You may think effective public speakers are born that way. You'd be wrong! Public speaking skills can be learned.
Most effective public speakers have worked hard to master their craft. That includes effective speaking skills and good public speaking techniques. They may spend hours practicing, working with a coach, or taking speech courses.
The good news is that you can improve your public speaking skills and become an effective speaker. Public speaking techniques can dramatically improve your results. In this tutorial, we've listed over 20 different public speaking techniques that can help you learn how to become an effective speaker.
What Is Public Speaking?
Public speaking occurs when you give a speech before a live audience. It differs from other types of speaking, such as videos, which may be recorded. It's also different from online presentations, which are created and then uploaded to the Internet.
Public speaking gives you many opportunities. That includes improving your confidence level and giving you the opportunity to champion a cause you care about. Plus, having effective public speaking skills can help you find a job. Many jobs, such as an instructor or sales professional, require you to speak in public.
Even when a job doesn't include public speaking in the job description, employers still value the skill. In one survey, 600 employers said that good communication skills were twice as important as managerial skills.
At this point you may be asking "what makes a good public speaker?" The answer might seem easy: A good public speaker makes use of effective public speaking techniques. What are those effective public speaking techniques? That's what we're going to talk about in the rest of this tutorial.
Before we dive into our discussion of effective public speaking techniques, download our eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It's available for FREE with the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. Learn how to write, design, and deliver the perfect presentation.
Now, let's look at how you can deliver an awesome presentation by using effective speaking techniques.
20+ Effective Public Speaking Techniques
You can learn to become a more effective speaker by using the right techniques and practicing your public speaking skills. Here are some techniques to follow:
1. Fit the Message to the Audience
Guidelines for effective public speaking often include tips that apply to any situation. But sometimes, it pays to tailor your delivery based on your audience. Matching subject matter and delivery style helps you make the best possible impression. When you know you’re speaking successfully, you’re able to present with more confidence.
Before you speak, plan ahead by considering your target audience. If you’re presenting a research paper to academics, you can plan on a detail-heavy speech. But if you’re introducing a new idea to a casually-interested audience, it’s better to take a broader focus.
Knowledge level is also an important element. Imagine you’re speaking about astronomy to a group of young children. Your message can and should be much different than if you’re addressing a room full of seasoned scientists.
In essence, use your public speaking skills to connect with the audience in front of you. All it takes is a bit of advanced planning. You’ll be on your way to giving an inspiring speech that all can enjoy.
Learn more about audience analysis as part of tips for effective public speaking below:
2. Be Interactive!
Tips for effective public speaking help you give the best speech possible. Remember what you’re trying to do. You’re informing, inspiring, and engaging your audience. And talking at them isn’t enough. The best public speakers build interactive elements into their speeches. You can too.
Interactivity is one of the key public speaking skills. It can take many forms. It can be as simple as a quick, personal greeting at the start of your speech. Or you can even play interactive games like a trivia quiz.
This offers many benefits. It keeps audiences alert and engaged. It helps you gauge how well they're following your message. And it takes the heat off of you by adding engagement from others. Sometimes, after all, a break from talking is welcome. It helps you stay focused and on pace.
If you're presenting your speech with PowerPoint, check out our interactive quiz tutorial:
- How to Make a Basic Interactive Quiz in PowerPoint From a PPT Template (+Video)Andrew Childress30 Aug 2021
3. Care About Your Topic
Passion goes a long way when it comes to being an effective speaker. The audience can tell if you're apathetic. If you don't care, they won't care either. Even worse, you can come across as a fake.
But if you sincerely care about your topic the audience will pick up on that too. They'll view you as being more authentic and believable. They'll listen more closely to discover why your subject is so important to you. And they're more likely to forgive any minor mistakes you might make.
4. Remember Your Speaking Goal
We've all probably listened to at least one speaker who seemed to go on and on forever about nothing in particular. One reason why this happens is because the speech isn't focused enough. The speaker is trying to cover too much and ends up boring their listeners.
Early in the process of developing your speech, identify the reason why you're speaking. Make it a point to stick to this goal during your presentation. Don't get sidetracked or off-topic.
5. Support Your Main Points
Every point you make in your speech needs to be supported with either an example, an illustration, or facts. When you're supporting a point, it's best to be as specific as you can be.
For example, in a speech about the importance of clean water this statement is too vague:
"Many people don't have clean water."
Stating this statistic from the U.S. Center for Disease Control is a more effective way to support your point:
"Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source."
6. Tell a Story
People love a good story. So, if you want to be a more effective speaker, tell a story.
Storytelling is a great way to make your material more engaging and to relate to your audience. Make sure your story is relatable and relevant.
If you're speaking is about your business, here are some examples of stories you may be able to tell:
- A customer story. The story of how your product or services met a need for a specific customer or solved a problem. Satisfied customers are often happy to share this.
- Your company story. The story of how your company came to be. This can be especially effective if it's customer-oriented.
- A product development story. The story of how you came to offer a new product (or service).
