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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.

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    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

    Eugene is Lifehack's Entrepreneurship Expert. He is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark, offering presentation training for companies.

    How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs (And What to Learn from Them) Why Leadership and Management Are Two Sides of a Coin 12 Foolproof Tips for Entrepreneurs to Be Successful in a New Venture

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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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