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Speak like a Pro- 15 lessons learned from watching TED TALKS

Speak like a Pro- 15 lessons learned from watching TED TALKS
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When you watch TED Talks, do you ever wonder how the speakers look so confident, say all the right things, and deliver such a strong message? There are very deliberate tactics to deliver speeches like this. As a member of Toastmasters International, I noticed that TED speakers follow a very specific set of rules. Here are 15 lessons learned from watching Ted Talks. Practice implementing them and you will deliver amazing speeches and speak like a pro in no time.

1. Start With A Bang! No Weak Beginnings Allowed.

Don’t start the presentation with a weak beginning. Don’t say things like “thank you for that introduction” or “it’s nice to be here..” Instead, give the audience something powerful that will get their attention immediately. Make sure you wow your audience in the first 30 seconds. When giving a 5-10 minute speech, 30 seconds is a very long time! Introduce your topic in a unique way and make sure to know who your audience is, what will impress and intrigue them. Remember, you have 30 seconds to begin your speech, impress, and also let them know what your speech is about. The first few sentences must be very carefully constructed.

2. Organize Your Ideas: Your Speech Must Have A Structure.

Professional speakers know that one of the key ways to keep their audience engaged is to have a clear structure for their speeches. Develop an outline for your speech- even before writing the speech out. You can organize your speech structure in several ways, including chronologically, thematically, or topically. Here are some of Leo Babuata’s lifehack.org tips for writing a kickass speech.

Don’t take this advice for granted. Organizing your ideas into an outline will improve the quality of your speech and help you create a coherent message that comes together neatly. If you don’t this is beforehand, it could result in a very chaotic speech. Speech audiences need structure in order to enjoy a speech. When you’re listening to a speech, you may not recognize the structure, but it affects your experience. Once you’re an experienced speaker yourself, you will begin to notice that every good speech has a clear structure.

3. Realize That Pauses Are… VERY Powerful.

The four pillars of vocal variety in the Toastmaster’s guide are Pace, Pitch, Power and Pauses. Pauses are by far the most dramatic of the four, so you need to learn how to use them wisely. Pauses can be varied and used throughout different sections of the speech. Short pauses are necessary between sentences, and you need to deliberately pause, because if you don’t it will sound like your sentences are connected, confusing and too rushed.

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Long pauses can be used between the different sections of the speech where you are transitioning from one idea to the next. The longest pauses should be used sparingly, when you want to emphasize the most important points and you want to gather up the audiences’ attention before stating them. In terms of pace, slowing down through key statements will do wonders to emphasize them.

4. Get To The Point- And Stay On Target.

State the goal, main idea, or main questions being explored early on, and stay on target with this main topic. Make sure every part of your speech is on target. It may seem repetitive to you, but an audience of a speech does not retain information very well (only impressions and impact of the message). This means you need to repeat your main message in several different ways if you want the audience to take that message with them after the speech is over. Even if your speech has several sections with different information, it should always tie back to the main message and stay on target.

5. Use Simple Words: Think Conversational.

The best, most inspiring speeches use simple words and have a conversational tone. Forget jargon, and forget complicated, long sentences. Keep your sentences succinct, and your words short. Avoid crutch words. This will make your speech more believable, and you as the speaker more likable. Gaining the audience’s trust in this way is key to connecting with them.

“Effective delivery, even to a large audience, is intimate. Your delivery should be conversational.” –John Kinde, DTM and Loren Ekroth, Ph.D, Toastmasters Magazine.

6. Use Body Language Effectively: Complement Your Words For Maximum Impact.

Remember to use the correct body language for the desired effect, and don’t pace around aimlessly on the stage. When you’re nervous on stage, you might make gestures without realizing it, and most of these types of gestures and stances take away from the power of your speech. Some of these include pacing back and forth nervously, fidgeting with your hands, crossing your arms and uncrossing them repeatedly, and more.

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When people begin to notice these movements, they generally zone out of your speech and begin focusing on the movements. This is because people tend to mirror your attitude during speeches. When they can clearly see your nervousness through your body language, they will also begin to feel restless and nervous themselves. You need to practice controlling your body language, and incorporating useful gestures instead. Useful gestures are expressive, curated movements that clearly coincide with the idea you are delivering in that moment.

7. Don’t Overwhelm: No More Than 3 Takeaways.

That’s probably already too many! Try to focus on one clear message with a couple of supporting points. The best speeches teach the audience something new, or allow them to see a topic in a whole new light. Make your message memorable. Speeches are one of the most “inefficient” forms of learning because the listener does not retain a high number of specific facts. However, in terms of impact, a speech can go very far. The impact of your speech will depend on the clarity of the message, repetition of the message, and the unique angle of your message.