Of course, there are many other types of stories you could tell depending on the type of speaking you're doing.
7. Use a Professional Template
While we're talking about presentation tools, let's also talk about presentation design. Your presentation design affects how your audience perceives you.
Even if you deliver your speech perfectly, your audience might still judge you if your slides are sloppy. The presentation visuals are just as important as your speaking performance.
Of course, you could use a standard template (the same ones that everyone uses) or design your own template (costly and time-consuming). But a better plan is to use a professionally designed presentation template that you can easily customize.
8. Use Presentation Tools Wisely
Slide presentations often get a reputation for being dull. That's because many speakers are unaware of what their presentation tools can do and don't make the best use of all the features. To better engage your audience, learn how to use the more advanced features of your tool.
As an example, here are just a few ways you can use PowerPoint and Google Slides (with links to related tutorials):
- Add animations (PowerPoint, Google Slides)
- Add video (PowerPoint, Google Slides)
- Add audio (PowerPoint, Google Slides)
- Construct a timeline (PowerPoint, Google Slides)
And these features are just the tip of the iceberg. To really elevate your public speaking techniques, it helps to know what your software can do. Our tutorial series on Google Slides and PowerPoint are a good place to start.
9. Practice Your Speech
One of the most important public speaking techniques is often one of the most overlooked--practice. If you expect that you'll be an effective speaker without practicing your speech, you'd be wrong. One of the quickest ways to avoid public speaking failure is to try and give a speech you don't really know and haven't practiced.
The old saying, "practice makes perfect," really is true when it comes to developing effective speaking skills. The more you practice your speech, the more familiar it'll be to you and the more comfortable you'll be giving it. Plus, practicing your speech is the only way to discover how long the speech will take and where you need to pause.
10. Work With a Coach (optional)
If you're really serious about developing effective speaking skills, a speaking coach or teacher can take you to the next level. A coach or teacher can teach you the principles of public speaking and point out mistakes in your public speaking techniques. They give you awareness of tendencies you would otherwise miss.
Worried about cost? You may be able to find reasonably priced public speaking help through one of the following organizations:
There may even be more resources close to you.
It's normal to be nervous about public speaking. One study from The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates that as many as 77% of us have a fear of public speaking. It's so common there's an actual technical term for fear of public speaking--glossophobia.
I'm not telling you this to make you more anxious, but rather to let you know that having some anxiety before giving a speech is perfectly normal. Still, you should try to relax if you can. You'll be more comfortable, and the audience will relate to you better too.
If there's something that normally calms you down in stressful situations, try using it right before you're due to speak. Popular calming techniques include:
- positive affirmations
The following tutorials can also help you fight your fear of public speaking:
- How to Give a Good Presentation—Without Anxiety or Being NervousJulia Melymbrose24 Jan 2023
- How to Speak Confidently in Public (Like a Pro Speaker)Laura Spencer05 Aug 2021
12. Don't Worry About Mistakes
One of the reasons so many of us fear public speaking is because we're worried that we'll make a mistake and embarrass ourselves in front of everyone. If this is your fear, let it go. Most audiences will understand if you make a mistake. And if it's a small mistake, the audience may not even notice it.
Of course, practice can dramatically reduce the likelihood of you making a mistake. The more you practice the better you'll know your speech--and mistakes will be less likely.
So, what should you do if you do happen to make a mistake? If it's a minor mistake, don't stop or apologize for your mistake as that only calls attention to it. Just continue on. If you make a big mistake, try using humor to diffuse the situation and then continue your speech. Your listeners will be impressed with how gracefully you handled things.
13. Study the Habits of Others
One of the best ways to learn effective public speaking skills is to study the habits of others. There's no reason to learn the art (and science) of public speaking all by yourself.
Consider your favorite orators, lecturers, and presenters. Think about why they're your favorites. Usually, it's their delivery, their stage presence, and their sense of style. If you can't watch them in person, it's a great idea to watch videos of them at work.
It's important to note that tips for effective public speaking vary from person to person. Don't try copying someone else's style. But learn from their habits and incorporate the best into your own method of public speaking. By doing so, you can inspire others in the same ways that have inspired you.
14. Pace Yourself
When it comes to public speaking, a common newbie error is to speak too quickly. This is usually caused by a combination of nerves and not realizing how fast you're actually speaking. But talking too fast makes it harder for your listeners to understand what you're saying.
Effective public speakers know to pace themselves. They'll speak at a natural pace and work short, natural pauses into their speech.
It also helps if you remember to breathe during your speech. A surprising number of people hold their breath without realizing it when they're nervous (I'm one of them). But holding your breath will only increase your anxiety. So, remember to breathe deeply during the breaks in your speech. If your speech is a long one, taking a sip of water during a break can also help.
15. Add Visual Aids
Visual aids can serve as a powerful illustration of your speech. Humans use their sight more than any other sense. So, if you can make your point by showing it to your listeners rather than describing it, they're more likely to remember it.
