6 Steps to Successful Public Speaking

When faced with delivering a speech or presentation many of us worry about what we are going to say or how the audience will react… But trust me, there is no need to be worried!

My aim with this post is to present a simple, yet hugely effective method that you can apply to help you prepare and deliver well structured, concise and compelling presentations. There is no doubt that effective public speaking requires hard work – a combination of persistence practice and perseverance. My six steps to successful public speaking will hopefully make the entire process a little easier for you.

John Powell Public Speaking

There’s a famous quotation on public speaking that comes to mind:

Communication works for those who work at it – John Powell

1) Overcome Fear & Anxiety

Numerous studies confirm what most of us already know: people fear public speaking. Studies also show that one of the biggest causes of speaking anxiety is that we tend to focus too much on ourselves.

Speaking is not an ego trip, it is about imparting information to the audience so that they take an action or change their point of view. In other words, the presentation is not about you, it’s about the audience. If you adopt that attitude when speaking, it will have a big impact on your ability to present with confidence.

Overcoming Fear & AnxietyOvercoming public speaking fear and anxiety also requires effective preparation and practise. Adopting a positive attitude and visualising success will make it easier. Deep breaths and pauses will add control and clarity to the speech.

I’ve written a detailed blog post about this topic. Catchup on that article here.

2) Demonstrate Passion

In all your speeches or presentations it’s important to choose a message that you are passionate about. This will give you more motivation to prepare effectively, and more confidence when you speak. As an added benefit, if you are passionate about a topic, your energy and enthusiasm will transfer to your audience, and they will be more prone to listen to what you have to say.

Steve Jobs Passion Steve Jobs is an obvious example of a speaker who spoke with passion. He enjoyed unveiling new products and wore his enthusiasm on his sleeve. Learn about how you too can present like Steve Jobs here.

If you are speaking on a topic that has been assigned to you, then you’ll have to develop a passion for the topic. The best way to do this is by researching the topic well. With all of the new knowledge filling your brain, you’ll be eager to share it with your audience.

3) Develop a Roadmap

Effective public speaking requires a plan. If you want the audience to understand your message then it needs to be clear and flow logically.

  • What is your purpose?
  • What do you want the audience to do?

Preparing A SpeechYour whole speech or presentation should move towards a well defined goal.

  • Begin with an outline of why you are speaking. An introduction to a speech is a bit like the news headlines – it needs to make the audience sit up and take notice.
  • Next layout key points that support the key message. This is the body of the speech.
  • Finally, have a clear conclusion. Provide the audience with a clear call to action.

I’ve written extensively on the speech preparation process. Get started with part 1 here

4) Master Body Language

Believe it or not, more than fifty percent of your everyday communication takes place nonverbally. You’re constantly sending nonverbal messages. When you speak in public, your listeners judge you based on what they see, as well as on what they hear. All of the physical body movements you convey are subconsciously interpreted by your audience. This can work for or against you depending on the kind of body language you use.

Eye Contact In Public SpeakingEye contact is just one of the many forms of non-verbal actions at your disposal. When you speak, your eyes function as a control device. Simply by looking at people, you have an influence on their attentiveness and concentration. You have an opportunity to make your presentation direct, personal, and conversational.

The “Ultimate Guide To Body Language” outlines an approach for displaying energy, good posture, effective gestures and successful eye contact. See more here.

5) Create Powerful Visuals

Communication experts say that visual aids have gone from being a presentation aid to a dependency for many. If someone has a presentation tomorrow the tendency is to just start dumping information onto PowerPoint slides and then wing the talk-to-people part. This approach will NOT lead to successful public speaking.

Presentations SlidesIt’s important to spend time preparing, and perfecting slides, well before the day of the presentation. Here are 3 easy ways to mix things up and think differently about slides:

  1. Avoid stock templates: Stay clear of standard background templates that come with PowerPoint. Instead, use a custom template to make your presentation look different
  2. Dump the text: The presentation should not be a reading report. Limit text
  3. Use pictures and graphs: A picture paints a thousand words!

Above all else, remember this:

Don’t develop slides so you can read them. Develop them to support you.

Check out my detailed post about creating powerful visual aids here

6) Practise Like Crazy!

Public speaking is an invaluable skill to learn. If you want to become an effective leader in your field and have the opportunity to inspire an audience, you will have to train yourself to become a powerful public speaker. The best way to do that is by practise, practise and more practise.

Practice Like Crazy For Public SpeakingHere are some ideas to make the most of a practise session:

  • Re-create the speech setting by practising in the room where you’ll be speaking
  • Practise with an audience… even if it’s not your target audience
  • Experiment with different voices, gestures and body language
  • Time the delivery and take notes on the performance
  • Audio or video record the performance for self-assessment
  • Solicit feedback from others, asking for honest opinion

Toastmasters Club can provide the experience and practise environment you need in a safe and friendly way. At the very least, consider watching professional speakers and inspiring speeches to see the techniques in action.

Ready to Be Successful?

There are many people out there who take public speaking for granted. Most of us have the ability to talk, however to be a successful public speaker you really need to master the art. Follow the six step method in this blog post and set yourself up to prepare and deliver well structured, concise and compelling presentations that any audience will thank you for. Wishing you the best of luck!