8. Use Vocal Variety- Add Life And Color To Your Speech.

Your voice is the medium and tool for delivering your speech. It has a major effect on your listeners. You should focus on making your speaking voice lively, enthusiastic, pleasant, natural, and powerful at certain moments. This can all be achieved through practice. You need to add a variety of different volumes, pitches and tones to make your speech engaging and fun to listen to.

What do you think makes for a good storyteller? It’s the vocal variety- the ability to enunciate words, use power and high volume in some moments, and sometimes even speaking in a whisper. A speech won’t have such a contrast but this is the basic idea. You need to tell a story with your voice as much as your words.

Don’t over-strain your voice in the days leading up to the speech, such as yelling, going to a Karaoke bar, or cheering loudly at a baseball game. It will most definitely affect the quality of your delivery. On the day of the speech, make sure to rest your voice, and have a glass of water before starting.

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9. Back Up Your Arguments With The Right Evidence.

Most of your compelling arguments need some kind of evidence to support it. A speech that is well-researched demands credibility. This is not to say that your speech should be heavily fact and statistics oriented, because this would make for a very boring speech. However, emphasizing your top arguments with the right backup can really increase the impact of your speech. You can research your speech topic using books and the internet. Make sure to mention where you got the info to make your speech more persuasive. Sometimes, depending on the topic, you can use a simple chart, graph or quote to provide even more visual context.

10. Get Comfortable With Your Visual Aids.

If your speech includes the use of presentation slides, make sure you know them well. You need to be really comfortable with using them, in every aspect. They must be appropriate for your speech and displayed professionally, and be easy to read or see. You should know how to use the technical equipment where you are giving your speech, and you should not turn away from the audience to read the slides. As a matter of fact, the slides should not contain too many words. The most effective speeches use lots of visuals, or simple quotes or points displayed in a really big font size.

11. Know Your Audience, And Don’t Forget To Inspire Them Deeply.

If possible, you should find out who your audience members are by researching the event, venue or topic of your speech in this respect. If you know a little bit more about them, your message can be catered to impact them more deeply. If you know what makes your audience tick, and what issues they care deeply about, you have the ability to inject them with inspiration and make them reflect on something important.

Even if you can’t find out the exact type of audience you will speak to, it’s important to remember to think about inspiring your audience while you write your speech. You are not there to merely present facts and leave. In most cases, speeches (oddly similar to certain sermons) aim to make the audience self reflect and take action on something in their lives. This is a beautiful thing if you can manage to accomplish this. Aim high!

12. Tell A Story. Or Two… And Use Stories About People.

People love to listen to stories. Stories and anecdotes are much more memorable than statements that are disconnected. A good story can weave together some really good points and usually ends with a clear lesson which is easy to remember. In order to connect with the audience, make sure you use your own stories and tell them in an authentic manner.

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Don’t borrow other people’s stories- reflect on your own experiences and find stories that illustrate your most profound thoughts. This will do wonders in making the audience trust you. Here’s my favorite TED speech which incorporates personal stories into the speech seamlessly. It’s Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking. In this speech, she pretty much incorporates everything I’ve laid out in this post very successfully!

13. Use Humor: Make Your Audience Smile Or Laugh As Soon As Possible.

One of the easiest ways to get the audience on your side is by making them laugh early on. If you tell them a story that makes them smile or even laugh out loud, you’ve already won over their approval and trust, and their smiles looking in your direction will give you more confidence to power through the rest of the speech.

Professionals know this, and use this method very strategically! Next time you’re listening to a good speech, remember this turning point in the speech, and take note of how good it made to feel when the speaker made you laugh.

14. Practice Your Speech! This Is An Absolute Must.

Practicing gives you the ability to feel out your speech, work out inconsistencies, and fix your timing. When practicing a speech in front of a mirror or in front of a supportive group of people, it is recommended to use time limits. Make eye contact with specific people in different sections of the audience, and connect directly with them. This takes some practice to get it right and look natural.

Practicing also allows you to hone in on your best gestures, body language, facial expressions, and experiment with variations of pitch and emphasis in your voice. It’s also important because it helps you remember your points better each time. No one wants to see a speaker who is reading. Follow these tips while practicing.

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15. Give Them Goosebumps: End Strong With A Compelling Call To Action.

It’s always a good idea to end strong, and come full circle with your message. Just as a good essay has a strong introduction and strong conclusion, so does a good speech. The conclusion should repeat the main points from the introduction but in a summarized, concluded format, and introduce a compelling “call to action,” which can be something for the audience to think about or act upon.

Don’t end your speech with a question and answer session. Even if your speech will have a Q&A session, take the stage back after the session and end strong with a summarized conclusion.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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