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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 December 17, 2018

Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

We live in a time of productivity overload.

Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.

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This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!

    Is this you?

    Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively

    When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.

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    Take a deep breath/change your body posture

    When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?

    Focus on right now

    Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.

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    Take Action

    Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.

    Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)

    Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.

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    yoga-422196_1280
      Relax and enjoy the moment

      Stop feeling guilty

      Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.

      Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!

      Featured photo credit: Stress Therapy via flickr.com

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