How to Nail Public Speaking Every Time

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Gallo Pinto Made Me a Better Public Speaker

In 2008, on a mid-summer morning in Costa Rica, I found myself fearfully perched on the edge of a massive stage. In front of me was a giant screen displaying the PowerPoint presentation, which was about to start rolling the opening content of my presentation. And behind me were 350 people from all over the world, waiting to hear what I had to say. I wish I could tell you I was a better public speaker.

I was the first person to speak at that event.

My speech started as usual, with a few minutes of butterflies in my stomach and a dry mouth. But soon enough, I got into the flow and started enjoying myself. The audience was laughing at my jokes and seemed to be listening intently to what I had to say.

Halfway through my presentation, however, something went wrong.

The PowerPoint presentation suddenly stopped working. My laptop had frozen and I had no way of fixing it. For a few moments, I stood there on stage, not knowing what to do. The audience was waiting for me to continue, but I didn’t know how.

I could have panicked at that moment. I could have frozen up completely and made a complete fool of myself. But instead, I took a deep breath and improvised the rest of my presentation.

And it went great!

After that experience, I realized that public speaking is not about having everything perfect. It’s about being able to think on your feet and handle whatever situation comes your way. However, you cannot foresee everything that might happen, so it’s important to have some techniques in your back pocket to help you out. In fact, if you are prepared, you are likely to access those parts of your brain containing short/long-term memories. It’s safe to say that my nerves were shot. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it might leap out of my chest. The only thing going through my mind was: “Don’t screw this up.”

Fortunately, I didn’t. But it wasn’t because I’m some sort of natural-born public speaker. It’s because I had prepared myself using three key techniques that you can use to become a better public speaker, too.

3 Techniques to Become a Better Public Speaker

Every stage appearance, whether in a packed auditorium or a snug boardroom, holds the potential to captivate or intimidate. The art of public speaking, while seemingly daunting to many, is a craft honed through practice, strategy, and a deep understanding of one’s audience. This article dives into three transformative techniques that promise not just to polish your speaking skills, but to elevate your confidence and command over any crowd. From seasoned orators seeking to refine their craft to trembling novices stepping up to the microphone for the first time, these methods offer valuable insights into becoming a more effective and engaging speaker.

Know Your Audience

It might sound fundamentally straightforward, but you’d be amazed at how many individuals approach public speaking with a somewhat cavalier attitude. They select a subject that sparks their passion, naively hoping that sheer enthusiasm will suffice to engage and persuade their audience. However, successful public speaking doesn’t operate on zeal alone. Before you even step onto the stage, it’s crucial to understand precisely what your audience is seeking. Engaging with your audience begins long before you start speaking. It involves digging into the nuances of their interests and needs through diligent research. Engage directly with individuals from your target demographic to grasp their challenges and curiosities. What issues are they facing? What knowledge are they eager to acquire? This preparatory work is not just about gathering data; it’s about building a bridge to your listeners’ worldviews.

Former President Barack Obama is often cited as a master of this approach. In one of his speeches, he illustrated his ability to connect with his audience on a deeply personal level. He shared anecdotes from his own life that echoed the themes of his discourse, thereby demonstrating a genuine understanding of his listeners’ experiences. This personal connection is pivotal—it shows the audience that you’re not just a speaker, but someone who shares their struggles and aspirations. Moreover, knowing your audience allows you to customize your message to meet their specific needs. This means using language that resonates with them and ensuring that the points you make directly address their interests. By tailoring your presentation in this manner, you enhance the likelihood that your message will not only be heard but will also spur your audience to action. This approach to public speaking—combining thorough audience research, personal storytelling, and tailored content—transforms a mere presentation into a powerful conduit for influence and engagement. By fully understanding and connecting with your audience, you are far more likely to capture their attention and inspire them to follow through on your call to action.

Memorize the Material

The second technique in enhancing your public speaking skills involves a diligent commitment to memorization. While the idea of memorizing your speech might seem excessive, the benefits it confers cannot be overstated. You do not need to commit every single word to memory, but it is essential to have a firm grasp of your presentation’s key points. Such preparation ensures that even under the stress of nerves, where there’s a risk of your mind going blank, you maintain control over the flow and core message of your talk. This allows you to continue delivering content that is both coherent and meaningful to your audience. Memorizing your material is more than just a repetitive exercise; it’s about internalizing your content to the extent that you can fluidly convey it without prompts. This involves several stages of preparation: initially reading through your material, revisiting it repeatedly, and practicing it aloud numerous times. The repetition is not merely a memorization tactic but a way to deepen your understanding and connection to the material, thus enhancing your ability to recall it spontaneously during your presentation.

Creating a structured outline of your presentation is also an invaluable strategy. This outline acts as a navigational tool, guiding you through your delivery and ensuring you cover all intended points without deviation. In moments of memory lapse, the outline serves as a crucial reference point to help realign your focus and get your presentation back on track. Neuroscience and memory expert Dr. Yana Weinstein supports this method, suggesting that an outline essentially acts as a scaffold, reinforcing the structure of your memory. By frequently revisiting this outline, you reinforce your mental map of the presentation, significantly boosting your confidence and ability to retrieve information when it counts the most. Together, these strategies of thorough memorization and outline creation are not just about safeguarding against forgetfulness; they are proactive steps in mastering the art of public speaking, ensuring that each delivery is both polished and impactful.

