Most professionals or leaders in other capacities are asked to speak to an audience on occasion. While some people are motivated and inspired by such a request, others can be quite apprehensive. Know that you don’t have to be a professional public speaker to deliver a talk that will inspire, inform, and resonate with your audience.
Let’s start with the assumption that you will be speaking on a topic about which you are knowledgeable and passionate. That’s a great start, by the way! From there you can build a talk that will be memorable for all the right reasons. Here are 7 public speaking tips taken from some of the best TED Talks.
You want to be able to deliver your talk as comfortably as if you were talking to a friend, and unless you’re unnaturally gifted at public speaking, this will require practice. And it will require more practice than you expect. A single “dress rehearsal” isn’t enough. Practice it multiple times, in front of different people, and ask them for feedback. Listen to their feedback – most, but not all of which will be valuable – and adjust accordingly.
2. Create a Pre-Check Routine
A live band that doesn’t do a sound check won’t impress the fans. Create a routine before your talk to ensure you can see your notes, your microphone works, and you can operate any audiovisual equipment you need for your talk. You’re also wise to have a backup plan to turn to in case something doesn’t work as expected. Well before your talk, visualize what you’ll do if one of your fears is realized. It probably won’t happen, but you’ll be ready if it does.
3. Teach Them Something That Will Amaze Them
Deliver something new to your audience, or alternatively, express something they know in a brand-new way. These things stick with people far more than the information on a pie chart. You may have to dig a little to find a surprising fact that works with your topic or your audience, but the internet is a big help here. Just be sure to thoroughly check facts via multiple sources before sharing them with your audience.
4. Help Your Audience Connect Emotionally
People want to connect emotionally with their speaker, so don’t be afraid to show vulnerability or other emotions, and don’t be afraid to pluck your audience’s heart strings in an appropriate manner. One thing not to do is to admit a mistake or incompetency as a springboard to show off how far you have come. This is known as a “humble brag,” and people find it disingenuous. Real modesty always beats manufactured modesty.
5. Pictures Make Better Visual Aids Than Text
When you choose visual aids, prefer true visual aids, like photographs or drawings, to text and charts. You don’t have to see PowerPoint as an enemy, but you need to learn to make the most of it. Avoid bullet-pointed lists, and limit text altogether. Pictures and animation, accompanied by your narrative (rather than reading your slides, which is something you shouldn’t do), helps your audience recall your talk content later.
6. Make Your Talk Run Short Rather Than Long
Know your window of time, and aim to have a talk that’s shorter than that. Not only does this leave more time for questions and answers, it avoids the “speaker hegemony” that results when a speaker unexpectedly goes over his or her allotted time, which tends to annoy audience members. By being determined to respect your audience’s time, you’re forced to refine and hone your presentation, which is something you should do anyway.
7. Repeat Audience Questions Before Answering Them
Microphones aren’t available at many public talks, so it’s usually imperative that you repeat a question you receive from an audience member. Not only do you ensure that you heard correctly, you make sure everyone in the audience knows what question was asked so that your answer makes sense. Otherwise, you’re potentially wasting the time of everyone except whoever asked the question.
Passion and enthusiasm are perhaps the two most important ingredients in a memorable speech. Naturally, you want all your necessary tech equipment to work as expected, but it is your own enthusiasm about your subject that will make the biggest impression on your audience. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about my public speaking availability and experience, so please feel free to get in touch if I can be of help.