirelessly trying to get the butterflies in your stomach to fly in formation when you’re thrust to speak to an audience, you’re not alone. Here’s an easy to follow step-by-step guide (with all the public speaking tips you need) on how you can overcome your fear of public speaking and impress your audience even if you’re a beginner.

1. Prepare for your presentation

A speaker’s worst fear is to see that the audience is bored or has gotten no value from the speech. This is why thoroughly preparing for your presentation is vital.

Here are a few easy steps to prepare and research for your presentation:

Identify the context of the event

For example, if you’re speaking at an industry conference on AI Technology – you can be sure that your audience will include practitioners and technicians in that space. Recycling basic content about their industry that they’re already aware of is a definite way to quickly lose their attention.

Instead, it’s likely you’d want to introduce big ideas that challenge what they already know about the industry currently and where it’s moving towards.

When Steve Jobs famously unveiled the iPhone in the 2007 Worldwide Developer’s Conference, he was tackling an existing industry norm of buttons on cell phones. Needless to say, his gamble paid off and set the foundation of the smart phones we now know today:

That said, Steve’s presentation style might not be for everyone, it’s up to you as a presenter to decide how best to deliver your speech when the time comes.[1]

Know the demographics of the audience

It is important to know the demographics of your audience as it determines how you can make your tone suitable and content relatable to them.

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If you’re speaking to audiences from a particular generation, consider including examples that will resonate with them. For example: when speaking to millennials, try referencing recent news on developments in technologies they use every day (e.g. SnapChat or Netflix) to be more relevant to them.

Organizing your content

You can have the best ideas. But if they aren’t sequenced in the right order, you’re basically back to square one.

Most experts agree that various presentations follow different ‘story arcs’ where they usually fall within three big acts: the Start(or Hook), Middle and Conclusion.[2]

These structures can exist in all sorts of ways such as a Problem, Solution, Call-To-Action type framework for sales. We see this mirrored by numerous presenters where they establish a cause for concern upfront before addressing these concerns with a product or method.

After you’ve decided ideas you’d like to flesh out, begin organizing them in an order that will keep the audience hinged on your every word. In this video, Aimee Mulins tells a story about adversity followed by resolution later on in life:

2. Develop a presentation that will captivate your audience

Picking a good topic and conquering your stage fright is half the battle won in public speaking. Putting it all together in a presentation that flows well and engages your audience is what differentiates a blockbuster speech versus a lacklustre talk.

Start strong

It’s been said that the first 30 seconds of your presentation determines whether the audience want to listen to you or not.[3]

Here are some proven ways to grab the attention of your audience:

  • Start with an anecdote. If you can draw relevance to your speech topic – sharing a quick story related to the topic is a great way to appear more relatable and lead audiences into your punchline.
  • Use an analogy. Analogies are a fun and interesting way to begin your presentation. Comparing two seemingly unrelated things can help build a case for what you’ll say next. Not only that, it can be helpful if you need to explain a complex situation that your audience may not understand.
  • Use a memorable quote. Starting with a memorable quote can help enhance your credibility and reinforce your own claims especially if it comes from notable figures or experts. It can also help inspire the audience which will then make them excited about your idea. The end result? It makes them more engaged with your presentation. Killing two birds with one stone!

Use storytelling techniques

Presentations are hardly ever a one-way dialogue. You’ll want to take measures to engage the audience and make the presentation a conversation.

Try to pose provocative questions or use props. Asking questions to the floor engages your audience presentation and also demonstrates that you value their opinion on things. In some cases, getting your audiences to visualize problems might be more effectively demonstrated than theorized.

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Bill Gates is an iconic example of how using props can really drive a message through when he released a swarm of mosquitos during his speech to communicate how people from countries with a high level of malaria infection feel:

Use visual aids effectively

Visual aids such as presentation slides are an opportunity to enhance and drive your message home with 43% added recall for presentations according to Prezi.

Sometimes putting all the information on a slide may steal the audience’s attention away. To prevent that, you can make use of evocative images that supports your speech to either transport audience members into a particular scene or to draw analogies for relevant messaging.

    3. Overcome your nerves and stage fright

    Picture this: moments before your speech, your heart’s pounding profusely in anticipation for what’s coming next. You step behind the podium and all eyes are on you. The pressure becomes overwhelming and you freeze, unable to utter a single word.

    It’s been long known that public speaking outranks even death as the top fear of most individuals. This then leads to the question – how do the pros make it look easy?

    Embrace your anxiety

    The truth is everyone gets nervous, even seasoned speakers. As Mark Twain put it nicely:

    “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

    Remembering and embracing that you’ll always get those butterflies in your stomach leading up to your presentation is half the battle won. Learn to harness that flush of adrenaline and energy to engage with your audience early on.

