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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 October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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