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10 Tips for Improving Your Public Speaking Skills | Harvard Professional Development

Use Humor

Insert a funny anecdote in your presentation, and you will certainly grab your audience’s attention. Audiences generally like a personal touch in a speech. A story can provide that.

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10 Tips for Improving Your Public Speaking Skills | Harvard Professional Development

10 Tips for Improving Your Public Speaking Skills | Harvard Professional Development

https://www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/10-tips-improving-your-public-speaking-skills

extension.harvard.edu

10

Key Ideas

Practice and Prepare

Nervousness is normal. But don't associate these feelings with the sense that you will perform poorly or make a fool of yourself.

The best way to overcome this nervousness is to prepare." Go over your notes several times, practice a lot and get feedback from someone close to you for your performance.

Know Your Audience

Your speech is about them, not you. Learn as much about your listeners as you can. This will help you determine your choice of words, level of information, organization pattern, and motivational statement.

Organize Your Material

And do it in the most effective manner. Write down the topic, the general purpose, specific purpose, central idea, and main points. Make sure to grab the audience’s attention in the first 30 seconds.

Watch for Feedback and Adapt to It

Keep your focus on your audience. Observe their reactions, adjust your message, and stay flexible. Delivering a canned speech will guarantee that you lose the attention of or confuse even the most devoted listeners.

Let Your Personality Come Through

You will establish better credibility if your personality shines through, and your audience will trust what you have to say if they can see you as a real person.

Use Humor

Insert a funny anecdote in your presentation, and you will certainly grab your audience’s attention. Audiences generally like a personal touch in a speech. A story can provide that.

Don’t Read

... unless you have to. Outline the main ideas just in case. Reading from a script or slide fractures the interpersonal connection. By maintaining eye contact with the audience, you keep the focus on yourself and your message.

Use Your Voice and Hands Effectively

Nonverbal communication carries most of the message. Good delivery does not call attention to itself but instead conveys the speaker’s ideas clearly and without distraction. Omit nervous gestures.

Opening and closing

Grab attention at the beginning, and close with a dynamic end. 

When you start, use a startling statistic, an interesting anecdote, or a concise quotation. Conclude your speech with a summary and a strong statement that your audience is sure to remember.

Use Audiovisual Aids Wisely

Too many can break the direct connection to the audience, so use them sparingly. They should enhance or clarify your content, or capture and maintain your audience’s attention.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Voice as an important tool

Your voice influences the impact of your speech and can make or break its success. 
With some guidance, you can learn to use your voice to increase your power and persuasiveness in a...

Improve Your Public Speaking Voice
  • Slow Down when you speak. Your listeners have an opportunity to absorb and reflect on what you’re saying.
  • Use Voice Exercises to strengthen your voice.
  • Record And Listen To Your Voice. Look for ways to improve your pronunciation, your delivery, and your pacing.
  • Record Phone Conversations. Replay to hear different ways that you could improve your delivery and articulation next time.
  • Focus On Pauses. The drama and power of a speech are contained in the silences that you create as you move from point to point.
  • Eat And Drink Well. Energy is essential for good speaking and voice projection. Cold water can chill your vocal chords and decrease the amount of warmth in your voice.
Madeleine Albright

"The best book, like the best speech, will do it all – make us laugh, think, cry and cheer – preferably in that or..."

Madeleine Albright
Public speaking key points
  • Acoustics are the most important part of a speech delivery . Keep your voice clear and consistent to keep you audience engaged.
  • Content is crucial. Well thought out content with good articulation is essential for a great speech.
  • The best speeches are emotional, because they are powerful. Communicate anger, sadness, love, joy or excitement, in a meaningful, authentic and impactful way.
The Fear of Public Speaking

Public speaking is often topping the charts as the No. 1 fear in the world.

People feel anxious, sweaty, or have a pounding heart while being on stage in front of an audience.

Practice

A great way to remove a large portion of fear is to practice hard, studying the topic wellYou can research all questions that the audience may ask, and practice the speech in front of a mirror or in front of friends.

Practicing soothes our nerves, making us ready for the final audience.

Bigger Than Your Fears
Finding something bigger than your fear, greater than your anxiety, is a key strategy to get rid of the natural negative emotions.
When you talk about something you are passionate about, the words come naturally, in a flowEven if the words are forgotten, you can easily bounce back, as your inner fire won't let the words fail you.

