You may think effective speakers are born that way. You'd be wrong! Public speaking is a skill that can be learned.
Most effective public speakers have worked hard to master 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, with the right public speaking techniques, you can improve your public speaking skills and become an effective speaker. In this tutorial, we've listed over 15 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 has many advantages, including 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 candidates with effective public speaking skills. In one survey of 600 employers participants indicated that they felt 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 new 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.
15+ 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. 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.
On the other hand, 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.
2. 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.
3. 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."
4. 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 are doing.
5. Use Presentation Tools Wisely
Slide presentations often get a reputation for being dull, but 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, you'll want to learn everything your presentation software tool can do. Our tutorial series on Google Slides and PowerPoint are a good place to start.
6. 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've memorized your speech, give it perfectly, and have the most amazing topic--your audience might still judge you negatively if your presentation design is sloppy and unprofessional.
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. The presentation templates from Envato Elements and GraphicRiver, for example, are proven, easy-to-use, and professional. And there are hundreds to choose from--so you're bound to find one that meets your needs.
7. 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 will 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.
8. Work With a Coach (optional)
If you're really serious about developing effective speaking skills, there's no better way than working with a speech coach or a speech teacher. A coach or teacher can teach you the principles of public speaking and point out mistakes in your public speaking techniques that you wouldn't be aware of otherwise.
While you may be thinking that a speech coach is too pricey (and there are private coaches who'll teach you public speaking), you may be able to find reasonably priced public speaking help through one of the following organizations:
There may even be additional resources close to you.
It's normal to be nervous about public speaking. The numbers vary, but 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:
- PresentationsHow to Give a Good Presentation—Without Anxiety or Being NervousJulia Melymbrose
- Public SpeakingHow to Speak Confidently in Public (Like a Pro Speaker)Laura Spencer
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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 are 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.
- Microsoft PowerPoint32+ Professional PowerPoint Templates: For Better Business PPT Presentations 2021Sean Hodge
13. 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.
14. 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 eliminate 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.
15. Use Gestures (But Don't Overdo)
Natural movement during a speech is a sign of an effective public speaker. Hand gestures and even taking a few steps across the stage can be good public speaking techniques as long as 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, hands hanging limply by their side. Which would you rather listen to? That stiff speaker, or a speaker who punctuates their speech from time to time with meaningful hand gestures?
16. 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.
Additional Resources on Effective Public Speaking
If you're ready to learn more about developing effective speaking skills, we've got a number of tutorials on public speaking that can help:
- PresentationsHow to Write a Great Motivational Business SpeechLaura Spencer
- Presentations15 Bad Business Presentation Mistakes (And How to Avoid Poor Results)Brad Smith
- PresentationsHow to Start a Presentation Strong and End Powerfully (Make an Impact in 2021)Julia Melymbrose
Download Our Free PDF eBook on Making Great Presentations
We have the perfect complement to this tutorial, that will help you take your presentation know-how further. Learn how to write, design, and deliver great presentations.
Download The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations for FREE with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. Get your ideas formed into a powerful presentation that will move your audience.
Now that you know that you can improve your effective public speaking skills, you're ready to get to work!
You can use the list above as a checklist of good public speaking techniques to work on, or just tackle those specific speaking skills that you're struggling with. Either way, with a little effort on your part you'll be on your way to becoming a more effective speaker.
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.
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