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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 13, 2019

7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

Are you keen to reinvent yourself this year? Or at least use the new year as a long overdue excuse to get rid of bad habits or pick up new ones?

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when we feel as if we have to turn over a new leaf. The time when we misguidedly imagine that the arrival of a new year will magically provide the catalyst, motivation and persistence we need to reinvent ourselves.

Traditionally, New Year’s Day is styled as the ideal time to kick start a new phase in your life and the time when you must make your all important new year’s resolution. Unfortunately, the beginning of the year is also one of the worst times to make a major change in your habits because it’s often a relatively stressful time, right in the middle of the party and vacation season.

Don’t set yourself up for failure this year by vowing to make huge changes that will be hard to keep. Instead follow these seven steps for successfully making a new year’s resolution you can stick to for good.

1. Just Pick One Thing

If you want to change your life or your lifestyle don’t try to change the whole thing at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to change to begin with.

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Make it something concrete so you know exactly what change you’re planning to make. If you’re successful with the first change you can go ahead and make another change after a month or so. By making small changes one after the other, you still have the chance to be a whole new you at the end of the year and it’s a much more realistic way of doing it.

Don’t pick a New Year’s resolution that’s bound to fail either, like running a marathon if you’re 40lbs overweight and get out of breath walking upstairs. If that’s the case resolve to walk every day. When you’ve got that habit down pat you can graduate to running in short bursts, constant running by March or April and a marathon at the end of the year. What’s the one habit you most want to change?

2. Plan Ahead

To ensure success you need to research the change you’re making and plan ahead so you have the resources available when you need them. Here are a few things you should do to prepare and get all the systems in place ready to make your change.

Read up on it – Go to the library and get books on the subject. Whether it’s quitting smoking, taking up running or yoga or becoming vegan there are books to help you prepare for it. Or use the Internet. If you do enough research you should even be looking forward to making the change.

Plan for success – Get everything ready so things will run smoothly. If you’re taking up running make sure you have the trainers, clothes, hat, glasses, ipod loaded with energetic sounds at the ready. Then there can be no excuses.

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3. Anticipate Problems

There will be problems so make a list of what they’ll be. If you think about it, you’ll be able to anticipate problems at certain times of the day, with specific people or in special situations. Once you’ve identified the times that will probably be hard work out ways to cope with them when they inevitably crop up.

4. Pick a Start Date

You don’t have to make these changes on New Year’s Day. That’s the conventional wisdom, but if you truly want to make changes then pick a day when you know you’ll be well-rested, enthusiastic and surrounded by positive people. I’ll be waiting until my kids go back to school in February.

Sometimes picking a date doesn’t work. It’s better to wait until your whole mind and body are fully ready to take on the challenge. You’ll know when it is when the time comes.

5. Go for It

On the big day go for it 100%. Make a commitment and write it down on a card. You just need one short phrase you can carry in your wallet. Or keep it in your car, by your bed and on your bathroom mirror too for an extra dose of positive reinforcement.

Your commitment card will say something like:

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  • I enjoy a clean, smoke-free life.
  • I stay calm and in control even under times of stress.
  • I’m committed to learning how to run my own business.
  • I meditate daily.

6. Accept Failure

If you do fail and sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning don’t hate yourself for it. Make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and vow to learn a lesson from them.

If you know that alcohol makes you crave cigarettes and oversleep the next day cut back on it. If you know the morning rush before school makes you shout then get up earlier or prepare things the night before to make it easier on you.

Perseverance is the key to success. Try again, keep trying and you will succeed.

7. Plan Rewards

Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days. After that you can probably reward yourself once a week with a magazine, a long-distance call to a supportive friend, a siesta, a trip to the movies or whatever makes you tick.

Later you can change the rewards to monthly and then at the end of the year you can pick an anniversary reward. Something that you’ll look forward to. You deserve it and you’ll have earned it.

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Whatever your plans and goals are for this year, I’d do wish you luck with them but remember, it’s your life and you make your own luck.

Decide what you want to do this year, plan how to get it and go for it. I’ll definitely be cheering you on.

Are you planning to make a New Year’s resolution? What is it and is it something you’ve tried to do before or something new? Why not pick one from this list: 50 New Year’s Resolution Ideas And How To Achieve Each Of Them

Featured photo credit: Ian Schneider via unsplash.com

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