How to improve your public speaking

Public Speaking is an essential skill in business. To succeed, you want to improve your public speaking skills. These top ten public speaking tips will help you look and feel more impressive.

They are based on 10+ years experience coaching executives to become better public speakers, whether for talks, pitches or presentations.

While the advice we give each person is tailored, we’ve picked out some of the most common tips which will help you get started on the road to powerful, engaging and high impact public speaking.

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Top ways to become a better public speaker

1. Build your talk around one big idea

2. Speak directly to your audience

3. Decide how you want your audience to feel

4. Don’t narrate slides

5. Something interesting every 10 words

6. Use short phrases, and pause

7. Use personal pronouns

8. Look at the audience

9. Smile

10. Show your passion

Improved Public Speaking  #1: Build your talk around one big idea

Too many talks are muddy. They try to get across too many ideas and therefore are hard to deliver and hard to remember. To create a powerful talk, find one big idea to underpin your talk. If that idea is big, bold and vivid, then your talk will be more memorable. Better still, if it’s something that you can keep returning to in your talk, you will hammer home your point.

Better Public Speaking #2:  Speak directly to your audience

A great talk should feel like a personal conversation. See how these two approaches are different:

BEFORE:  “The company is announcing a new policy this week that changes the way expenses are recorded and paid. The new process for recording expenses will be as follows…”

AFTER:  “You’ll be pleased to hear we are changing our expenses system. We all know the old system was bad. Our new system is great. Here’s how you can record and claim your expenses more quickly and easily than before…”

Don’t just speak – instead, speak directly to people.

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Better Public Speaking #3:  Decide how your audience feels, not just what they hear

People will listen to what you say if they feel good about what you say.  So, if you want to change their minds, start by agreeing with them.  For example:

BEFORE: “Expenses claims must be submitted by the 15th of each month.”

AFTER:  “We all like getting our money back fast, right?  So now, with this new expenses system, we can get the money into your bank account guaranteed – so long as you get your expenses in by the 15th each month.”

Public Speaking  #4:  Don’t narrate slides

Everyone, I am sure, has told you not to read off your slides. We know that’s bad. But I want to take the advice further.  I want you to never even narrate slides. Instead, speak to your audience and use your slides (if you have any) as visual aids.

What does that mean?  Try this:

BEFORE:  “As you can see here, the new expenses system will start operating on the 16th June and will be rolled out to all our offices by the end of July”.

AFTER:  “So, when does this new system start?  For those of you in head office, it’s the 16th June.  For the rest of us – it will be rolled out so that all have it by the end of July.”

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Public Speaking #5:  Say something interesting every 10 words

It is easy to pad a talk.  But great speakers do the opposite. They work hard to cut and edit until what’s left is only the interesting bits.  If, as a result, their talks are short – that’s great. I remember at a dinner a famous TV CEO, giving the keynote speech, muttering to me under his breath as he stood up “See you in 8 minutes.”  

So: take a red pen to what you are saying and make sure every 10 words there is something the audience will find interesting.

Improve #6:  Short phrases – pause, every 6-8 words

The Pause. I am sure you have been told how important the pause is when speaking in public.But how many pauses and how long?

Two ideas:

Leave a pause roughly every 6-8 words

The bigger the audience, the longer your pauses need to be

Most people don’t pause either often enough or long enough.  So, when you practise, record yourself and hear for yourself how much better you sounds with lots of lengthy pauses.

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Tip 7:  Use personal pronouns

The more you use I – We – You – Our – Your, the better your talk will sound.

Just hear the difference:

BEFORE:  “This policy is being launched to ensure better compliance and rapid payment.” 

AFTER:  “We are changing our policy so that you get paid faster, and so that we all use our system properly.”

Tip 8:  Look at the audience

Never look at your slides. 

Instead, always fix eye contact with one person for each phrase of your talk, then move on to someone else and do the same. It sounds simple, but it takes practice. Get this right and you’ll look – and feel – much more confident.

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Tip 9:  Smile

For some reason, most speakers look too serious when speaking. But research shows that smilers are seen as more professional and more competent. And those who smile sound better when speaking too – that’s all about the muscles in your face. So, practise a natural smile so that you come across as professional as possible.

Tip 10:  Show your passion

Public speaking should not look like a chore. You want the audience to see your enthusiasm because your excitement will become infectious. For example, research shows how passion is a key ingredient of success when pitching for investment.

How do you show passion?  There are a number of ways.  It could be the excitement in your voice, the positive words you use, the shine in your face and your body language that supports everything you are saying.

That’s why we usually do our coaching with a camera so that we can analyse performances in detail. This means we target our advice so that each person makes the impact they want to make.

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How to improve your public speaking

Practical tips to improve your public speaking skills

How to be better at public speaking – quickly

While these public speaking tips will definitely help you become a better public speaker, they are just the start. If you want to accelerate your journey to improve your public speaking skills, please get in touch. We’d be happy to show you how our intensive coaching can transform the impact you make.

We’ll help you polish what you say, how you say it and how you feel about saying it.  You’ll end up clear, confident and compelling.

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About Benjamin Ball Associates

Benjamin Ball Associates Team

At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help clients to pitch, present & persuade.

Over the last 12+ years the award-winning BBA team has supported thousands of executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.

We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.

Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email louise@benjaminball.com to find out more and discuss your upcoming talk or presentation.

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