7 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills in 5 Minutes
There are hundreds of thousands of articles that offer public speaking advice, most of which states to prepare, to practice, and to have a good night’s sleep.
We will leave the common, but essential, advice at the door. Instead, in this post, we will push the door wide open and let you through the secret passageway that will lead you to be seen as a charismatic public speaker.
As a highly experienced public speaker and skilled trainer, I have spoken to large and small audiences online and in-person. The duration of my speaking experience has taught me quick-win tips that have taken my speaking style to the next level.
First, if something is holding you back as a public speaker you need to reflect on this and take immediate action.
Everyone needs, at some point or other, to speak in public. But the data explains that a massive 77% of the population fears public speaking.
The advice in this article is to take an ‘ok’ speaker and make them memorable by applying the 7 easy to embed ways to improve your public speaking in just 5 minutes.
For more in-depth advice, read our article on the 3 principles for becoming a crowd favorite.
Enter with the eyes
How do you walk on stage? Think specifically about where you look.
Speakers fall into two categories, they are either high status or low-status speakers.
In short, a low-status speaker is nervous, filled with imposter syndrome, and doesn’t believe their advice (speech) is worth hearing. Normally these speakers have been forced to speak in public – this could be a job interview or a presentation at work.
Whereas, a high-status speaker will be seen as bigger than life, taking up stage space with their body, posture, and gestures. The high-status speaker believes in their speech message and reinforces their beliefs or opinions with their confident communication style.
Being seen as high-status has a subconscious effect on how the audience will respond to the speaker, the audience will see themselves as low-status compared to the charismatic presenter.
Becoming, or being seen as high-status starts with the eyes.
A high-status speaker, when entering the stage, won’t look at the podium, they never fumble their cue cards, double-checking their notes are in the correct order. Instead, as the confident speaker walks on the stage, they look at the audience, smile, and even wave – this says, I’m relaxed, calm, and in control.
You see the same type of technique on TV talk shows. The confident talk show guest, when being introduced, will walk onto the stage, stop, look at the audience, and wave. Whereas, the insecure guest walks onto the stage as quickly as they can and takes a seat – this says I’mnervous and want to get this over with!
Tip 1 – as you walk onto the speaking platform, look at the audience and smile. Show them that you are calm and in control. That you are high-status.
Be in control of the message you are putting out
A speaker’s posture expresses how they feel.
Speakers lacking self-esteem will give away telltale signs with their body language. The nervous orator will pace up and down the stage, or hop on one leg then the other.
A lack of confidence creates a lack of hand control; fidgeting, covering their mouth, and creating small weak gestures.
Confidence is shown through the movements of a charismatic speaker, and confident body language creates confidence through the mind-body cycle. If you stand in a confident posture, you feel more confident.
If your posture is weak and vulnerable, you will feel vulnerable and weak.
High-status individuals aren’t afraid. They are happy to be seen, to be open. This confidence is expressed in their body language, their movements on stage and in how they gesture.
Tip 2 – create confident posture:
- Hold the head high
- Shoulders back, chest out
- Slightly sway your hips as you walk
- Take up space with open body language
- Gesture to make a point
How to open
The opening of a speech can make or break the speaker.
Speech openings come in all shapes and sizes, often falling into three categories:
- Extended silence creates an excited nervousness in the audience as they are unsure of what is going to happen
- A big claim can shock the audience into wanting to know more
- Starting with the ending. For storytelling speeches, giving the ending away before stating the journey is intriguing
- Stating credentials creates high-status
- Quoting a leader of a niche transfers the associated authority onto the speaker
- Offering a solution to a well-known problem creates credibility
- The use of a prop or intriguing image on the screen creates excitement within the audience
- A rhetorical question makes the audience think of a particular point of view
- Humour can win over an audience
- Stating (speakers) name, job role, and speech content as an opening introduction is uninteresting. This style of opening loses the audience’s interest quickly.
Tip 3 – win over an audience by having a well-suited opening that reflects the speech message.
Vary the voice
The voice is the wrapping on the speech content.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Engaging speakers will purposely alter their volume, speed, and tonality to keep the interest of an audience.
- Fast pace sentences can build excitement
- Long pauses create suspense
- Lowing the volume draws an audience in
- A surprised shouted line can create laughter or shock
A slow monotone voice is used by hypnotherapists around the globe to put people to sleep. Avoid this with voice variation.
Singers and actors, on the other hand, are masters of vocal variety. Each line, each word is communicated with a different emotion, varying speeds, changing volume. Their voice lures the audience into the story they are portraying.
