So, I haven’t had a lot of speaking engagements to the point of being a motivational speaker, but it has been my passion for as long as I can remember and it is actually one of my career goals in addition to being a professional writer.
Even though on my resume I only have spoken to my high school about mental health in the past and I have another speaking engagement coming up as well, I have always had a passion for encouraging others and giving advice.
I remember in high school I had classes that I would hate, but when we had PowerPoint presentations to give, I always aced them.
I just felt so free and liberated in front of my class and I usually knew the techniques needed to make for a great presentation, even.
From then on, my love for public speaking continued into college and I took a public speaking course which I loved.
Didn’t ace it, because of course the standards are different at that level, but I had the same passion, the same love for standing in front of others and sharing what I knew.
We see TedTalks all the time and we are in awe of all these professional speakers, athletes, body positive models, and other educators who effortlessly give their talks from a place of authority.
Some of us secretly have it in us to be speakers, or just have loved it for a while and want to give it a go, but we are afraid we are not good enough.
But you absolutely can be an amazing public speaker. There are just skills and certain attributes that you have to carry into it to ensure a smooth and memorable execution.
Here are 10 tips for becoming a better public speaker:
1. No, you cannot, I repeat, you cannot wing your speech!
Girl, when I tell you I bombed the very first powerpoint presentation I did in my first year of college, not to mention it was in front of a bunch of snooty business students and my professor.
I went into the course thinking I am really good and didn’t prepare and practice my presentation.
The next day when it came time to present, I was all over the place, stuttering, nervous, and my presentation was significantly short, so much that my prof asked me to do it again.
It does not matter how serious you think it really is or how much work and research you think it takes to do a presentation in front of others, you MUST study and practice, practice, practice, what you are going to say.
If it is a PowerPoint, know your slides well so you are not reading word for word and you can just reference the title and speak confidently.
Being prepared is always better because we are 99.9% of the time always nervous as soon as we step in front of a crowd. But if you know your stuff, you will be confident and less likely to stumble over your words.
2. Start your presentation by winning over the trust and attention of your audience
Begin your presentation with an anecdote, a joke (if humor comes easily to you), a question, a story, a scenario or invite a guest to come on stage if you feel that is appropriate for your speech.
The number one most important thing to remember with public speeches is that the crowd has a low attention span already and they may not know you as well.
So you want to draw the audience in from the beginning so they want to listen to what you have to say. If you just begin your speech all dry and just delve into what you are saying, you already lost them. It can also be daunting to stare at the faces of others in the audience during your speech and that might trip you up we well.
But if you lighten the mood and gain the trust of the crowd, you are less inclined to lose your train of thought when you make eye contact with someone.
Warm up to the crowd, then begin.
3. Be confident
You are the teacher and the master of this talk. You might leave out something out of your talk, but if you are confident enough to make up for it by knowing the rest of your stuff and you appear to have authority, you will engage everyone and they will be more inclined to your speech because it sounds like you know your stuff. Confidence is sexy. It also leaves a lasting impression on who you are as a person.
4. Speak slowly
When you are nervous, you are going to speak faster than usual. But speaking slowly allows what you are saying to register to your brain so that you can understand what you are saying and keep your train of thought.
Speaking faster just makes it sound like mumble jumble to the audience and it’s also quite noticeable.
5. Dress appropriately!
We underestimate how what we wear actually affects how we do our presentations. Do not come to your presentation with a stain on your shirt, your hair not done, or a tight skirt. You want to feel comfortable but also look the part as well. The wrong outfit can be very distracting.
6. Be authentic and be yourself
Giving a presentation does not mean that you have to be someone you are not.
Be yourself, crack a joke, let people know you are just like them, but with some knowledge to share. There is nothing worse than watching someone give a speech and they come off cold and callous, or just a know it all. People are more drawn to someone they can relate to.
7. Use life experiences as the thread that holds together your speech
One of the things you will find with the best watched Ted Talks is that they have a powerful “So What?” factor to them. So what does this mean for me? So what does this mean for society? So what does that mean for the future of X Y and Z?
People come on and talk about mental illness, suicide attempts, their disabilities and so on and so forth. Real life issues that people go through on a daily basis.
People want to hear something that inspires them to do better or makes them question their lives further.
Always remember to use what you have gone through as your platform.
8. Do adequate research
People in the audience will ask you questions and you should be ready to answer. They want to know about the statistics, facts, and so on and so forth.
If you are prepared and have done adequate research on your topic, you are less inclined to just blank out when someone does ask you a question.
9. Don’t judge yourself too much
The thing with public speaking is that a lot of the times when we are on stage, we are very much in our heads. If we say “um” in our heads it lasted a lifetime, when in reality it was a less than a minute that you paused. Don’t focus so much on yourself that you become neurotic about every little thing. If you did your research and are prepared, you probably are doing a lot better than you think you are. Remember that we usually think less of our performance than how it actually is in reality.
10. End your speech with a poignant takeaway
End your presentation leaving the audience remembering you with some powerful takeaways. They should leave feeling good, inspired and enlightened. They should leave understanding a little bit more about themselves, the world, and why some things are the way they are.
It doesn’t matter what your speech is. If it is informational, inspirational, or educational. Bring passion into whatever angle you use and that is how you will win people over.
Public speaking is not just reserved for the ‘giants’ of this world. You can do it too. It just takes patience, confidence, and practice.
You are probably one of the greatest speakers right now and don’t even know it.
Go after it, practice, and speak.