13 Sure-Fire Tips on How to Develop Public Speaking Skills

Public speaking can be pretty nerve-wracking, and it took me a good few years to nail it myself. But once I did, speaking to a huge crowd felt like a breeze.

Think of public speaking not as a scary monster, but more like a super useful tool in your business toolkit. Experiencing some nervousness before speaking on stage is a common and natural sensation. In fact, Cross River Therapy indicates that more than 75% of the population has a fear of public speaking. But if you’re running a business, embracing this skill can help put your brand on the map.

Public speaking isn’t just about standing in front of a crowd; it’s an art of effectively communicating your ideas. 

To help you, I’ve reached out to public speaking experts, and we have here 13 top-notch tips to boost your public speaking game. The tried-and-tested tricks will help you nail your presentations and connect you with your audience.

a man who is trying to develop his public speaking skills

Expert Roundup: Top 13 Strategies to Improve Public Speaking Skills

1. Embrace Genuineness

In public speaking, embracing genuineness is a game-changer. It all comes down to being yourself and allowing your own personality to shine through in your presentations. 

When you’re authentic, you’re not just delivering a speech; you’re sharing a piece of who you are with the audience. This genuine approach makes your message more relatable and engaging.

Here’s what Indi Basi, the Owner and Director of Wade Building Supplies has to say.

“Embracing authenticity has been paramount. Rather than attempting to adopt a persona, I learned to convey my message with sincerity, allowing my genuine passion and belief in the subject matter to shine through. This not only made my delivery more compelling but also fostered a deeper connection with my audience.”

Indie Basi, Owner and Director of Wade Building Supplies

Here are a few practical tips on how you can stay genuine when speaking in public: 

  • Share personal stories: Incorporate your own experiences and anecdotes into your speeches. 
  • Speak with passion about what you believe in: When you discuss things you truly value, your speech becomes more genuine and captivating because you’re clearly excited.
  • Be yourself: Avoid trying to imitate other speakers or styles. Embrace your unique speaking style, whether it’s conversational, formal, humorous, or earnest.

2. Work With a Small Audience First

Thinking and speaking fast and clearly is important in public speaking, especially when unexpected things happen during a presentation. 

You may improve this ability in a lot of original ways, which will make your speech sound more confident and fluent.

J. Tucker Merrigan, Managing Partner at Sweeney Merrigan, offers a unique and effective technique.

“The best way to get better at public speaking is by practicing with a small audience. This might sound straightforward, but it’s often one of the hardest skills to learn when you’re trying to get started. Asking someone to sit and listen to your presentation sounds embarrassing. That embarrassment means that most people won’t get valuable repetition when they practice speaking in front of a peer.”

J. Tucker Merrigan, Managing Partner at Sweeney Merrigan

You can follow these tips when presenting to a smaller crowd: 

  • Engage in interactive dialogue: Use the small audience setting as an opportunity for interactive dialogue. Ask questions, encourage feedback, and engage in discussions. 
  • Practice eye contact and personal connection: This will enhance your confidence in building rapport.
  • Gather constructive feedback: Smaller groups make it easier to understand their feedback because they can be more comprehensive.

3. Practice Storytelling

Storytelling is a potent technique in public speaking, capable of transforming an ordinary presentation into an engaging and memorable experience. This skill allows the speaker to connect with the audience and makes the message relatable and impactful.

Indi Basi has added the effectiveness of this technique.

“I also emphasize on the power of effective storytelling. Incorporating personal anecdotes and relatable narratives into my speeches has proven to be a powerful tool in capturing the audience's attention and making the content more memorable. This approach not only adds a human touch to the presentation but also helps convey complex information in a more relatable and engaging manner.”

Indie Basi, Owner and Director of Wade Building Supplies

Experiencing difficulty in storytelling? Here are some strategies you might consider:

  • Structure your story: Every good story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Begin with an exciting introduction that grabs your audience’s attention. Then, fill the middle with interesting content, and finish with a strong conclusion that links back to your main point.
  • Incorporate emotions and sensory details: Make your story come alive by including emotions and sensory details. This helps create a vivid picture in the audience’s mind and makes your story more relatable and memorable.
  • Relate the story to your key message: Ensure that your story is relevant to the main point of your presentation. 

