33 Ideas to Improve as a Public Speaker

  1. Project your voice. Speak from your diaphragm, not your throat.
  2. Keep eye contact with different numbers of your audience as you speak
  3. Try to stand to the side of blackboards of flip charts while writing on them during your presentation.
  4. Use the podium to you advantage. If you are about to make an important point, or want to create a “formal” atmosphere, step behind it. At more informal points of your talk, step out from behind the podium.
  5. Dress accordingly to the audience expectations. When in doubt, overdress. Avoid dangling jewelry and spare change in your pockets.
  6. Be natural. The best speaking tone is identical to conversational speech, only  bit louder.
  7. Vary the speed of your voice for maximum effort. Slowing down, or even pausing, before important pints will command audience attention.
  8. State your main points at the onset of your talk. Then explain them and end with a summary of the same main points.
  9. Systematically search out examples and anecdotes that illustrate the main point of your talk. Write them down, and use them in your talk.
  10. Have “reserve power”. Don’t say everything you know about the subject; instead leave something in reserve. Talk to your audience in terms they understand. If you’re talking with older adults, talk about things they are concerned with.
  11. Point out similarities between you and your audience. (“We are all concerned about the government cuts to Medicare”)
  12. Ask questions and request a show of hands and otherwise include members of your audience in your presentation .
  13. Use names of people in your talk. If you can, refer to members of the audience by name.
  14. Get attention at the opening sentence with a striking statistic, metaphor or story.
  15. Find opportunities to practice speaking in public.
  16. Never draw attention to negatives (for example, don’t admit you are very nervous, or say “I’m really not an experience speaker.”)
  17. Whenever possible, speak from your personal experience.
  18. Set up a filing system for your talks.
  19. Always prepare an opening and conclusion in advance.
  20. If you use a microphone, don’t get too close to it, and keep it between you and your audience at all times. Don’t make side remarks the audience won’t be able to hear.
  21. Practice with a tape recorder or videotape recorder or in front of a mirror. You’ll be able to correct many speech and body mannerisms.
  22. Pick a few members of your audience to watch as “barometers” for your talk. Their facial expressions and body language will help you test how you’re doing.
  23. Study effective speakers. Ask yourself, “What makes this speaker effective?” Then emulate that effective style.
  24. Practice stories, jokes and quotations to make sure you can deliver them effectively.
  25. When doing slide presentations, (or any audio-visual techniques that force you to lower the lights) speak louder than normal to keep audience attention.
  26. If you are using special equipment, practice with me before your talk.
  27. If you have to recapture control of the group, move to a flip chart or blackboard and begin writing.
  28. Vary your pace. Alternate between lectures, questions, exercises, votes and other techniques.
  29. If you use notes, don’t check them during pauses. Instead, check them as you finish your previous point. Use pauses to establish eye contact with the audience.
  30. Prepare “teaser” questions for an unresponsive audience.
  31. Always find out the time limit for your speech and practice. Keep to your time limit.
  32. Check the purpose of the organization and the meeting so that you can fit what you’re saying to “where they are at”
  33. Use “we” to include the audience.

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
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