5 Tips for Becoming a Better Public Speaker

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that according to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Death is number two. “This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy,” he remarked. For business owners, public speaking comes with the territory. Public events and conferences are great places to grow your stature and prove your expertise through engaging speeches or presentations. But for those of us who feel terrible anxiety over standing alone on stage, they can be a nightmare. Whether you dread giving speeches, or you just want to add some polish to your presentations, these tips will help you become a master orator.

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Practice, Then Practice Some More
Steve Jobs would practice his famous keynote speeches for months to get them just right. Practice your speech more than you think is necessary. Don’t just run through it in your mind; actually say it out loud and imagine you’re addressing a crowd. Work on your body language and your movements. Your delivery will be more powerful without cue cards or teleprompters. When you finally perform it, you should be able to do so by muscle memory.

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Stay Sharp
This part is too often overlooked. You won’t do your best if you’re not taking care of yourself. Eat properly, stay hydrated, and, perhaps most importantly, get a full night’s sleep. Each of these things directly impacts your memory and your ability to concentrate. Nutrition and sleep also affect your ability to handle stress. A sharp mind will help you calm your fears and stay on track. Avoid caffeine, as it will only increase your body’s fight-or-flight response.

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Tell a Story
People connect to emotion, not numbers and statistics. First, think about what information would be most useful to your audience. Next, decide how you can turn that data into a story. The human element is what will stick with people. A succinct story will have the most impact, so keep it as concise as possible. If you can, try adding some humour, too.

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Slow Down
Nervous speakers often rush through their words. Slow down. Take a breath. Draw the audience in by allowing for a bit of silence. If you want to captivate the crowd, you’ll do it better with quiet confidence than with outward energy. Again, think of the Steve Jobs approach.

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Experience Matters
Public speaking is a skill that people develop only after many attempts. Try speaking to all kinds of crowds at all kinds of events. You may continue to feel uneasy, but at least you’ll know that the feeling is only temporary. Keep at it.

It’s common for business owners to excel at what they do, but still feel terrified at the prospect of addressing a crowd. Practice these tips, and you’ll be giving better presentations in no time.