Chapter 3. Presentation Tips for Public Speaking

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Public Speaking Tips

What is public speaking and why do you need it? To explain it shortly, it is speaking to audience in order to persuade them or simply present your thoughts to them. Delivering public speeches is necessary both in your academic career and your professional career, when you have to present your projects to other people, as well as in court or in course of some public activities.

If you wonder how to improve public speaking skills, the answer is you should invest your time and effort into public speaking practice – the more the better. Reading all kinds of tips, guides, famous speeches, public speaking articles about other people is also important, but without practice, it won’t work.

Not everyone is a natural born public speaker. In fact, for most of us, the mere mention of having to speak in front of an audience of any size causes an immediate increase in heartrate and sweat to drip from our foreheads. As humans, we are conditioned for self-preservation. We want to protect ourselves from failure, humiliation and anything that may fall outside of the realm of our ‘comfort zone.’ Public speaking is no different – especially if there is a risk that we might embarrass ourselves.

However, in most instances, the risk of tripping and falling on your face, only to be met by an auditorium of roaring laughter is small – or practically impossible. The trick to success that is going to help with public speaking is acting like it is impossible to fail, and the only way to ensure that it is truly impossible to fail is to come prepared.

Being prepared to speak in public means not only knowing your audience and carefully preparing yourself and your materials. It also means practicing – and practicing often!

There are really many situations offering a solution of the problem how to practice public speaking. Give yourself every opportunity you can to step outside of your comfort zone and engage with people, from all levels and walks of life, in many different forums. Join the debate club, audition for a play, enter a public speaking contest, do everything you can to change your perception of speaking in public and mold yourself into a better version of you – a you that can entertain and lead an audience simply by speaking to them. You can even participate in a public speaking organization – due to the fact that many people are afraid to speak publicly, there are public speaking groups in almost every town, and in every large city.

Now, this is not to say that you need to rival the speeches of Tony Robbins, Martin Luther King or a great political leader, but you do need to develop confidence, strength, body language and poise.

Here’s how you can actually improve public speaking.

Know the needs of your audience and match your contents to their needs. Know your material thoroughly. Put what you have to say in a logical sequence. Ensure your speech will be captivating to your audience as well as worth their time and attention. Practice and rehearse your speech at home or where you can be at ease and feel comfortable, in front of a mirror, your family, friends or colleagues. Use a tape-recorder and listen to yourself. Videotape your presentation and analyze it. Know what your strong and weak points are. Emphasize your strong points during your presentation.

Regardless of the type of public speaking you require – making a presentation, speaking in court etc. when you are presenting in front of an audience, you are performing as an actor would perform on stage. The way your audience perceives you is of utmost importance. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Be solemn if your topic is serious. Present the desired image to your audience. Look pleasant, enthusiastic, confident, proud, but not arrogant. Remain calm. Appear relaxed, even if you feel nervous. Speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and show appropriate emotion and feeling relating to your topic. Establish rapport with your audience. Speak to the person farthest away from you to ensure your voice is loud enough to project to the back of the room. Vary the tone of your voice and dramatize if necessary. If a microphone is available, adjust and adapt your voice accordingly.

When you are presenting in front of an audience, you are performing as an actor is on stage. How you are being perceived is very important. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Be solemn if your topic is serious. Present the desired image to your audience. Look pleasant, enthusiastic, confident, proud, but not arrogant. Remain calm. Appear relaxed, even if you feel nervous. Speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and show appropriate emotion and feeling relating to your topic. Establish rapport with your audience. Speak to the person farthest away from you to ensure your voice is loud enough to project to the back of the room. Vary the tone of your voice and dramatize if necessary. If a microphone is available, adjust and adapt your voice accordingly.

Body language is important. Standing, walking or moving about with appropriate hand gesture or facial expression is preferred to sitting down or standing still with head down and reading from a prepared speech. Use audio-visual aids or props for enhancement if appropriate and necessary. Master the use of presentation software such as PowerPoint well before your presentation. Do not over-dazzle your audience with excessive use of animation, sound clips, or gaudy colors which are inappropriate for your topic. Do not torture your audience by putting a lengthy document in tiny print on an overhead and reading it out to them.

Speak with conviction as if you really believe in what you are saying. Persuade your audience effectively. The material you present orally should have the same ingredients as that which are required for a written research paper, i.e. a logical progression from INTRODUCTION (Thesis statement) to BODY (strong supporting arguments, accurate and up-to-date information) to CONCLUSION (re-state thesis, summary, and logical conclusion).

Do not read from notes for any extended length of time although it is quite acceptable to glance at your notes infrequently. Speak loudly and clearly. Sound confident. Do not mumble. If you made an error, correct it, and continue. No need to make excuses or apologize profusely.

