There are many websites that deal with how to write a speech or different types of speeches. Even websites that specifically teach you how to practice eye contact or body gestures.
However, there aren’t many that tackle how to effectively practice public speaking techniques.
You may have seen many public speakers who seem to speak naturally and effortlessly. You can be sure that this did not happen overnight. These speakers have spent many hours working on how to improve their public speaking.
You might find yourself intimidated by this journey but look on the bright side. This means that you can easily become a successful public speaker with enough practice. The key here is learning how to make the most of your practice.
That’s exactly where we come in!
Table of Contents
- Public Speaking: A Gist
- Analyzing your audience
- 18 Effective Public Speaking Techniques:
- Pick A Topic That Matters To You
- Have a Goal and Stick to it
- Organization is Key
- Provide Plenty of Examples
- Everybody Loves a Good Story
- Add Visual Aids
- Keep it Professional
- Practice Your Speech
- Practice With a Coach
- Take a Deep Breath
- Mistakes Happen
- Slow Down
- Additional Visual Aids
- Dress for the Occasion
- Avoid Filler Words and Sounds
- Be Fluent in Body Language
- Encourage Audience Participation
- Learn to Read Your Audience
- Wrapping Up,
Public Speaking: A Gist
Public speaking is slightly different from your regular presentations. These are speeches you give to an audience and are very different from video documentaries that you might find on the internet.
Public speaking can have many advantages. Not only can it put you in the limelight for many opportunities, but it can also do wonders for improving your self-confidence.
You don’t simply have to limit yourself to the stage. Public speaking is an essential skill that can be useful in many different walks of life.
Whether you are in sales or an office job, you can reap the benefits of this skill. Effective public speaking will also work on your eye contact and body gestures.
It enhances your overall appeal. Knowing how to analyze a crowd and keep things interesting is a life skill in itself. These are skills that are sure to make you stand out in today’s sea of applicants in any job.
Now that the prospect of public speaking sounds so enticing, you might be wondering, “How can I effectively practice my speeches? We have lined up some amazing techniques for your convenience.
Analyzing your audience
No matter how effective your public speaking techniques, they need to be fine-tuned to the audience, you will be presenting to. Different situations work for different audiences. For a perfectly executed speech, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your audience demographic?
- What will they be getting out of your speech?
- Are they an interactive audience?
- How knowledgeable are they about your topic?
- Is your topic too controversial for your audience?
- How large is the crowd?
- How formal is the venue?
18 Effective Public Speaking Techniques:
Practice without techniques is as good as trying to move a wall with all your might. You’re wasting your breath and effort without any beneficial results.
Knowing exactly what to focus your energy on can make sure you get the most out of your practice. Here are 18 ways you can do so:
Pick A Topic That Matters To You
Passion is a very strong emotion. It can be tempting to go for a topical or trendy topic to try to win the audience’s attention.
However, your lack of interest in a topic can be very showing. Your job as a speaker is to convince the audience to care for a topic that you take a stance for. But if you don’t seem convinced yourself, they won’t either.
It is hard to recover once the audience has already pegged you as being pretentious. Rather than chasing topics you have no interest in, it will be much easier to speak about something that speaks to you as a person.
Your passion will shine through very naturally, and it is a great way to generate authentic interest. This way, even if you make minor mistakes, your audience is likely to let it slide as you are speaking with such conviction.
Have a Goal and Stick to it
Once you take up the speech, it can be easy to lose track of what you’re talking about. We’ve all attended those lectures where the teacher seemed to drone on and on with no end in sight. It is safe to assume others would feel the same way.
This is where having a dedicated speech outline comes in. It starts as early as the speech writing process.
Remember to separate your main points into easily distinguishable sections. You might clearly see the sections in your speech but try to see it from the eyes of someone who will be listening to it for the first time.
Try to limit improvisation on the stage. Even if you choose to speak freely, have key points handy so that you can catch yourself when you begin to veer off.
Similarly, try not to pick a very vast topic as you may end up trying to incorporate too many things into one speech. This can make your speech seem unfocused. It will confuse your audience and don’t give them one key takeaway.