Be careful though. To be effective, your visual aid must be of high-quality and easily visible to all members of your audience. Avoid incorporating sloppy graphics into a slide presentation. Likewise, don't hold up a visual aid that's physically too small for those listening to see.
- 32+ Top Professional PPT Templates and Business Presentation Examples (2023)Dacia Egurrola24 May 2023
16. Avoid Awkward Fillers
"Um," "uh," "like."
We all slip these filler words into our conversations without even realizing it. But overuse of these words during a professional speech can make you sound less than confident. If you can, break the habit of using these words to become a better public speaker.
Practice can help you cut these words from your speech patterns, but you may be so used to using them that it's hard to notice when you're doing it. This is where a speech coach, teacher, or friend would come in handy. They could listen for these words and help you break the habit of using them.
17. Dress Comfortably, But Professionally
What's the right outfit to wear if you want to be an effective public speaker?
Well, there's no one answer. How you dress depends on who your listeners will be. But the general principle is that you want to dress professionally to make a good impression. Make sure to observe good grooming and hygiene rules too.
Many experts feel you should dress according to how your audience dresses. If the audience is dressed formally, you don't want to show up in shorts and a tee shirt. Likewise, if the audience is wearing shorts and a tee shirt, don't dress formally.
18. Use Gestures (But Don't Overdo)
Natural movement during a speech is a sign of an effective public speaker. Hand gestures and moving a few steps across the stage can be good public speaking techniques. Just make sure they're natural, purposeful, and not overdone.
Movement can make you appear more comfortable and help your audience relate to you. You've probably seen the stiff speaker who delivers their speech while standing stock still. Which would you rather listen to:
- that stiff speaker, awkward speaker
- or a speaker who punctuates their speech from time to time with meaningful hand gestures
19. Allow a Q&A
Question and answer sessions (Q&A) are one of the most underused public speaking techniques. Many speakers just say what they're going to say and then sit down. What a waste!
The beauty of Q&A is that you get to hear your listeners' concerns directly and address them publicly, further strengthening your case.
You can prepare for a Q&A session by creating your own list of questions and possible objections that audience members may have (with answers). Study the list carefully so that you're familiar with it.
If someone does bring up a point that you hadn't thought of, don't panic. They don't expect you to know everything. It's perfectly acceptable to take their contact information and tell them that you'll get back to them once you've got the answer.
20. Build in Silence to Stay on Track
Guidelines for effective public speaking often leave out a key ingredient: silence. That's right. You don't have to fill every second of your time with spoken words. It's critical to add pauses. This is one of those public speaking skills that doesn't get the credit it deserves.
Silence has many benefits in public speaking:
- It gives your voice a break. By adding a pause (just three to four seconds), you can catch your breath and stay focused.
- It's equally beneficial for your audience. Rushing from point to point without a break will likely cause them to lose focus. Adding in some breathing room helps your speech flow organically.
- Silence also helps you segue from idea to idea. It offers clear breaks between ideas and adds emphasis. Adding suspense is a sure way to maintain a focused, engaged audience.
21. Recap at the End
You've delivered your message to an engaged audience. You've presented with confidence and style, and delivered a clear, coherent message. But you may still wonder: "are they really going to remember what I said?"
This is a key thing to consider as you close out your speech. Last - but not least - on our list of public speaking skills is the recap at the end. You should wrap up your speech by quickly recapping your key points.
This may take only a few moments. Remember, you're not repeating yourself word for word. You're revisiting your main ideas in summary form. This helps you close on a high note. Your audience will once again hear the details that you find most important. This way, they can carry those ideas with them, long after you're finished speaking.
More Templates to Supplement Your Public Speaking Skills
This article has given you more guidelines for effective public speaking. The best resource you can use is pre-built presentation templates. Those have the blueprint for great slides that make creating a presentation as easy as filling in placeholders.
On Envato Tuts+, we're always in search of the best templates. These go hand-in-hand with our tips for effective public speaking. Check them out below, and you're sure to find great designs for you.
- 30 PPT Templates: To Make Simple Modern PowerPoint Presentations in 2023Sean Hodge06 May 2023
- The Best New Presentation Templates for 2023 (Top PowerPoint PPTs & More)Sean Hodge13 Apr 2023
- 34 Cool PowerPoint Templates (Amazing PPT Slides for Presentations in 2023)Laura Spencer31 Mar 2023
More Resources on Effective Public Speaking
If you're ready to learn more about developing effective speaking skills, we've got many tutorials on public speaking that can help:
- How to Write a Great Motivational Business Speech in 2022Laura Spencer20 Jan 2022
- 15 Bad Business Presentation Mistakes (And How to Avoid Poor Results)Brad Smith10 Mar 2023
- How to Start a Presentation Strong and End Powerfully (Make an Impact in 2021)Julia Melymbrose27 May 2021
Download Our Free PDF eBook on Making Great Presentations
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You Just Learned Top Tips For Effective Public Speaking
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2018. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant. This post has been updated with contributions from Andrew Childress.