Saying an emotive line with the associated emotion has triple the impact. Actors will often ‘feel’ the emotion they are expressing which has a positive knock-on effect; their facial expressions and posture naturally reflect the emotion.
Tip 4 – to develop vocal variety start a sentence at your normal voice level and then increase the volume or decrease until it becomes a whisper
Say it three ways
Experienced speakers know the importance of having one key message in each speech.
A message repeated over and over again can become boring or annoying. To ensure a message is taken away by the audience, without them becoming irritated by the repeated paragraph, speechwriters will say the same thing in different ways.
- State the message clearly – this is likely to be repeated three times throughout a speech
- Similes and metaphors are used to visualise the message
- Sharing a similar story (which has the same message or outcome) is an interesting way for an audience to learn the message
Tip 5 – use varied repetition to embed a message subconsciously
People believe facts, even when they are fake
Audiences believe what is being stated to them when a speaker backs up an argument with statistics, data and percentages.
This is because the audience doesn’t get a chance to stop, reflect and challenge what could be a generalisation, distortion, or reframed numerical evidence.
The given evidence, in the form of a statistic, fact, or data, is often a winning argument of the speech message. The truth is, the audience likes to be told what to do, what to think. The charismatic speaker is the authority when on stage.
The framing of the evidence is key. Data, as an example, that says 79% of people taking this pill will be cured sounds promising, but what if the missing data was stated; 21% people, or 21 out every 100 people die from taking the pill! Influencers choose the angle of the presented data, to reinforce their speech message.
The origin of the data can also give the speaker their ‘ideal’ stats to reinforce their point.
Tip 6 – be seen as an authority by stating data and/or facts that back up the message of the speech
Engaging the audience directly creates intrigue, with individual audience members being kept on their toes, asking ‘will I be asked a question next?’
The three easy ways to create audience participation are:
Hands up – asking a yes or no question to the audience is a simple way to engage the audience. Public speakers can control the level of engagement by asking the audience to shout out yes or no. Or they can request a ‘show of hands’. Trainers will sometimes use the room, asking the ‘yes’ audience members to move to the left side of the room, and the no audience members to the right-hand side.
Direct questions – the danger of asking a direct question to an audience member ‘give me your opinion on X’ is the unpredictability of individual people.
Some audience members, when asked a question, will become shy, embarrassed, clamming up leaving the speaker looking foolish. Others, may relish the spotlight and use the opportunity to share their life story taking the power from the speaker.
When asking direct questions choose your audience member with care.
Interaction – A second potential time-consuming engagement tool is getting an audience member on stage, often to demonstrate a point.
I have seen this done in various ways, from a speaker saying the first person to come to the stage will receive £5, to a speaker demonstrating how to steal – using the audience member as a prop throughout the speech.
There are many ways to involve an audience, each way creates entertainment, interest, and engagement:
- Rhetoric questions
- Having an audience member hold a prop
- Using agreement frames
- Requesting applause for the completion of a task
- Group feedback
- Checking distance traveled
Tip 7 – grab attention by involving the audience in some way
All seven of these tips will boost how an audience views the speaker, as a charismatic public speaker or a nervous person stood on stage. Embedding these tips creates authority, as the audience sees the speaker has high status, encouraging them to be led by the orator.
Each of the seven tips can be used in various ways. Below we have set out a simple template that a speaker can follow to improve their speaking performance.
Step 1 – as you walk on stage, put your chest, head high, and walk with a swagger – be relaxed
Step 2 – during the entrance, look at the audience and smile
Step 3 – pause and build anticipation
Step 4 – ask a rhetorical question (low volume)
Step 5 – share a statement to show your authority of the subject (high volume) – this will relate to the message of the story
Step 6 – make a big claim, backing this up with data/statistics
Step 7 – start a story focusing on a problem – start off with low volume then build-up
Step 8 – pause and use a metaphor/simile to make a point
Step 9 – give the middle part of the story (actions took/the journey) – use emotions as you tell the story
Step 10 – ask the audience a yes/no question relating to the story
Step 11 – end the story (positive outcome) and pause to allow the audience to catch up
Step 12 – summarise the story/speech message
Step 13 – ask a direct question to an audience member, relating to taking action
Step 14 – state a fact/statistic and give a call to action
Step 15 – walk off stage confidently
Project Charisma deliver online coaching and in-person courses on
confident communication, public speaking & personal development.