7 quick ways to ace your public speaking overnight

Frankie Kemp

16 February 2020

With surveys throwing up death as being vastly preferable to giving a presentation, making speaking in public easy – and a pleasure – may be less important than surviving it.

However, fear of public speaking is career limiting.

A survey of more than 600 employers in 2014 revealed that “presentation skills” was the fourth highest skill they desired of the 25 listed.

In case you’re wondering, “Oral Communication” was the highest.  Right down at the bottom, sat “managing administrative activities”, one of the more traditional requirements.

Avoiding presenting is no longer an option if you want to win better work, gain a promotion, achieve recognition or involve yourself in interesting projects.

Get out there and show them what you got.

Here are 7 simple ways to increase your presentation technique to get seen and counted for what you do.


1. Get comfortable with pausing

This allows you to think ahead. You’ll probably not have a script so you’ll need time to think about what to say next.

The audience needs you to pause so they can take in what you say. Moreover, they’ll be making connections with their own experience, which will make your message more memorable.

The problem is we feel that silence is terribly long in front of a group of people when it’s probably not long enough.  You need time to have them take in your message as well as give yourself enough time to think.   Practising reading aloud will quickly have you control those silences.   Using anything around you such as a brochure or cereal packet, record yourself reading for one minute as follows:

at a : / , /- / ;                count ‘1 elephant’ in your head

at a . / ! / ?                    count ‘2 elephants [“One elephant, Two elephants”] in your head

at a new paragraph     count ‘3 elephants’ in your head.

The full exercise is here.

It’ll feel like you could drive a bus through those pauses when you’re doing it, but on playing it back, people are often surprised by how short they seem.  Buy yourself time and the other aspects below are more likely to fall into place.


2. Presenting is a conversation with one person speaking most of the time

Use conversational tricks when you speak and especially at the beginning. This will naturally pull your audience towards you. Because it will make your talk feel more natural, you’ll also feel less nervous.  Devices such as asking rhetorical or direct questions are simple and work well.

For instance: “Who loves using timesheets?”  and “Who’s heard of…”

You don’t need to start with your name. We rarely do that in a conversation anyway.  What usually happens is that you grab someone’s attention, start chatting, then 10 minutes later, realise you don’t know their name. By that time, you’re more likely to remember it.

So feel free to start with a more natural-feeling technique like a story, question or a picture.  While you’re at it, go to this post, giving you the best structure to begin on a strong footing.


3. Use gesture.

Gesturing helps dissipate nerves and brings more of you back in the room.

You naturally use gesture anyway but when self-conscious, those arms feel like limp branches hanging off a tree.

Research from Colgate University shows that when gesture is aligned with emphasis on key words and phrases, the audience will absorb your message.  For example, if you’re saying ‘staff retention has increased’, there may be an upward gesture on ‘increase’ to vocally underline that word.

When the gestures don’t align, the audience senses the disconnect.

Varying gesture is another way to both reduce nerves and gain audience trust.  To stop yourself looking like a mad air traffic controller, use the area in the ‘power sphere’, as shown in my magnificently radiant stick person here.

Here’s a quick video where I show you how to use gesture in a way that feels natural.


4. Channel your nerves.

I don’t advise getting rid of them completely, but channeling that nervous energy into adrenalin.

You could start by altering that inner voice which keeps on rumbling “I’m so nervous”.  Do this by changing the inner voice to “I’m so excited”.  It’s the same physiological response but the different mindset makes all the difference.

There’s also the two minute toilet trick. It’s not what you think it is as you don’t even need to flush afterwards.  It’s right here – the glory of Power Poses.


5. Speak to members of the audience when they come in.

Even building a brief connection with a few individuals helps you see the talk as a more personal experience.  Whether there are 8 or 800 people, you’ll have a few connections which will stop the audience looking like a sea of faces.


6. Make your language direct.

Use ”I’ and ‘you’ rather than passive phrases.  For example: “This as been done for the benefit of the company” is not half as natural and punchy as “I did this for you.”

This twist will allow a stronger connection with the audience by being more conversational and allow the use of one of the strongest words in the English language: ‘YOU’.


7. Give your audience want they want and need.

When you know what you’ve got is exactly what they want, you’ll be doing more than most presenters can be bothered to do. Yeah, they may have GIFs and fancy graphics on their slides.  That’s very entertaining but what’s the point if your audience doesn’t need it?

Here’s how to find that out.  You’ll find the exact questions to ask, who to ask them to and when to do it.



Your Action:

  1. Give this checklist to a friend and run through your talk.  Let them tick off what you’re doing.
  2. Practise in front of a mirror for gestures.
  3. Check out the post links above and ensure that you’re completing those actions.
  4. Need to up your game, have a sounding board? Contact me here for a 15 minute Discovery Call and I’ll see if  I can help you out.

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