6 Tips for Becoming a Better Public Speaker

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Want to become a better public speaker? We’ve put together our best public speaking tips to help you master this tricky skill and learn how to speak with confidence. 

The art of addressing a crowd doesn’t come naturally to most of us. According to verywellmind.com, 77% of people suffer from some form of glossophobia - a fear of public speaking. But as a business owner or franchisor, public speaking is a skill you’ll need to master. Whether you’re speaking to your staff, addressing franchisees at a conference or accepting an award for all your hard work, knowing how to confidently take the mic will make you feel calm, confident and in control (or a little less terrified, at the very least). 

We’ve pulled together the best guidance on how to improve your public speaking ability from people who deliver an excellent speech every time. Here are 6  of our top tips for improving your public speaking and feeling more confident when the spotlight is on you. 

1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

The worst thing you can do is get up and expect to speak eloquently off the cuff. Even the most experienced public speakers have a solid plan for the key points of their speech. You might be worried that over-rehearsing will make you seem robotic and unnatural, but it’s likely you’re putting off essential practise because you don’t want to think about the dreaded event altogether. 

Make sure you’ve had at least one dress rehearsal, and have written down the key points or any important statistics you need to cover, before the big day. Relying on your memory and stringing together sentences off the stop of your head will make the event more stressful than it needs to be and increase the chance of a bad outcome. 

2. Stay focused on your message

Susan Tardanico, leadership consultant, coach and CEO, told Forbes that starting your speech planning with the end in mind will give your words a stronger focus. Whether you’re speaking to educate, guide, inspire, thank or entertain your audience, keeping your ‘why’ at the front of your mind during planning and speaking will keep you focused and engaging. 

“If you want to ad-lib a couple of stories, that’s fine,” said Susan. “But be sure you know the key points so you don’t meander. 

What are you trying to accomplish? What impact do you want to have on your audience? Are you looking to inform? Inspire? Persuade?
—Susan Tardanico, Leadership Consultant

3. Choose your words for maximum impact

Attention spans are getting shorter with every passing year, so you’ll have to think carefully about how to captivate your audience throughout your talk. Picking the right words is a key part of delivering an excellent public speech, regardless of whether you’ve got a minute or an hour to get your point across.

It can also make you feel more confident about speaking if you’ve composed an excellent speech or guideline to stop you veering off track or getting tongue tied. Write the first draft of your speech or notes, then go through and cut out anything that’s repetitive or feels like filler. Also, make sure your language is tailored to your audience; don’t cram in highly academic language and sector-specific jargon if you’re going to be speaking to the general public. 

Entrepreneur Jason Shen, who mastered public speaking at the TED residency programme, which brings professionals from across the globe to share their ideas, said: 

“Attention is a scarce resource. And just as a magnifying glass focuses the sun’s rays to produce intense heat, a short talk, if properly delivered and received, can have tremendous impact.”

4. Think about non-verbal communication

Delivering a great speech isn’t just about what you say; how you deliver the words is just as important. Don’t gallop through your words at 100 miles per hour to get the ordeal over with. It’s a clear sign you’re nervous and will make it impossible for anyone to appreciate the insightful things you’re saying. Speak slowly and confidently, letting yourself pause for impact after profound statements. 

Communication coach Nick Morgan explained to Forbes that “forcing a smile helps keep you positive, because we consciously think what we find our bodies doing.” If your body is saying ‘I’m happy and confident’, your mind is likely to feel the same once you settle down. Put your shoulders back, chin up and look up often to show your audience you’re trying to engage with them, rather than cowering in fear at the sight of them. 

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously

Regardless of how prestigious the setting you’re speaking in is, humour and a spot of self-depreciation will always go a long way if you’re trying to endear yourself to an audience. Making your speech too formal or serious will send your audience to sleep and, when you spot the stifled yawns, only add to your nerves. And if you’re suffering from a case of imposter syndrome, trying too hard to show why you’re qualified to speak could put people off. 

“One mistake speakers often make is trying to prove they’re smart,” said Susan. “When you stand in front of an audience, there is already a gap -- you’re the expert, they’re not. By being self-effacing, humorous and real, you become approachable and it’s easier to win over your audience.”

Don’t think you’re much of a comedian? Don’t worry. Making your speech engaging is not about getting up and delivering a stand-up routine that has your audience hysterical. In fact, trying to pack in lots of jokes when you’re not known for your comedic nous is a recipe for disaster. Here are some ways to make your speech less serious without trying to crack lots of one-liners:

  • Be honest - If you’re nervous, being upfront about public speaking not being your favourite past time will show the audience you’re human too.  

  • Add in personal experiences - Again, you’ll be more relatable to your audience if you’re willing to share more about yourself. 

  • Laugh at mistakes - If something goes wrong, make a joke and move on. A tech fail or moment where you trip over your words isn’t the end of the world. 

Remember that you're at the podium for a reason. Your credentials speak for themselves.
—Susan Tardanico, speaking to Forbes.

6. Have a back-up for digital aids

If you’re going to be speaking alongside a powerpoint or other digital aid, or following notes from a laptop or tablet, always, always have a back-up plan in case technology fails you on the day. The last thing you want to do is make yourself more flustered by being left without a guide or notes to steer you through your presentation. 

Save your presentation in multiple places, like your Google Drive, a USB, and in your inbox, so you can definitely access it on the day. If you can, have a run through with any presentation accessories, like a clicker, to make sure you know how to use it. And if you’re relying on digital notes, print or hand write them so you won’t be stranded if your device doesn’t play ball. 

Master public speaking as a franchisee

We hope you’re feeling better equipped to nail your next public speaking engagement. If you’re feeling daunted, remember that very few people actually love speaking to a large audience. Stage fright and worrying that you’re going to say something silly are completely normal, but it’s important not to let them paralyse you and stop you achieving your dreams. What you have to say is valid and deserves to be heard; don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. 

If you’re looking for more handy hints and tips, check out our catalogue of articles. We’ve got thousands of insightful pieces of content aimed at franchisees, franchisors and entrepreneurs, whether you’re just starting out or have been in the ‘biz for decades.

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