4. Master the Art of Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication impacts a presentation. This is a concept highlighted by researcher Albert Mehrabian’s study on face-to-face conversations. He found that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and only 7% the actual words used. 

Volha Hurskaya, an English Teacher offers this great advice.  

“Your body language speaks volumes. Maintain open and confident gestures, use purposeful movements, and convey positivity through facial expressions. Non-verbal cues complement your spoken words, reinforcing the impact of your message.”

Volha Hurskaya, English Teacher

Here are a few tips on how you can improve your non-verbal communication skills. 

  • Use purposeful gestures: Incorporate gestures that complement and emphasize your verbal message. Avoid random or nervous movements. Purposeful gestures, like open palms to show honesty or pointing for emphasis, can make your speech more engaging and convincing.
  • Maintain appropriate eye contact: Eye contact is a powerful tool for connecting with your audience. Strive for a balance – enough to engage individuals in your audience, but not so much that it becomes uncomfortable. 
  • Control your facial expressions: Your facial expressions should align with the tone of your message. Smiling can convey friendliness and openness, while a serious expression can underscore a critical point. Being aware of your expressions helps ensure they match what you’re communicating verbally.

5. Practice Play-By-Play Commentary

Learning to speak and think quickly is essential for public speaking. It improves the flow and adaptability of your presentation, especially when unexpected situations arise.

J. Tucker Merrigan added a unique and valuable method to perfect this craft. 

“You want to make sure you’re comfortable with speaking and improvising on the fly. One unique way to teach yourself to think and speak on your feet is to practice sports play-by-play. When you watch a sporting event on TV, try to say what you’re seeing with the action. Play-by-play commentary helps build agility in your mouth, since you’ll need to say words quickly and clearly so you don’t mumble. It’ll also help you build comfort with talking aloud and confidence improvising, so you can keep moving forward in your presentation if there’s a problem with your note cards, slide presentation, or you lose your place.”

J. Tucker Merrigan, Managing Partner at Sweeney Merrigan

Below are a few tactics to consider.

  • Practice narrating real-life events in various scenarios: Describe everyday situations like a busy street or cooking. This variation helps develop the ability to quickly formulate and articulate thoughts across different contexts, enhancing your adaptability in public speaking.
  • Focus on clarity and speed: Prioritize clear speech and quick delivery when narrating.
  • Record and review: Record your play-by-play sessions and listen to them later. This will help you identify areas where you need improvement.
mic on stage for public speaking

6. Participate More In Meetings

Starting small can lead to huge gains. This is about gradually building your comfort level and confidence. Remember, there are plenty of everyday opportunities to practice and refine your ability to communicate effectively.

Dustin Sitar, CEO of The Groom Club, shares a practical approach.

“Some of the most effective ways to develop public speaking skills are by starting out small, sparking up a conversation with the cashier at a grocery store, or by participating more than usual in those boring work meetings. Once you get used to all eyes being on you, it becomes a lot easier to speak in front of large groups.”

Dustin Sitar, CEO, The Groom Club

Consider the following when practicing the skill. 

  • Offer to speak in meetings: Look for chances to talk, like presenting a report, leading discussions, or taking on public roles.
  • Prepare and share your thoughts: Before meetings, get ready with points or questions about the agenda. This helps your contributions make sense and boosts your confidence and how competent others see you.
  • Listen actively and respond: Improve your participation in meetings by actively listening to others and giving thoughtful replies. It helps you listen better and get ready to speak confidently in the moment, which is important for public speaking.

7. Write Your Thoughts By Hand

Writing by hand can help organize your thoughts and improve memory retention, and is a great way to refine the content of your speech.

A marketing professional, Rowena Figueroa of Hinge Marketing offers this practical advice. 

“Write out your thoughts–whether in outline form or word for word. It’s important to write out what you plan to say for two reasons. One, by writing out your thoughts, you can effectively spot any issues with their logic and flow and check if they help fulfill the purpose of the presentation or speech. Two, writing, especially by hand, makes it easier to remember the key points and key turns of phrase that convey those points in concrete and memorable ways. These two benefits, in turn, will give you more confidence when speaking in front of others, no matter the audience’s size.”

