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10 Powerful Public Speaking Tips from Some of the Best Speakers in the World

10 Powerful Public Speaking Tips from Some of the Best Speakers in the World

I know how horrible it feels.

You’re in a class, a professional position, or a situation that requires you to give a speech in public. When you find this out, the hands of the universe crank the earth’s gravitational pull up a notch. Your feet feel heavier, your knees start to wobble, your stomach and heart drop to your crotch, and your brain feels like it just digested Pop Rocks and Fanta together.

You feel like you might pass out.

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It’s a scary feeling that’s never invited. Luckily, there are thousands of professional public speakers, some who are even shyer and more introverted than you, who can provide us with invaluable lessons on how to combat these feelings, rise to the challenge, and leave an entire audience moved beyond belief.

1. It’s not about what you understand, necessarily, but what you’re truly passionate about. 

Understanding a subject is a minimal standard for speaking. Any average speaker can memorize facts or statistics and spew them out like a busted fire hydrant. What transforms a speech into something tremendous, magical even, is the ability to passionately believe in the idea, product, or thought you’re speaking about. People will feel it if you do. When asked about how he became such a great public speaker, Simon Sinek response with a coy smile, “I cheat. I only talk about things I care about. I only talk about things I understand.” He continues with,”You can’t manufacture passion.”

2. Start at the top of the pyramid. 

There’s a common misconception in public speaking that you must build up your audience or prep them with facts and stats for a “ta-da” conclusion. But Harvey Diamond reminds us that, “If you don’t know what you want to achieve in your presentation your audience never will.” Not knowing your end game is self destructive because it relies too heavily on the attendants ability to follow your speech until you reach the end, or understand the point of your speech. If you state your end goal and deconstruct each point in a logical manner, it will be much easier for the audience to follow along and engage deeply in your message.

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3. Remind yourself that human interaction is a normal part of everyday life.

An inscription found in a 3,000-year-old Egyptian tomb reads, “Make thyself a craftsman in speech, for thereby thou shalt gain the upper hand.” I doubt you have trouble gossiping with your friends about last nights episode of The Bachelor, or which player had a breakout performance in last night’s Monday Night Football game. Speaking on a grand scale is, in theory, no different than this. Professionals don’t think of their speeches as a performance or something they have to procure. Instead, they think of them as a gigantic dinner party with all of their close friends.

4. Memorization, wordy PowerPoints, and queue cards are evil. Pure. Evil.

I’m not sure when, or where, or why we were taught to speak this way, but memorizing every part of your speech or relying on cards to get you through is terrible. Chuck it out the window. Now! Likewise, if you put your entire speech on one slide that people can read, why would they pay attention to what you’re saying? Approaching a speech this way makes you stiff, and causes extreme paranoia and discomfort if you suddenly forget your positioning. What’s more beneficial is to keep your main point (mentioned above) and the constructional puzzles pieces that make up the point always in the forefront of your mind. Memorization and hefty PowerPoints make a speaker sound robotic. That’s never engaging nor fun.

5. Admire people who are better than you and learn from them.

There’s benefit in having a mentor for almost every facet of life, and public speaking is no different. If you don’t have direct access to a professional speaker in person, watch your favorite speakers on the Internet. Be sure to make note not only on their content, but also things internal to their presentation like posture, nonverbal tendencies, pace, motion, and eye contact. Or, in the words of Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, “You must find someone who wants to help you grow as a speaker.”

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6. Make practice a priority.

Mark Twain once brilliantly stated, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Practice is essential to delivering a strong, sincere, and succinct message to your audience. Start out by just reading your speech out loud from a piece of paper or computer document. After you’ve mastered that, incorporate a timer. Got that down? Practice in front of one person, then 3, then 10. Record yourself, too. It will help you discover parts of the speech where you hurry, or aspects of your speech that aren’t crystal clear

7. Sloooooooooow dooooooooooooooown.

Going fast is too easy, but can often leave you with filler time that you’ll scramble to fill. Professional speakers are deliberately slow in delivery. Not painfully so, but a pace that will encourage everyone in the room to hang on their every last word. It’s better to cover missed points in the Q & A (more on that later) than blabbing a million words per minute and expecting your audience to receive it all. I don’t think any public speakers’ quote regarding this matter will top Lily Tomiln’s: “For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”

8. Use the sound of silence. 

This is the most common trap to fall into. It’s also the easiest. When speaking, we feel forbidden to stop talking. So when we get stuck, or momentarily forget our train of thought, we unconsciously start reaching for dribble like “ummmm” and “uhhhhh” to fill the void. Purposefully silence yourself in these moments until you regain your train of thought. You may think you look foolish, but you really look professional, collected, and confident when doing this. As Sir Ralph Richardson puts it, “the most precious things in speech are pauses.” Use them liberally.

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9. Promote camaraderie in Q&A. 

You don’t have to know everything, and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. If someone asks you a question that you don’t know, fess up and ask their opinion. Invite the audience to be a part of what your message, not just someone who consumes it. This will remove the pedestal-like perception of public speaking and encourage communal interaction.

10. Be human. Be sincere. Be yourself.

Again, we’re all human. Everyone gets tummy butterflies when they stand to speak. Everyone wants to sound smart, not dumb. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, trusted, and respected.  The best thing you can do in a speech, and what the professionals do already, is to be ultimate versions of themselves. With the tidbits in this article, adapted from some of the world’s top speakers, you’ll be well your way to delivering a strong presentation, promoting a powerful message, and producing a captivated audience.

“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.”

John F. Kennedy

 

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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