    Be conversational and authentic

    It’s easy to have a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. Public speaking does not need to be that different. Imagine speaking to one audience member at a time when you’re up on stage and you’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    Presenters like Elon Musk sometimes appear comical on stage, but always authentic. He speaks direct to the audiences and in a language they can understand:

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    Know your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips help reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. So one way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech. However, you don’t want to memorize your script word by word. It can work against you should you forget your content.

    Instead, memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch as it helps you speak more naturally. This will let your personality shine through. Speaking exactly from a memorized script may make you sound rigid and robotic.

    Still, if you need to have a reference just in case you forget your speech, it is okay to have prompts in your slides or cue cards.

    Mouth your words when rehearsing

    Another method that most speakers use to embed their presentations into their conscience is to ‘mouth’ the words as they rehearse.

    Not only do you begin to instinctively memorize your presentation each time you practice, it also aids in muscle memory when you need to deliver the speech on stage naturally.

    4. Deliver an impressive speech

    We’ve gone from prepping for a presentation, finding ways to engage your audience with presentations and combating stage fright. All this is left with is for the speaker to steal the show by delivering an impressive performance during the speech.

    Here are some things you’ll want to take note of to ensure you’re in tip-top shape when it’s showtime:

    Hand gestures

    Seasoned speakers swear by this and amateur speakers use it to great success.

    Hand gesturing is a great way to avoid looking stiff and awkward on stage. A key tip is to have your hands held high above your waist at all times and let your hands gesture naturally as you talk. This makes you look more confident and also engages well with audience.

    Body language

    What great speakers have in common is how confident they are. Just like any other human being out there, these people also get the jitters before every speech – even great speakers like John F. Kennedy will spend months preparing his speech before hand.[4]

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    Most people struggle to be confident and it is okay. Not everyone can talk confidently especially in front of a large crowd. But sometimes, confidence is not all about how you speak but through your body language.

    Standing tall and with good posture can do wonders for your perceived confidence and your actual performance. Using big hand gestures and standing firmly on your feet, a shoulder width apart, helps even the most nervous presenters open up on stage.

    “Our bodies change our minds and our minds change our behaviours, and our behaviour changes our outcome.” – Social Psychologist, Amy Cudd

    Small gestures like these give signs to your audience how to think and feel about you and whether they should listen to you in the first few seconds of your presentation. Hence, it is important to take note of your body language as it is a stepping stone to make you feel or at least look confident – even if you’re not.

    Tone of voice

    Your voice plays a critical role in your success as a presenter. According to an analysis of media appearances by 120 top financial communicators, the sound of a speaker’s voice matters twice as much as the content of the message[5] and even an evaluation found one of the most popular TED talks concluded these very speakers have 30.5% higher vocal variety than other speakers that are less popular.[6]

    Technical speakers focus a lot on how they train their voice as they articulate words. Some use a higher pitch when communicating an idea with energy and a lower pitch in solemn instances.

    In short, it is about matching your emotions to the idea. For example, if you are sharing a sad story, it only makes sense to match that mood with your voice in a lower tone and volume.

    Pause and emphasis

    Pauses and emphasis are a powerful tool in a presenter’s arsenal. When used purposefully in the right moment, it can create a dramatic flare to further reinforce what you have said, make the audience ponder over a topic or it can provide time for the audience to let the message sink in. It’s basically a ‘full-stop’ or ‘period’ used but in spoken word.

    Check out how to master the pausing technique from Brian Tracy:

    Time management

    Ending too early or too late can spell trouble for speakers that are on the clock for an event’s schedule. At times, event schedules get delayed and leave little time for speakers to deliver their full speech.

    The key tip to avoid an awry moment is to be very familiar with your content and to practice several versions of your presentation at varying durations.

    Summing it up

    And there you have it, these four big steps are what will help you ace your public speaking.

    Don’t shy away from your next chance to speak in public. Instead, make full use of the opportunity and apply these public speaking tips:

    1. Study your audience before preparing your topic
    2. Develop a presentation that will captivate your audience
    3. Overcome your nerves and stage fright
    4. Never Wing It. Practice Your Voice, movement and time-keeping

    Reference

    More by this author

    Eugene Cheng

    Creative Lead & Partner , HighSpark Presentation Agency

    How to Read People’s Minds During a Conflict (At Work or Home) Ultimate Guide to Persuasive Speech (Hook and Influence Any Audience) How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide) definitive guide to public speaking tips eugene cheng from HighSpark on lifehack The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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