Rowena Figueroa of Hinge Marketing

Follow these tips as you write your outline for your speech. 

  • Outline your speech with key points: Start by handwriting an outline of your speech. Focus on key points and sub-points. This method helps organize your thoughts and provides a clear roadmap for your presentation.
  • Rewrite to reinforce memory: To remember better, write key parts of your speech several times by hand. This repetition helps you remember and makes you less dependent on notes when speaking.
  • Annotate with personal cues: While writing, add personal cues or symbols to remind you of gestures, tones, or pauses for your speech. These notes help you remember during your presentation.

8. Build a Bullet Point List

Create bullet points for your main ideas. This helps in maintaining the flow of your speech and ensures you cover all key points without reading from a script.

J. Tucker Merrigan recommends enhancing public speaking skills by creating a bullet point list. Regularly practice it to increase familiarity with the material.

Take note of these when creating bullet points. 

  • Prioritize key points: In your list, prioritize the most important points you want to convey. This helps you stay focused on the core message of your presentation.
  • Incorporate examples or statistics: For each bullet point, consider adding a relevant example or statistic. This not only enriches your presentation but also makes it easier for you to remember and explain complex concepts.
  • Practice transitions: Work on smooth transitions between your bullet points. This helps in maintaining a natural flow during your speech, making it easier for the audience to follow your train of thought.

9. Record Yourself

Record your speeches and review them. This will help you observe your speaking style and body language, allowing you to make necessary improvements.

Robert Kaskel of Checkr offers this technique.

“The best workaround is to record the audio of your presentation practice and transcribe it through a free or inexpensive service. You’re more likely to review a transcript because there are fewer emotional barriers, and you’ll have a print record for easier review, evaluation, and note-taking. Over time, you’ll notice the ‘bad’ patterns that pop up so you can practice yourself out of them.”

Robert Kaskel, Chief People Officer of Checkr

Once you finish recording yourself, do the following:

  • Assess your speaking style: Use recordings to critically evaluate your speaking style. Look for patterns in your speech and work on refining your delivery to be more concise and impactful.
  • Check for audience engagement techniques: Analyze how effectively you engage with your (imaginary) audience in the recording. This self-review can help you enhance audience interaction skills.
  • Practice and compare: Regularly record your practice sessions and compare them over time. This comparison shows your progress in speech, what areas need work, and gives direction for ongoing improvement.

10. Understand Your Audience

Tailor your speech to your audience. Understanding their interests, knowledge level, and expectations can make your speech more relevant and engaging.

Here are a few methods I use to understand my audience.

  • Research your audience: Before your presentation, research the demographics, interests, and background of your audience. Try to understand their profession, age group, cultural background, or any challenges they may have. This will make your speech more relevant to them.
  • Incorporate audience-relevant examples: Use examples, anecdotes, or references that resonate with your audience’s experiences. This helps in making your content more relatable and engaging for them.
  • Adjust your language for your audience: Use simpler terms for general audiences and dive deeper into details for experts. Make sure your speech is interesting and understandable to everyone.

11. Direct Your Eyes to the Back Wall

Keeping eye contact during a presentation can be hard, but it’s important to connect with your audience.

Here’s a solution by Hardy Desai, the founder of Supple.

“If even direct eye contact throws you off, direct your eyes to the back wall just above eye level and scan back and forth. Your presentation will feel more inclusive of the entire room, not just the front rows, and you won’t have to make direct eye contact with anyone.”

Hardy Desai, Founder of Supple

Here are additional tips for you. 

  • Triangle method: Divide the audience into three sections (left, middle, right). Gaze at each section to create the impression of making eye contact with everyone.
  • Focus on engaged listeners: Find people in the audience who seem interested, and glance at them now and then. It makes you feel more confident and connected.
  • Practice in the mirror: Before your presentation, practice looking at yourself in the mirror while speaking. 

12. Engage Your Audience

To engage your audience, make your presentation interactive. 

Volha Hurskaya has another tip for aspiring public speakers.  

“Actively involve your audience to create a dynamic interaction. Encourage questions, prompt discussions, and tailor your message to their interests. Engaged listeners are likelier to retain and appreciate the information you share.”

