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11 Powerful Public Speaking Tips to Hook Any Audience

11 Powerful Public Speaking Tips to Hook Any Audience

You just got the great news. You were selected to give a key presentation at the upcoming executive meeting. Or it could be you were honored to be chosen to be a speaker at a conference later this year. Whatever the case may be, you know it’s time to make sure you know your public speaking tips. You are both excited for the opportunity yet also nervous to be presenting to a large audience. It’s an honor to be chosen, even if you are one of the 3 in 4 people who have glossophobia, otherwise known as the fear of public speaking.

Not to worry. Here we will discover some very powerful public speaking tips to hook any audience. Not only will you get past the presentation or speaking engagement, you’ll wow the audience. If you are really good, you’ll wow yourself too.

1. Utilize the 7 Elements of Public Speaking

Public speaking can be a daunting task and something that isn’t easy for many of us. If you want to improve on your public speaking skills, read on to learn the 7 elements of public speaking. This will lay the foundation to develop the powerful public speaking tips to hook any audience.

i. Know You Audience

Makes sense right? You have to know who your audience is and the reason they are listening to you. If your audience is the board of directors, you probably want to dress the part and speak in a more formal tone and ensure you highlight the most important points.

On the other hand, if you are speaking to an audience before kicking off a fundraising walk, you’ll be more casual in your tone but probably throw in some inspirational words to get everyone pumped up.

ii. Warm Up

This is pretty basic as well but worth mentioning. Do a few warm up exercises for your voice so you don’t sound like you have a frog in your throat. Make sure you drink some water before hand so you don’t feel like you have cotton in your mouth. You might try shaking out your body a bit or stretching to feel nice and limber when you take the stage.

iii. Manage Your Anxiety

Yes, you will most likely have some anxiety. That’s okay, accept that you will have it and figure out the best way to manage it.

When I know I am going to be nervous about something, I tell myself that’s okay. I’ve been nervous before and things tend to work out fine.

Whatever works for you, figure out the best way to manage your anxiety. You might even tell yourself that most people are nervous and anxious when speaking in public.

iv. Gain Personal Credibility

People are there to hear you speak for reason. You’ve got a short window of opportunity to show them that they are spending their time wisely.

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Right after your introduction, jump in and share something with them so they understand quickly that you know what you are talking about. You want them to feel like they’ve made a wise decision by spending the time coming to listen to you. Show them.

v. Use Different Methods of Presentation

Depending on the situation, you’ll have to decide what the best presentation material will be.

If you are giving that pep rally speech, then maybe you don’t need anything except enthusiasm and wearing the t-shirt of the cause you are supporting.

If you are presenting to a group of C-Level executives about a potential million dollar purchase they are considering, you’re probably going to want some hard data and facts to show them why the purchase will benefit them. Powerpoint presentations are fine but remember, they aren’t the best use of presentation material for every occasion.

vi. Rehearse Perfectly

You know the saying “practice makes perfect” of course. This is very true in public speaking. I wrote another article How to Memorize a Speech The Smart Way which got great tips for learning how to give a speech. The bottom line is you want to rehearse your presentation until you feel very comfortable making the delivery.

vii. Storytelling

I saved what I consider the best part for last. As humans, we are wired to love a good story. Make sure you have a few to share with your audience.

Personal stories that are salient to the point of your speech are the absolute best. If you have stories from other people or sources, make sure you let the audience know where you got the story from. In any event, put in a good story or two. Your audience will love it.

2. Start Off a Speech in a Charming Way

The most critical parts of a speech are the introduction and the conclusion. Sure, the middle is important as well but to really deliver a powerful speech you want to start off with a bang. A way that is going to get your audience hooked initially and excited about what’s coming next. Here are some great ways to start off of a memorable speech to add to your public speaking tips bag of tricks.

Make a Shocking Statement

This is one surefire way to grab the attention of the audience in a hurry. Saying something like “1 out of every 2 people in this room will have another job in 2 years” will get everyone’s eyes on you right away. And it will get their minds wondering what do you mean by that statement. Which also means they will be hooked on the next things you have to say.

Tell a Story

This is one of my favorite ways to start a speech. An engaging story will hook your audience quickly.

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Recently, I was speaking to a group of recent college graduates at the company I work for. I began the talk by telling them the story of how my truck wound up going backwards down the highway on the way to the presentation due to icy roads. That had everyone wondering how I was standing there and what my truck looked like.

Thank the Audience

This is pretty basic but certainly worth mentioning. Thanking the audience for taking the time to come to the presentation is a great way to get things going. This should be included no matter what other methods you utilize in your opening.