You can only guide your audience once you yourself know what your end goal is. Figure it out early, and you will be able to stick to it.
Organization is Key
You need to understand the basics of a speech outline. No matter how complicated a speech might seem, it stays true to a structure. Browse through our Complete OBC Guide for a better understanding of a speech structure.
Your introduction is your chance to grab the audience’s attention. Many people don’t utilize this opportunity and end up using generic introductions or announcing their topics.
This is such a waste of the undivided attention you have at the beginning. Similarly, try to have a dynamic ending.
These are the sections where you have all the eyes on you, and you can leave them with a memorable note. If your message has a key takeaway, then this is the place for it.
Even within your main body, you can introduce structure. The go-to method is to divide it into three easy-to-follow sections coupled with smooth transitions.
You can also use a Q/A format to make it more engaging for your listeners. Try to catch yourself when you begin to go off-topic and stick to your central theme.
Provide Plenty of Examples
A strong statement, no matter how bold, cannot stand on its own. Take your speech as an opportunity to convince your audience of your stance.
Remember that nobody likes to be simply told what to do. When presenting an argument, always support it with examples, statistics, or facts.
For example, what would you find more convincing?
“Children around the world are dying from malnutrition.”
“UNICEF estimates that nearly 195 million children are malnourished worldwide.
The former, while a true fact, does not pack enough of a punch. The statistic helps to draw attention to the true gravity of the situation. Take a look at your speech and, whenever possible, add a supporting fact or example.
Everybody Loves a Good Story
Most of the successful speakers that you can see today are adept storytellers. It does not need to be a fairytale or the next game of thrones to be an effective speaking tool.
What is a story when broken down to its bare elements? An engaging tale that keeps your audience guessing and interesting. Stories are also a great way of making your speech more relatable to your audience.
Keeping your story relevant is key. You might have a story about a memory you hold close to your heart, but it needs to also line up with your key message. When it comes to the type of speech, there are many possible avenues.
For instance: If the end goal of your speech is to persuade your audience to try a product or service, you can tell them the journey of how it fulfilled a certain role in your life.
Giving a real-life example of how a product or service has helped you is much more effective than reading out bullet points of features.
Similarly, if you want your listeners to change their everyday behaviors to help the environment, the cause is too broad. While yes, it is important to care for the environment, it will be easier for them to connect to a more tangible experience.
Add Visual Aids
If your speech covers very technical aspects or goes on for longer than 5 minutes, your audience might have a tough time keeping up. You might want to consider adding some visual aids to help your audience pay attention.
Usually, when people think of visual aids, they immediately go to slides. After all, Powerpoint slides have dominated the presentation market for quite some time.
This is also why people tend to find them boring. However, many people tend to stick to formal and basic themes without any experimenting. These tools actually have quite a lot to offer.
Here are some ideas on how you can jazz up your PowerPoint slides:
- Adding transitions
- Adding animations to bullet points and images
- Adding audio and video clips
- Making use to the drawing and shapes tools
- Using different fonts and gifs.
Keep it Professional
We’ve just talked about keeping it professional, so you might be wondering whether you should jazz it up or keep it professional.
When we say add animations and transitions, it is easy to go very overboard with it. You don’t want to fill your slides with transitions or have every single point be bouncing on your screen with animations. This can be very distracting for the audience.
Your slides will play a significant role in your credibility. You don’t want to put in loud colors and illegible themes.
Simple things like aligning your pictures well and lengthy bullet points can make your slides seem extremely unprofessional.
No matter how fluently you speak, your slides become a major component of your speech. So as you practice your speech, you should also practice your presentation slides.
If you’re not very handy with software, there are many readily available professional themes that are easy to customize.
There are hundreds of such themes in both free and premium versions. You can also choose to create your own template, but it might be quite time-consuming.
Practice Your Speech
One consistent ingredient in every public speaking blog will always be practice, and for a good reason. No matter how much you read up on proper techniques: the true secret ingredient is practice.