Maintain sincere eye contact with your audience. Use the 3-second method, e.g. look straight into the eyes of a person in the audience for 3 seconds at a time. Have direct eye contact with a number of people in the audience, and every now and then glance at the whole audience while speaking. Use your eye contact to make everyone in your audience feel involved.

Speak to your audience, listen to their questions, respond to their reactions, adjust and adapt. If what you have prepared is obviously not getting across to your audience, change your strategy mid-stream if you are well prepared to do so. Remember that communication is the key to a successful presentation. If you are short of time, know what can be safely left out. If you have extra time, know what could be effectively added. Always be prepared for the unexpected.

Pause. Allow yourself and your audience a little time to reflect and think. Don’t race through your presentation and leave your audience, as well as yourself, feeling out of breath.

Add humor whenever appropriate and possible. Keep audience interested throughout your entire presentation. Remember that an interesting speech makes time fly, but a boring speech is always too long to endure even if the presentation time is the same.

When using audio-visual aids to enhance your presentation, be sure all necessary equipment is set up and in good working order prior to the presentation. If possible, have an emergency backup system readily available.  Check out the location ahead of time to ensure seating arrangements for audience, whiteboard, blackboard, lighting, location of projection screen, sound system, etc. are suitable for your presentation.

Have handouts ready and give them out at the appropriate time. Tell audience ahead of time that you will be giving out an outline of your presentation so that they will not waste time taking unnecessary notes during your presentation.

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Know when to STOP talking. Use a timer or the microwave oven clock to time your presentation when preparing it at home. Just as you don’t use unnecessary words in your written paper, you don’t bore your audience with repetitious or unnecessary words in your oral presentation. To end your presentation, summarize your main points in the same way as you normally do in the CONCLUSION of a written paper. Remember, however, that there is a difference between spoken words appropriate for the ear and formally written words intended for reading. Terminate your presentation with an interesting remark or an appropriate punch line. Leave your listeners with a positive impression and a sense of completion. Do not belabor your closing remarks. Thank your audience and sit down.

Have the written portion of your assignment or report ready for your instructor if required.

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Simple Tips on How to Be a Public Speaker

You needn’t be a seasoned professional when it comes to professional speaking or giving speeches, however there are a number of things that you can do to help to improve not only your comfort level when it comes to speaking in public, but also your abilities with regards to giving a speech that comes across with poise and is well received by the audience.

Some things that you might consider doing in order to practice public speaking include:

  1. Joining any of your town’s public speaking group, a local toastmasters club or another organization that requests members take turns speaking and engaging with the group
  2. Joining your school’s public speaking club or even the drama club
  3. Participating in the debate club
  4. Attending venues where people deliver speeches so that you can see firsthand how things like tone of voice and body language affect a person’s ability to deliver a strong speech.
  5. Enter contests that require you to research and deliver a speech, such as the Optimist or Rotary Club or even School Council elections

Public Speaking Links:

The following web sources will also help you with your question of how to improve public speaking.

Advanced Public Speaking Institute. Free Articles on Public Speaking. Include:

Art of Public Speaking. Hints and tips on public speaking, public speaking nerves and anxiety.

Basic Public Speaking, 2nd Edition (Paperback): The Roadmap to Confident Communications
by Douglas A. Parker, M.Ed.

Basic Public Speaking, 2nd Edition by Douglas Parker

Better Public Speaking & Presentation – Ensure Your Words Are Always Understood by Kellie Fowler, from Mind Tools. Being prepared: Guidelines for Thinking Ahead: Ask yourself: Who? What? How? When? Where? Why?

Gifts of Speech: Women’s Speeches from Around the World. Browse alphabetically By Last Name, or browse chronologically By Year (1948-1979) to view Featured Speakers and their speeches.

How to Be Great at Public Speaking and Get Paid for It by Tom Antion.

On the Job: Public Speaking Tips – Twelve Steps to Great Presentations by Elise Bauer.

Speakers who are ill prepared tend to be nervous. Nervousness leads to anxiety and forgetfulness. Anxiety and forgetfulness lead to nervousness which leads to anxiety and forgetfulness … The answer is to understand public speaking and learn how to control your feelings so as to make a good showing.

Public Speaking Tips (or how to enjoy presentations). Article by Mark Tyrrell with practical advice. Topics covered include: 8 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People and Tough Questions, The 10 Most Common Public Speaking Fears, Avoiding a Major Public Speaking Mistake, and others.

Speech Topics Help, Advice & Ideas. How-to guides, tips to brainstorm and research speech topics, and lists of ideas to get inspiration for public speaking assignments.

SpeechTips.com. Free guide to speech writing and public speaking. Step 1: Planning, Step 2: Writing, Step 3: Delivery.

Strategies to Succeed in Public Speaking from School for Champions.

If you need assistance in writing a solid speech, you can find out More Here.

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