BBC Content Team
Top 10 Public Speaking Tips
Updated: Sep 14, 2019
The top 10 perfect public speaking tips to turn any novice into a expert.
By: Suneet Desai
Top 10 Tips for Public Speaking
Know Your Topic
To begin, this one seems pretty self-explanatory, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, make sure you have everything mapped out in your head, it will allow you to visualize yourself speaking, and make everything flow better. In addition, try to avoid adding anything prior to your presentation, unless it is absolutely crucial. This will help keep your speech on track and make sure that everything runs smoothly, without pauses and stutters. Finally, knowing your topic will prevent you from looking at your presentation (if it is projected behind you), which will enhance the listening experience.
Know Your Audience
Again, this one is pretty simple, but depending on the audience, the tone and style of your presentation should change. For example, if you are speaking to a group of younger children, take out the longer words and speak slower, so everyone has a chance to process the information. Make the presentation feel personal will also keep younger kids engaged. On the other hand, if your audience is older and more professional, it may be best to include the high-end vocabulary and make sure you are straight to the point.
Engage your Audience
This goes hand in hand with knowing your audience, however this one is a bit more universal. A simple question to open your presentation will give the audience something to think about throughout your speech, and will make them want to see if you can give them an answer. Also, entertain any questions that the audience may have. This is a sign that people are really contemplating what you are telling them, and that your presentation is going well. With that, do not be afraid to say that you don’t have an answer to a question, defer your audience to a source that may have the answer or give them as best an answer as you can - the last thing you want to do is give them incorrect information.
Another thing that you can do to keep the audience involved is mix in some humor - you might get a few laughs and it will let the audience know that you are relaxed.
To a certain extent, involving your hands in your presentation will make you seem more confident and professional. Especially on areas of your presentation that you wish to emphasize, movement with your hands can be a vital component in making yourself seem more involved with the information. However, do not overuse your hands, as it may make you seem nervous and unsure of how to deliver your presentation.
Another effective tool used for emphasis is the pacing of your voice. Speaking at a normal rate and then slowing down or pausing at certain words will make important points stand out within your presentation. Likewise, speeding up your voice during intense portions will make the listeners more engaged, delivering a more exciting and captivating presentation.
Eye Contact and Powerful Voice
Both of these things will come naturally with knowing your material - as you feel more comfortable with your content, you will look your audience in the eye and speak with more authority. When it comes to eye contact, make sure you spread it around the audience and don’t concentrate on one area of the crowd. This will allow you to make everyone in the audience feel personally involved in your delivery.
Practice in the Mirror or Film Yourself
This may seem silly at first, but reciting your presentation to yourself in the mirror or through a film will allow you to watch yourself present and will make you pinpoint areas that need improvement. Mainly, you should be able to catch any words that come out awkwardly, especially if you present out loud. Also, presenting this way will allow you to see your hand expressions so you can ensure that they are not too minimal or too excessive.
Stay on Track
There is no need to go off on tangents during your presentations, the audience most likely does not care about anything else in the moment. This goes for stutters too - if you stutter or fumble over your words, move on and do not spend too much time correcting yourself. Odds are, nobody even noticed and by correcting yourself, you are only drawing more attention to the error.
This goes for no matter what you are doing, taking advice and implementing it can be one of the best way to improve yourself at any activity. Presenting in front of a group of people before your actual speech can prove to be a great source of constructive criticism and could potentially get rid of any jitters you may still have. Just make sure to ask others for the advice politely and do not respond defensively - remember, they are only trying to help you get better.
Little things go a long way, and a smile is a prime example. This lets the audience know that you are more than just your presentation, that you are human. People make mistakes, so when it comes to stuttering, smile and turn it into something that the audience can relate to on a personal level. Also, make sure to close out your presentation with a friendly smile, that is how your audience will remember you. This will also make you feel more confident in your presentation, which is always a good thing.