My top public speaking tips (hint: they’re not about picturing your audience naked)

Mars Cowley-Smythe public speakingAs part of my job, I do a lot of public speaking. I know that it isn’t the most popular activity in the world – as many as 95% of people say it’s one of their greatest fears. But, when you break it down, it doesn’t have to be any more frightening than having a chat with your colleagues around the water cooler.

So I thought I’d take the opportunity to run over some of the best public speaking tips that I’ve received and how they can help you to share your messages.

Public speaking needs passion

For me, public speaking is all about inspiring passion. Speaking to an audience is an opportunity for me to talk about what we’re doing and the direction that the company is going in. It’s a great way to share what inspires me with people in my company and in Appco’s independent contractor network.

In my experience, being more comfortable with public speaking isn’t just about picturing your audience naked. It involves thinking about how you deliver your speech as much as what you’re actually saying.

Public speaking needs audience awareness

When I think about some of the best speeches that I’ve watched recently – speeches by people like Barack Obama and Steve Jobs – one of the most obvious strengths is that they are always aware of their audience.

When Obama speaks at a small town hall gathering, he engages each of the attendees individually, making eye contact and gesturing (note, not pointing aggressively) to attendees learn the facts here now. When he’s speaking to a much larger crowd, like at his inauguration, he’ll completely change his tone and gestures. He won’t walk around so much, he’ll stand taller and look more statesmanlike.

Most importantly, a great speaker will tailor what they’re talking about to who they’re talking to. Look at when Obama goes to speak to a small group of people: he’ll talk about things that engage that audience. When he’s speaking to the nation, say, for example at a State of the Union, he’ll behave more formally and will move around less.

Public speaking needs a personal touch

So you know your audience, how do you make sure that you reach them? This, I think, is relatively simple: tell a story. Anecdotes help your audience understand and follow your thinking.

In some of the speeches I’ve given around the world, I often tell a story from my own life, which has influenced my thinking in some way, such as the ‘Be Something More’ poster from my childhood. My mum wouldn’t let me have any other posters on my bedroom wall.

This one ended up influencing my entire way of thinking and I think that sharing this helps my audiences to understand where I’m coming from. I’ve included a video of me talking about it below.

https://youtu.be/l15z3vd77QQ

Public speaking is, at its simplest form, about communication. How do you share the ideas that you’re passionate about and bring your audience along with you?

When I think about it in this way – when I try to really understand the mindset of my audience and consider the opportunity I have to share with them a very personal vision about where we’re all going – far from dreading it, I can’t help but be excited by public speaking.

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