What’s in It for Them

Another great way to get people paying close attention is to tell them what they will get out of the speech or presentation. After all, that’s why most of these people showed up!

Getting a taste of what they will gain and or learn from your talk as well as how it will benefit them will get them ready for more.

Solve a Problem

Let the audience know a problem you are going to talk to them about solving that they can relate to.

If the audience is made of people who are there to learn how to live a healthier lifestyle, you can say something like “Who here has a difficult time creating a plan for a healthy lifestyle and sticking to it?”. Hands will shoot up all around the room. You can then tell them “I’m here to share with you a simple 5 step process to live a healthier lifestyle.”

3. Show Genuine Emotion

An audience will feel more connected to you if you show genuine emotion.

I recently attended a conference with 5,000 of my closest friends. One of the initial speakers was so full of enthusiasm and genuine passion and emotion for what she was presenting to us that we were all hooked on her every word. Her use of genuine emotion fully engaged the entire audience.

4. Tell the Audience Something They Don’t Know

Sharing something with the audience that makes them go “Wow, is that really true?” is a great way to get people hanging on your every word.

When you share something that most people haven’t thought about and work it into you speech in such a way that it gives a great launching pad for your next point, you are bound to make a great impression on your audience.

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When you tell a group something like “most dogs actually understand most of what we are saying” and then show people why this is true, you will be remembered.

5. Make the Benefit About Them

Don’t think of a speech as a way to promote a product, service or yourself. Make it about how the people in the audience will benefit, and you will have made a huge new group of friends.

People don’t like to feel like they are getting sold. What they do like is someone sharing tips and tricks with them on how to improve their life or situation or get better in some way. This is a great way to get the audience aligned with you.

6. Slow Down

Many public speakers tend to rush their words. They get anxious or nervous or overly excited, and words tend to rush out a lot faster than they should.

To create a more powerful speech that will engage your audience deeper deliberately, slow down the words coming out of your mouth. This is really good to do when you are practicing your speech.

By slowing down, the audience can understand you better and you will get better buy in from them.

7. Be Interactive

Something I have noticed over and over in great speeches is how the speakers are interactive with the audience. This doesn’t mean you have to ask everyone to raise their hand every few minutes. That being said, don’t be shy about getting the audience to interact with you from time to time.

Take a quick poll. Ask them to say something to the person sitting next to them. A few simple interactive action items like that will go a long way.

8. Be Controversial

We talked about making a shocking statement when you start off your speech. This aligns with that same concept.

Making a shocking statement right off the bat will engage people into your speech quickly. You can also sprinkle in some controversial statements or stances throughout your talk to keep people engaged and hooked.

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It doesn’t have to be completely off the wall either, more like facts and statistics that most people don’t know but make them think more and therefore, listen to you more intently.

9. Get Them Laughing

Another great way to keep an audience hooked is by having them laughing from time to time. Laughing makes us feel good, so this will certainly win you some followers.

You have to do this the right way. Don’t tell a lot of jokes, those can fall flat or in some cases offend people.

Funny things that happen during a story are great to share. One of the best ways to be humorous during a talk is to use self-deprecating humor. This shows you are self-confident and have character.

10. Use a Prop or Two

This is one of those things where a little bit will go a long way. That being said, it is certainly worth considering to incorporate a few props when appropriate into your speech. Use them in such a way that they will highlight a point.

I watched a presentation where a guy took out a cigarette and acted like he was going to light it. Of course the audience reacted. He then went on to tell people that three times as many people passed away from diabetes than lung cancer from smoking. He then proceeded to tell everyone that nobody would have been shocked if he’d taken out a candy bar. Good props, good point.

11. Tell the Audience How Good They Are

Everyone likes hearing that they are good at something or special in some way. A surefire way to get the audience engaged in your speech and listening is to tell them how good they are in some way. Make them feel good about themselves.

I was recently at a Talent Acquisition conference. One of the speakers did a great job of making everyone in the audience understand how wonderful they were for connecting talented people to jobs and careers they could make a difference at. And it’s true, that’s how I feel anyway. The cool thing was they pointed out a way to make everyone in the room feel great about themselves.

Bottom Line

By this point, you should feel fairly well armed to make a dazzling speech the next time the opportunity presents itself.

Remember, the majority of people are nervous when giving a public speech. Utilize the above public speaking tips to hook any audience at your next speech. Your confidence will increase greatly and the audience will be coming back for more.

More About Public Speaking

Featured photo credit: Marcos Luiz Photograph via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

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