This isn’t really a favorite method for many people as it takes time. But there is simply no shortcut for this.
Every successful speaker that you now see effortlessly charming the stage has practiced and paced in their room enough times to get there. Besides, when you aren’t prepared for your speech, it shows in the way you fumble.
What you need to remember is that practicing is not the same as memorizing. You should not be repeating your speech word for word, in fact, that is a surefire way to stumble if you forget even a segment of your script.
The goal is not to recite your speech but to become familiar enough to be comfortable with it. This will help you plan pauses and hand gestures accordingly as well.
Practice With a Coach
Although this is completely optional, if public speaking is something you are looking into as a possible career path- this might be worth the investment. This is also a much faster way of practicing your public speaking.
When you practice by yourself, it is hard to catch long-term habits that you’ve set in terms of speaking. An experienced teacher will be able to point out exactly what areas you need to work on. This will shorten your practice time, as well.
However, this does come at a price. Another alternative is to join public speaking groups. Here, you will meet people with similar goals and can help each other out.
Groups like Toastmasters International have been around for a long, long time and are full of experienced speakers ready to mentor you.
Other than that, you can look for online courses that or other public meetup groups that are available around you.
Take a Deep Breath
It is completely normal to be nervous about being frightened while taking up the stage. After all, facing a room full of strangers that expect you to perform can be nerve-wracking for anybody. Even the most experienced speakers have been nervous wrecks at some point in their life.
Knowing you’re not alone in this can go a long way in helping you relax. We have still included additional methods to help you relax. Similarly, you can avoid some of the more obvious tells of being nervous. Some of the popular relaxation techniques are:
- Breathing exercises
- Counting exercises
These methods will work to distract you before your big moment. All of your practice should be completed much before your final moments on the stage. The last minutes should be saved for breathing and calming down and not second-guessing your content.
Who amongst us isn’t afraid of messing up? Fear of embarrassing yourself in front of a crowd is one of the main reasons that people hesitate from taking up the stage.
It is an understandable fear, as well. In your eyes, you will be falling short in front of a sea of strangers. However, we are our own worst critics.
Chances are most audiences won’t even notice that you’ve missed out on a few transitional sections.
Even if you make a few stumbles, most audiences are quite forgiving. With enough practice, both on and off stage, you will begin to notice a significant improvement in these mistakes. But in the meantime, the best you can do is to not dwell on these mistakes.
But let’s assume that you can’t help it, what should you do in that case? If you’ve simply stumbled once, then it is easily salvageable.
In many cases, apologizing for such misses only calls attention to it. Humor is always a great tool to lighten a situation, and it also makes you seem humble in front of your audience.
Being able to own your mistake with charisma is an art in itself which comes through practice and experience.
One of the most common mistakes that beginners make when they take up the stage is rushing.
Usually, they are so nervous that they want to get it over with. This ends up with them cutting out parts of their speech or zapping through it without pausing for any transitions. It is easy to lose your audience doing so and also makes you appear unprepared.
When you’re first on the stage, it can be difficult to gauge how fast you are speaking. You might not even realize that you’ve sped up quite a bit.
Pacing yourself is another skill that you can hone with practice. Planned pauses are just as important as body gestures or eye contact in a speech. This is one of the underrated areas of public speaking.
So, how can you practice this? Make it a habit to time yourself when you practice by yourself. Make sure you don’t plan over your allotted time slot and always give yourself some extra grace time. You want to sound natural and relaxed.
You can also practice in front of close friends and family to get an idea of whether you’re on the right track.
Believe it or not, effective breathing also plays a part in public speaking. You don’t want to sound out of breath in the middle of your presentation.
You want it to seem effortless and easy. This is why you need to pace yourself and calm your nerves. If possible, you should have a glass of water handy, so you can take occasional breaks.
Additional Visual Aids
We’ve already gone over slides as visual aids. However, you have plenty of other options as well.
Regular presentations can become monotonous, no matter how many transitions you plan into it.
This is where visual aids can add that extra kick. Similarly, these are a great way to enhance your key message.
