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11 Powerful Public Speaking Tips to Hook Any Audience

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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.

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More About Public Speaking

Featured photo credit: Marcos Luiz Photograph via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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