Volha Hurskaya, English Teacher

Here are a few methods I particularly favor.

  • Pose thought-provoking questions: Ask questions that provoke thought or discussion among the audience. Even rhetorical questions can be powerful in engaging listeners, encouraging them to think actively about the topic.
  • Use humor or relevant anecdotes: Light humor or short, relevant stories is effective in capturing the audience’s attention. They add a human touch to your presentation, making it more relatable and enjoyable
  • Move Around and Involve Different Sections of the Audience: Moving around the stage or among the audience. Speak to different sections can make the audience feel more engaged and connected.

13. Finish Strong and Conclude Your Speech

The way you conclude your presentation is just as important as the introduction or the body of your speech. A strong conclusion can leave a lasting impression on your audience, reinforcing the key points you’ve shared.

An effective strategy for crafting a memorable conclusion is shared by James DeLapa, Director of Digital Marketing at Wrike.

“By holding off on the conclusion until the interactive portion is over, you take control of your ability to finish off strong. Even if you run into some unknowns or feel like you bombed the Q&A, you can recover the presentation and leave it on a high note with a powerful conclusion of your points. Fortunately, most Q&As aren’t nearly as bad as we anticipate, but using this structure can give you peace of mind and reduce some of those nerves leading up to the big event.”

James DeLapa, Director at Digital Marketing at Wrike

To further strengthen the conclusion of your presentation, here are three additional tips:

  • Summarize key points: Start your conclusion by briefly summarizing the main points of your presentation. This reinforces the core messages for your audience and helps in retaining the information.
  • End with a call to action: Encourage your audience to take specific action or consider a thought-provoking question. A clear call to action can make your conclusion more impactful and memorable.
  • Close with a memorable statement or quote: Wrap up your presentation with a strong statement or a fitting quote that captures the main idea. This leaves a lasting impression and makes your message stick with the audience even after the presentation ends.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I start public speaking with no experience?

To begin public speaking without experience, start small. Speak in front of friends or family and join clubs like Toastmasters for support and feedback.

Taking a public speaking course is also helpful. Look for speaking chances in your community or at work. Practice in daily situations and welcome feedback to get better.

What are the best practices for virtual presentations?

For successful virtual presentations, check your tech (microphone, camera, internet) beforehand. Use visuals to engage your audience and maintain ‘eye contact’ by looking into the camera for a personal feel. 

Present in a quiet, well-lit place to minimize distractions. Use interactive elements like polls or Q&A to keep your audience engaged. Get to know the platform’s features to make your presentation go smoothly.

How do I handle nervousness before a speech?

To manage pre-speech nervousness, thoroughly prepare and know your material well for confidence. 

Try deep breathing, imagine a successful speech to stay positive, and do physical activity to relax.

Focus on your message rather than audience perception, and arrive early to familiarize yourself with the setting for ease.

What are the best tips for memorizing speeches?

For memorizing speeches, break content into smaller parts and use mnemonic devices for key points. Practice aloud, associate points with visual images, and avoid cramming by rehearsing regularly over time. Recording and repeatedly listening to your speech can also reinforce memory.

How to engage an unresponsive audience?

To get an unresponsive audience involved, try these methods:

  • Ask direct questions to encourage participation.
  • Change your tone, speed, and volume to keep things interesting.
  • Include stories or humor.
  • Move around the stage.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Add interactive elements like polls or quizzes.

Tailor content to the audience’s interests, use engaging visuals, and break monotony with surprising facts or rhetorical questions. Encourage audience interaction by inviting their thoughts or questions.

Key Takeaways

Public speaking improves with practice and the right strategies. These 13 tips from experts offer a roadmap to better your speaking abilities. 

Focus on being genuine, start with small groups, and use storytelling for a stronger audience connection. Pay attention to your body language and improve your quick-thinking skills. Each tip helps you become a more confident and effective speaker.

Try these methods in your next presentations and notice the difference in your speaking skills. Every speech is an opportunity to grow, and each audience, a chance to leave a lasting impression. For those eager to enhance their skills, the Skill Success All Access Pass is an excellent resource. It offers unlimited access to a diverse array of courses, including public speaking and a wide range of personal and career development topics.

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