Some visual aids that you can incorporate are:
- Flip charts
You should remember that it is very easy to go overboard with your visual aids. They might be distracting to the audience.
Similarly, there are many factors you need to keep in mind, such as quality and visibility. To learn more about the do’s and don’t of visual aids, you can browse through our article: Visual Aids in Speeches: When to use them and when to not?
Dress for the Occasion
We’ve all heard the saying, “First impression is the last impression.” The audience begins forming an impression of you before you even utter a single word. This is why it is so important to dress professionally for your presentation.
But, how do you decide what is the correct outfit for your speech?
For this, you will need to analyze three things: venue, audience, and topic. Will you be presenting in a formal or informal setting?
Is your audience older or younger? And finally, will your outfit match your topic. It is generally a safe choice to dress professionally. It will give you an edge as you will exude an air of confidence. Similarly, it adds a touch of unspoken credibility to your speech.
Avoid Filler Words and Sounds
We all know the common filler sounds of nervousness: uh, um, ah, like, you know, so, and many more.
Mostly, beginner speakers feel as though the silence in their speeches needs to be filled. This is when they end up using these crutch sounds.
However, they can make you sound extremely unsure of yourself. It is a good idea to nab these bad habits early on.
The first thing to do is to get comfortable with silence. Pauses are your friends, not foes. It’s much better to have a pause than try to fill it with awkward sounds.
Practice is another way to tackle this bad habit. You can also practice in front of a friend or teacher that can point out wherever you use these words and sounds.
Public speaking groups such as Toastmasters International have a structure in place to help you get over these bad speech habits as well.
Be Fluent in Body Language
When you speak in your day-to-day life, it is probably safe to assume you aren’t rooted in one position as you speak.
This is what you will need to imitate onto the stage. Movements that are natural go a long way in making you speak like an effortless speaker. Stance, eye contact, hand gestures are some of the things that go into fluent body gestures.
It is easy to overdo, so you need to keep an eye out and make sure your movements aren’t distracting.
The key here is to make purposeful movements and find the right balance. Try not to find yourself stiff at the center, but at the same time, do not keep pacing back and forth on the stage.
Don’t have your hands limply by your side or behind your back throughout the speech, but similarly, don’t end up karate chopping the air in front of you.
Practice your movements along with your speech, in front of a mirror, or by video recording yourself. This will allow you to have a clearer picture of how you look to the audience as well. For a clearer idea, browse through the different types of body gestures to enhance your speech.
Encourage Audience Participation
Many speakers shy away from Q & A sessions. This can be due to a lack of preparation or a general fear of a lack of audience participation.
However, leaving a speech with only your own opinions and no audience input can feel quite incomplete. Oftentimes, an audience is happy to be involved and even more likely to remember you as a speaker for addressing their questions.
Facilitating audience participation can also be seen as a sign of confidence in your material. It will give the listeners a chance to see the other side of your argument and get a better overall understanding of your case in itself.
Since audience participation can be quite unpredictable, it can be hard to practice. However, it is not impossible.
The first thing to do is create your own list of questions based on the information you already have.
What this does is leave you better prepared to at least address these questions or relate questions on a surface level.
If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry, your listeners probably do not expect you to be an expert either. Be graceful when you don’t know the answer and maybe get their details so you can get back to them later.
Learn to Read Your Audience
Your audience is giving out plenty of non-verbal cues as you present. Whether it is through their body language or eye contact, you can learn to read how they are responding to your speech.
This is an essential skill as it can help you fine-tune your speech to their response. This approach further helps the audience members feel as though they are getting a personalized experience. It is further valuable feedback that you should not miss out on.
Browse through our article on how to know your audience better.
If you’ve decided to put effort into improving as a public speaker, it is important to make the most of your time.
It is not enough to simply recite your speech over and over without effective techniques. There are many factors that you can keep in mind while practicing.
Ranging from body gestures, eye contact, to audience analysis, these are things that help you deliver a well-rounded speech. We hope our list is able to help you better prepare to conquer the stage. All the best and happy practicing!