I am interested in a lot of things – not just show business and my passion for animals. I try to keep current in what’s going on in the world. I do mental exercises. I don’t have any trouble memorizing lines because of the crossword puzzles I do every day to keep my mind a little limber. I don’t sit and vegetate.

Record and Re-Watch Your Presentations

The third technique is recording and re-watching your presentations. While it may initially sound like a laborious task, this method proves to be the pinnacle of learning from one’s mistakes and evolving into a polished orator. Picture this: you’ve just delivered a presentation, heart pounding, words flowing, and now it’s time for the critical review. Cue the playback. Watching the recording, you meticulously scrutinize what soared and what stumbled, taking mental notes for future refinement. It’s akin to peering into a mirror of self-improvement. Allow me to share a personal anecdote that underscores the transformative power of this technique. Back in my college days, there was a professor whose teaching methodology transcended the ordinary. He insisted on one thing: record yourself. Intrigued, I obliged. Little did I know, it would be a watershed moment. Witnessing my own performance on screen, flaws laid bare, was a revelation. Suddenly, the murky waters of public speaking seemed navigable. It was as if I had stumbled upon the holy grail of self-awareness.

A study conducted at Yale University echoes this sentiment. Researchers found that individuals who watched recordings of their own speeches exhibited a remarkable ability to pinpoint and rectify errors that would have otherwise eluded them. There’s a certain magic in seeing oneself stumble and rise again, a magic that transcends mere audio playback. So, why does this method reign supreme? It’s simple. Recording and re-watching your presentations not only provide a roadmap of improvement but also serve as a potent catalyst for honing your public speaking prowess. It’s the difference between hearing your own voice and truly listening to it, dissecting every inflection and gesture for areas of refinement. But let’s not overlook the diversity within this technique. From seasoned executives to fledgling entrepreneurs, the allure of self-reflection knows no bounds. Each individual brings their own narrative to the table, a unique journey of growth and self-discovery through the lens of recorded performance. In public speaking, this technique emerges as a linchpin for personal development. It’s a testament to the power of introspection and the willingness to confront one’s shortcomings head-on. Yet, like any tool, it’s not without its challenges and criticisms.

Some may argue that the process of recording and reviewing presentations can feel uncomfortably vulnerable, like peeling back layers of insecurity for all to see. Others may lament the time investment required, a daunting prospect in our fast-paced world. However, amidst the cacophony of doubt, one truth remains steadfast: the journey of self-improvement begins with a single step, or in this case, a single recording. So, embrace the discomfort, press play, and embark on the transformative voyage toward mastery. Professor Mark Smith, who conducted the study, said, “Our results suggest that people can learn to become their own best critics and improve their communication skills by recording and analyzing their own speech.”

When Nothing Else Works for a Public Speaker

There Is a small chance none of these techniques work. If you have tried all of them and you’re still not seeing any improvement, then it might be time to accept to live with them. For example, if you make your weakness part of your strength, people will love you for it. Let’s say your weakness is that you get really nervous when you speak in public. You can use that to your advantage by telling your audience, “I’m a little nervous right now, but I’m going to do my best to deliver a great presentation.” This self-deprecating humor will endear you to your audience and they’ll be rooting for you from the start.Or, if you’re not comfortable memorizing your material, you can try delivering your presentation in a more conversational style. This means speaking extemporaneously and relying on bullet points instead of full sentences. Of course, this technique only works if you’re comfortable with it. If you’re not, then it’s best to stick with memorizing your material. The important thing to remember is that you can’t please everyone. There will always be people who don’t like the way you speak, no matter how hard you try to please them. So don’t let the haters get you down. Instead, focus on delivering a great presentation that will benefit your audience.

Francis, oh Francis

Our final story about overcoming fear is about Francis. He was a very successful lawyer who had a debilitating fear of public speaking. Francis would get so nervous before presentations that he would break out into a cold sweat and his hands would shake uncontrollably. He tried all of the techniques we talked about, but nothing seemed to help. So he decided to make his fear part of his presentation. He started off by telling his audience, “If I pass out from nervousness, I’ve added a list of instructions to bring me back. If all fails, can I please ask a volunteer now ahead of time to finish off my slides?”

The audience laughed, but Francis was deadly serious. He then proceeded to give one of the best presentations of his career. By being open and honest about his fear, he was able to connect with his audience and deliver a great presentation despite his nerves.

Bottom Line

In public speaking, fear lurks in the shadows, ready to ensnare the unprepared. Yet, in this darkness lies a glimmer of hope, a beacon beckoning the brave to confront their apprehensions head-on. So, dear reader, heed this call and embrace your fear, for within it lies the seed of transformation. But how, you may wonder, can fear be the gateway to mastery? It’s simple. By acknowledging and embracing our fears, we strip them of their power and pave the path to growth. Love who you are, imperfections and all, for it is in acceptance that true growth begins. Like a gardener tending to a delicate bloom, nurture your strengths while tenderly addressing your weaknesses. It is this delicate balance that forms the cornerstone of self-improvement.

If you can remember something, remember preparation. The meticulous preparation not only sharpens your skills but also imbues you with the unyielding confidence needed to command the stage. However, should the specter of doubt still linger, fear not, for there exists a time-honored technique: the pass-out method. Though its name may elicit a chuckle, its efficacy is no laughing matter. When all else fails, simply surrender to the moment, allowing your subconscious to seize control. It’s a leap of faith, a surrender to the unknown, yet it may just unlock the door to your success.

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