Public speaking tips

  1. Don’t Panic. Public speaking can be fun. Audiences are not there to trip you up. They have come to hear what you have to say and are, be default, on your side and willing you on
  2. Work out who the audience is
  3. Work out what the brief really means. At a conference once, a famous entrepreneur gave what was a very good talk about what we, as professional advisors, could give our clients. Sadly, we were not advisors at all, but Finance Directors, expecting to be given advice on how to the best from our advisors. This error did not go down well. It was an expensive conference – discontented mumbling and even hissing ensued
  4. Rehearse, speaking aloud. Learning your lines will not do. A sentence can read well, but when spoken can sound cumbersome or tongue-twisting
  5. Do not create slides that simply restate what you say. If this is all you are going to do, why stand up at all, just let the audience read, you will all finish faster. If you are going to use Powerpoint, use it to add colour, illustrate a point, oor, at worst, give the skeleton around which your talk provides the rest
  6. Watch some TEDS talks – try and work out what the good speakers do to hold attention. Add humour for contrast, vary talking speed (but not too fast) volume and tone. Use gaps, silence, too.
  7. Do not stare into space or at one poor person in the audience. Look all around the room. You do not need to make scary eye-contact with people. Perhaps focus just above their eyes not into them.
  8. Stick to time. If this means talking short to leave time for questions, so be it. But people are nervous about being first to speak up, so plant a couple of people in the audience with standby questions in case they are needed
  9. Having prepared properly, you will have a script. Have it handy perhaps but don’t read it out. Print key headings in large print and key words in bold and larger. These should be sufficient to give you a prompt if you find yourself drying up. If referring to your notes, do it calmly, without guilt and people will not mind
  10. Take care with props, whether just a PC and projector or something more unusual. Murphy’s Law always apply – if it can, it will go wrong. Make sure a software update or anti-virus check does not auto-start itself. Also make sure diary reminders or emails do not pop up on screen as you are taking. A shopping list from the wife will be embarrassing enough. Something intimate from does not bear thinking about

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