How to be a Great Public Speaker

Public speaking is one of the great skills you will need in order to ensure success in your personal and business life. The ability to speak in public, communicate an idea, to get others to know you and be energized is critical to creating the future you want.  It doesn’t matter if you like public speaking, or if you are terrified by it you must learn it.  The ability to speak confidently in public to your public to those that you want to know you and know your ideas is one of the keys to Success.

It’s simple.  Know your material.  It creates confidence and helps to reduce anxiety and nervousness. Always be amazing! Shep Hyken

I have been speaking to audiences since I was 25 years old. When I first started I was scared to death and found myself avoiding situations where I could communicate and get myself known to more than one or two people at a time. One day I realized that I had been holding myself back from my true potential because of this fear and committed myself to learning how to get in front of an audience with confidence. Since then I have delivered over 2000 paid speaking engagements. I have watched many of the greats like Guy Kawasaki, Harvey McKay, Steve Jobs, Jackie B. Cooper, Joel Osteen, Les Brown, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins and more to learn how they command an audience. I assure you that I have made every mistake a person can make as a speaker and I thought you might like to learn from my mistakes and the successful speaking tips that can put you in control of your own public speaking.  Also you will see additional short tips from some of the greatest speakers of our time.

1) Own the Stage –

When you walk out on the stage or platform, own the stage; make it yours. Remind yourself that it is your stage, your time  Plant your feet firmly in one place and anchor in.  Try not to move around much in the beginning of your presentation so the audience can see that you are confident, grounded in who you are and your position. I may not move for the first 10 minutes literally planting myself in one place and then start to move about the stage once I know I have command of the stage and the audience.

2) Speak to the Entire Room –

Be sure that you are communicating beyond the first row and all the way to the back row and to the edges of the room, left and right.  Never get on stage and open with “Can you hear me?” or “Is this working?”  The first two years I spoke I did so without a microphone and in many cases I was speaking to 200+ people. This forced me to reach, connect with and project to everyone in the audience.  Also use your eyes left and right to connect personally with individuals in the audience.

3) Open with Your Message –

Open with that thing you want the audience to remember. “I am here to convince you to Dominate your market rather than compete in it.  That’s right, Dominate.” Make it very clear in the first one minute what the audience is going to get from your presentation.  Make your opening statement bold, promising, inspiring and hopeful of massive gain.  If you can include a big claim of what the audience will get out of the presentation that is great.  “In the next 15 minutes I am going to show you how to Dominate your Competition!”  Keep the main thing the main thing, start with it, stay with it and end with it!

4) Pick a Topic Where You Have Altitude Over the Audience –

Speak on subjects on which you are an authority, where you know more than anyone else in the room. Use this as a way to gain Altitude.   It is vital that you bring something to the audience they don’t know and can benefit from.  Everyone has some angle or positioning that makes them the authority in a room with the most altitude.  Use that positioning to grow your own confidence and to have your audience respect you.

5) Hammer Away at Your Opening Message –

Distill your message down to a few points and then beat it to death. Don’t water down your presentation by trying to cover too many things. More is not always better.  People want to learn something and you will benefit you and them when they are able to walk away from your event with one message ringing violently in their heads.  Simplify your message down to a a thing or two rather than many.

6) Speak with Conviction and Authority –

I have a saying, “I might be wrong, but I won’t be uncertain.”  When speaking to one person or a group speak with absolute certainty – conviction.  Don’t try to handle topics you don’t know about or that you aren’t sure about. Take a position and own it!  I do a lot of TV interviews, which is just another form of public speaking.   Whenever I have a topic that I am not an expert I always look for that one thing in the topic that I KNOW and can communicate with complete conviction and certainty and hammer that one message with total conviction and authority.  Regardless of where the interview goes I am going to come back to that message that I am most certain.

7) Keep Your PowerPoint to 10 Slides –

Don’t depend on long powerpoints presentations. Your audience wants to be moved not watch a powerpoint presentation. You aren’t a clicker you are a speaker!   I am convinced PowerPoint was created as a crutch for weak presenters.  The more dependent you are on this technology the less compelling your presentation will be.  Speakers spend more time on their slides than their opening and closing statements.  I try to keep a one hour presentation down to 10 slides.  That is basically one slide every six minutes.  And make sure you keep the font in the slides to a minimum size of 28 or about 1/2 of the average audience’s age so people can see the slide.  The slide is to be used as support or to further color your story; but your presentation should make the compelling case.

8 ) Close Big and Close Strong –  The way you end should be so compelling and so inspiring that the audience wants to stand up and applause for you.  This is where you want to spend time in really making your close move the audience to that idea that they can, that they should and that something special has either happened or can happen.  This is still the weakess part of my presentation and the one I continue to work on today.   Always bring your audience back to the main theme and tie it down to how they can do this and how it will positively effect them.

Some of the great speakers in the business today were gracious enough to share with me some of their tips. Thanks to each of them for their input.

Guy Kawasaki, Author of Enchantment. Customize your introduction to show that you understand who you’re talking to. You can do this by explaining that you use a company’s product or show photographs of  you touring the city if you’re speaking in a foreign land. Be creative. There’s always a way to customize the first two minutes of a presentation to demonstrate that you care about the audience. This assumes that you do care about the audience. This I can’t help you with if you don’t.

Gary Vaynerchuk. “Always be yourself.”  Seth Godin. “My only tip is…. Speak.” Les Brown. “Read, study and over prepare.” Chet Holmes. “Open strong. If you open strong, the audience will be patient for 20 minutes even I you’re terrible after that. So open strong: something fun, something where you take control (get the audience to do something).”  Dave Anderson. Go silent rather than saying “um.” If you get stuck, you’re better off to say nothing than to stammer, improvise or utter the dreadful “um.” A silent pause can have a dramatic effect that causes people to lean in, listen closely, and pay greater attention.

Do your research and Practice!