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Voice Modulation

You modulate your voice when you change pitch, like when your voice goes up at the end of a question. 
Just like with music, its rhythm and tone can convey a meaning that may be diff...

Use Voice Modulation to Improve Your Speaking Voice
  • If you want your audience to quiet down, to be calm or to perhaps hang on your every word, speak more quietly.
  • f you want to rile up your audience, speak with a stronger voice. You can also use volume to convey your passion.
  • Try not to speak too quickly. Most audiences will have trouble following along. Instead, speak at a moderate pace. Slowing down your speech even more will emphasize each word.
Working With Microphones

Microphones just make any speaking mistakes or tics louder and easier for your audience to detect.

Practice speaking with a microphone before your performance and record your speech. This will help you detect words you have pronounced too loudly and times when hard consonants have caused feedback with the sound system.
Popularity of Ted talks
Popularity of Ted talks

TED talks are watched by more than two million times every day. They have become the standard in public speaking and presentation skills.

So probably your next public sp...

Passion leads to mastery

And mastery is the foundation of an extraordinary presentation. So express an enthusiastic, passionate, and meaningful connection to the topic you are presenting in your public speech.

You cannot be an inspiration to your peers if you are inspired yourself.

Tell stories through your presentation

Stories connect us. Stories stimulate and engage the human brain.

Stories help the speaker connect with the audience and make the audience more agreeable with the speaker's point of view.

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Reframe those nerves as excitement

Try embracing your sweaty palms and racing heartbeat as signs of excitement. This reappraisal of anxiety can help stop nerves from overwhelming you.

Encouraging excitement can prime...

Don’t make it all about you

Make it about the ideas you want to share.

Take the focus off of yourself and putting it instead onto the valuable information you are going to deliver. That way, the speech becomes an exchange of ideas and it creates a place of passion and purpose.

Don’t obsess over each word

Oftentimes, the reason that we mess up is that we start paying too much attention to the details.

When you’re speaking and you’re trying to get the point across, think about the 3 points you want to get across.  This way,  you'll focus on the outcome of what you’re trying to say rather than every word coming out of your mouth.

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Anyone can use humor

Appropriate humor relaxes an audience and makes them feel more comfortable with you as the speaker. 

Humor can bring attention to the point you are making and help the audien...

Developing Anecdotes

The best and most comfortable place to find humor comes from your own personal experience. 

Jot down funny ideas as you come across it that might appeal to your audience - an embarrassing moment that you might not have found funny at the time, or a funny conversation you had. 

Honing the Delivery

Make sure your choose humor is funny to you. First practice with small groups of people. Pay attention to the way your are delivering the joke or quip.

Only use humor in a speech after you are comfortable telling it from memory and have tested it.

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Observe, Accept, and Reframe

Recognizing and accepting the fact you're being nervous before an important presentation will help you more than trying to fight those anxious feelings. Resistance creates even more angst.

On...

Focus on Your Body

Instead of being swept in the spiral of negative thoughts like 'What if I fail? What will they think of me? try to be aware of your physical sensations: how your heart beats, how the air fills your lungs, the heat and sweat you feel.

This will anchor you in the present moment and calm your nerves.

Tips For Calming Your Nerves
  • Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, that you're hydrated and that you had a good meal before. 
  • Be careful with your caffeine intake before a big presentation so that your heart rate isn’t already elevated.
  • Strike a power pose. Research shows it can shift your mood and make you feel more confident. 
  • Own the space. If you can, get to the room early and really imagine owning it.

2 more ideas

What makes Obama's speeches memorable
  1. Transcendence. By using concrete and tangible language, he can transport audiences to another place and actually paint a portrait that they can see in their minds’ eye.
  2. Repet...
Breathe

Whether you gasp or sigh, your listeners will notice the breath you take before you speak.

Focus on the exhale. Think about controlling your breath like taking a sip of air–the less ai...

Pace yourself

Get into a relaxed rhythm

  • Notice your pace next time you walk–what feels comfortable?
  • Let your speaking connect with your walking, and notice how your sentence structure changes. 
  • Pay attention to when you pause and what patterns naturally emerge when you let your movement drive your sentence structure.
Move from your center

To control nervous gestures, you have to add more by moving from your core–not just your arms.

Allow your full energy to flow through your entire body - it will make you appear calm and collected on the outside, regardless of what you’re feeling on the inside.

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