3 Public Speaking Tips Every Presenter Must Know

Written by Kai Xin Koh

public speaking tips cover for highspark - man studying, thinking and good sign

When it comes to public speaking, even the most confident-looking individuals may stumble when faced with a sizable audience. When provided with a powerful platform for sharing messages and ideas, it can be tricky to deliver an excellent performance without losing your nerve. This is why politicians, industry experts, and various performers have allocated a good portion of their lives to acquire the necessary skills to excel in this endeavor.

There are several factors that come into play when speaking to the public: you have to be mindful of how you present yourself; the content of your speech; and how you relay your message. You have to take on a calculative approach while preparing because it will affect you far longer than the time you’re on stage. Improving your skills in public speaking skills can help in generating more awareness for your organization or cause after your engagement is over.

To assist you in preparing for this daunting task, here are three fundamental public speaking tips to knock your next speech out of the park:

Prioritize preparation

public speaking tip: preparing structure, design and story for your speech

Structure, Design, and Stories

Always trust your instincts if you think you’re not 100% prepared. Preparation is key when it comes to public speaking as it allows you to organize your content properly, as well as make it more impactful.

Taking more time to prepare will allow you to add enlightening elements by including personal elements like anecdotes, stories and also let you work on your presentation design. It’s also advisable to watch videos of public speaking professionals on stage to see how they’ve performed and/or how they were able to craft their speeches.

The first stage of preparation is to get into the right mental state where you’ve done the work to build the foundation of your upcoming speech with your stories, slides and the outcome you want to achieve.

Don’t memorize, internalize the delivery

It’s said that the best presenters don’t memorize their speech. Instead, you want to familiarize yourself with the overall structure of the presentation and rather than recite the words verbatim, seek to be conversational.

Intently familiarizing yourself with your content as well as the underlying ideas behind it will lead you to have an easier time in conveying your message in a way that’s authentic and natural.

Try to talk through the presentation out loud and fill in the blanks without memorizing your script, you’ll find that you’re comfortable to even present it without presentation slides or holding a script because the story tends to come out more naturally in speech.

Study your audience

public speaking tip: know your audience before giving your presentation

Part of succeeding in public speaking is making sure that your talk is relevant to the audience.
For example: Speaking to a group of executives about that latest video game will leave your message falling flat even before you’ve truly started to connect.

Create a general evaluation of the demographic present for your speech to reach out to them in the right way.

Level of comprehension

Speaking at a high-level to a novice audience and on a basic level for a technically erudite audience is a public speaking sin you’d want to avoid.

Try to get a hint of the general populace of the audience you’re speaking to and how knowledgeable they are. Are you speaking to senior executives or ones that just joined the company? Are you talking to subject matter experts or sales people that are on the ground?

Different audiences call for different tones and words that you choose to use.

Consider Culture

When presenting in a foreign country, you’d want to pay attention to any cultural differences to avoid a faux pas. Consider if the references you want to make are appropriate or offensive, consider whether the way you’re dressing is well accepted in those communities too.

These considerations will also affect whether you deliver your presentation using a more formal approach or try to adopt a more comedic and lighthearted style of delivery.

Here’s a video of Seth Godin speaking at the Gel Conference with a touch of humor. When speaking to an audience of creatives and marketers, this can be considered apt. If it was an event with a more serious tone or in a conservative society Japan, for instance, this style might not be so appropriate.

Reference Industry Terms

A great way to quickly build rapport and authority with audiences is when you use words that they use in their line of work.

Making your presentation relevant to their every day is a public speaking technique to be adhered to. Spending a little extra time to do a quick Google search to pick up on industry buzzwords and happenings can quickly help you establish common ground with a skeptical audience.

People appreciate it when speakers actually take them into account when preparing for the speech. No matter how hard you may try, the likelihood is that audiences will instantly know if you are insufficiently or altogether unfamiliar with the type of people you’re speaking to.

As general as your topic might be, it’s always better to study your audience first before speaking to them to leave a better impression.

Present an engaging personality


obama when public speaking tips

Regardless of the kind of audience you have, however, there is one thing that they always want – an engaging speaker. Even though you’re speaking in public, many people might prefer someone who speaks as if they’re in a private or intimate conversation. A connection is vital in effectively conveying your message, which is your sole objective at the end of the day.

You’re putting forth your own words and methodologies to be absorbed by people who might not be familiar with them. If you don’t share these in an engaging way, you’re setting up yourself for failure.

Take into account your vocal tone, body language, facial expressions, and timing when preparing for a speech. Even simple gestures can significantly contribute to your presentation.

To illustrate, some hand gestures include: placing it on your chest to emphasize an emotional point; showing a number through your fingers after saying it; and using both hands to represent two separate groups. Subtle cues such as these help your audience to keep track of the presentation not only mentally, but visually as well.

Amy Cuddy shares about the power of positive body language and gestures in her widely-acclaimed TED talk:

In addition, you always have to be the first to put in a lot of energy, which is a big ask in a room of anything more than a hundred people. Otherwise, your audience probably won’t have any enthusiasm left to listen until you finish. By doing all of this, you can bridge the divide between you and your listeners. It can also compel them to ask questions at the end, or even try to make your acquaintance once you step off the stage.

Here’s an example of Tony Robbins commanding the stage as one man with a boundless well of energy, notice his exaggerated hand gestures that come in useful when working with a large audience:

Without a doubt, an engaging personality can take you much further in public speaking when managed properly.

Your first foray into public speaking can be nerve-wracking. The best way to circumvent the nervousness is to consistently seek out more public speaking opportunities and perfect your process of preparation. Some of the best presenters of our time still admit to being nervous before their presentations, but they’ve learned to harness that energy to do an even better job!

To summarize, here are the three big public speaking tips that you need to know to boost your next speech:

  1. Prioritize preparation time to garner your public speaking ammunition in the form of stories, visuals, and delivery ability
  2. Study your audiences intimately to ensure you provide relevant content they want to hear about
  3. Present an engaging personality that people want to connect with better hand gestures and energy

Did you enjoy those public speaking tips? Let us know what else you’d like to see in the comments.

Article Written By: Kai Xin Koh

Co-founder and Head of training at HighSpark, Kai Xin's super power is to empower high-performing individuals win more hearts and minds through persuasive communications. She was recently one of the only 20 Singaporeans to be honoured on the Forbes30Under30 Asia list. Beyond business, Kai Xin makes time for meditation, is determined to lead her life mindfully, and aspire to unveil the magic of the mind.

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