With the public speaking world being turned upside down in the last couple of years, you may be wondering, what are the best public speaking tips for me to use to stand out on stage?
For there’s a lot of noise out there.
As such, below I’ve provided my 30 best public speaking tips to help you shine.
#1 of the best public speaking tips: Forget greeting the audience. Just start.
Most speakers go out on stage and visit with the audience. This squanders precious tension.
Instead, simply start with a super compelling opening line after you’ve taken your place on stage. Watch how instantly they’ll become transfixed.
#2: Start in the middle of a story.
If you really want to draw people in, open your talk with a line that places your audience right in the middle of the action.
This could be featuring you or someone else in the middle of a crisis, or after you just suffered a major disappointment. Starting like this will hook your audience instantly.
#3: Share a scene instead of your whole life story.
A lot of speaking coaches will tell you to share your story – where you grew up, what you were interested in as a kid, whatever. But this lacks specificity and is less likely to connect to the precise message you’re there to share.
Rather than that focus on a specific experience you had with another person or a couple of people that connects directly to what you’re there to talk about that day.
#4: Plant a mystery early on.
Most speakers go out on stage and tell the audience what they’re going to talk about. But this will set you up for merely meeting your audience’s expectations.
Which is boring.
Instead, suggest that an amazing transformation happened but withhold telling the audience how it did. Or something else that promises something exciting further into the presentation.
#5: Ditch the “5 things” for 1 thing
A lot of speakers create a talk based on 3, 5, 7, or more things to learn – just like how this article is structured.
Having a list is great for an article but terrible for a 30- or 45-minute speech. It can overwhelm people who have to stay in their seats the whole time. Instead, base your talk on one concept to give your audience mental space to digest it.
#6: Favor simple phrases over pictures
Nearly every speaker out there puts ironic, metaphorical pictures in their slide decks because they heard that words are bad.
Words aren’t bad. A lot of words are bad.
Metaphors force audiences to think, which pulls their attention from you. Instead, feature a couple of words that emphasize exactly what you’re saying in that moment.
#7: Break up your stories
It’s common knowledge now that storytelling is powerful for speeches, but what most speakers feel they need to do is tell the whole story all at once.
Instead, encourage yourself to break up your story strategically. For example, tell the pain someone is in at the beginning of the speech and then reveal their happy outcome later on.
#8: Ditch the SAT words
Many people – not just speakers – feel they need to prove their authority with fancy words (I almost just wrote “highfalutin words” but then I’d be guilty of doing exactly that).
But this forces audiences to go to a dictionary in their head rather than simply listen to you. Run your speech through Hemingwayapp.com and get it down to a 7th grade reading level at most.
#9: Animate your bullet points
A lot of speakers still put tons of bullet points on their slide all at once. This is a problem because the audience member won’t be sure whether to read the slides or listen to you.
If you want to have bullet points, animate them one at a time. And only click on the next one when you’re saying what the bullet point says. That will keep you connected to the audience.
#10: Animate your graphs
Just like tip #9, if you have a complicated graph for your audience to look at, refrain from presenting all of it all at once. They won’t know what to look at first.
Instead, animate one part of the graph at a time and take them very gradually through the mechanics of the graph.
#11: Feature your quotes rather than other people’s quotes
I’ve seen a bunch of speakers feature a famous person’s quote in their slide deck, but this will squander the authority you’ve built by being on stage.
Instead, craft your own concise quotations and sit back as other speakers put those quotes in their slide decks. Click here to learn how to craft that kind of quote.
The most surprising of my best public speaking tips (#12): Ditch your company logo on slides
Many of my clients believe that they need to have their brand identity on every single slide of their deck. But every moment they’re thinking about your logo could be a moment they’re listening to you.
But audiences are not going to care about your brand while you’re talking. But if you do your job well on stage, they’re going to care about it when you’re done talking.
#13: Make eye contact with 3-5 people
If you’re in a smaller space where you can see your audience (as opposed to a big auditorium with stage lights) it can be easy to look past your audience to protect yourself standing alone as the center of attention.
But while it can overwhelm you to make eye contact with everyone, choose a few people to connect with a couple of times throughout your talk to maintain your connection with the audience. This will help you step into greater authenticity.
#14: Insert a few choice pauses
While delivering your talk, it can seem like it’s best to get as much content out as possible. But this can potentially prevent your audience from taking in your most critical points.
For the few moments that you really want your audience to notice and absorb, pause for perhaps a couple of seconds to make sure they stay with you.
The most stationary of my best public speaking tips (#15): Stand still
I’ve seen many speakers pace back and forth on stage out of nervousness. If one filmed them and watched it at advanced speed they’d get dizzy.
Instead, claim your authority by standing still. The late great Ken Robinson has the most popular TED talk of all time and doesn’t take a single step. If you wish to move, incorporate that movement deliberately into your talk.
#16: Be explicit about the problem your audience is experiencing right now
Because of a speaker’s expertise, they often want to go right to their own understanding of their audience’s problem at the beginning of the speech.
But your audience doesn’t relate to their problem the same way you do. Instead, start with laying out the problem as they want to solve it and that will get them to lean in.
#17: Change the story, not the speech
Speakers often believe they have to re-write each speech from scratch in order to serve a new audience.
In many cases, though, you will be able to switch out the opening story to a different story that is more in line with the new audience and much of the original speech can remain intact.
#18: Feature dialogue
It’s one thing to tell a story of when you talked to a person, it’s another thing to actually reenact the dialogue between the two of you.
Rather than settle for just describing a conversation, actually portray the interaction through the dialogue that was said so as to create an even more concrete picture of that moment in your audience members’ minds.
The most fun-loving of my best public speaking tips (#19): Incorporate pop-culture references
Because of most of our being indoctrinated into the necessity for peer-reviewed research to be credible as an expert, we’ve forgotten how valuable it can be to reference a movie, TV show, or some other aspect of popular culture to make a point.
Bring a movie reference or something similar into your talk to help your audience relate better to the more obscure aspects of your expertise.
#20: Play around with falsehoods
One of the most popular TED speakers is Tim Urban, who gives a talk on procrastination. And at one point he tells a completely false story – and then comes clean right away.
This kind of misdirection can be quite compelling as it will add humor to the talk and help the story to really stick.
#21: Turn scientific studies into stories
When people think of scientific papers, they often think of dry, dense documents that are unreadable by laypeople. But the funny thing is that many of the discoveries on which these papers are based are quite fascinating.
This means that you could create a dramatic portrayal of a study and keep your audience riveted. The value of your content is never about your subject. It’s always about your execution.
The naughtiest of my best public speaking tips (#22): Mess with your audience when you come out on stage
One of my favorite moments in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is when Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka first appears as decrepit but then tumbles into a somersault and stands again without a single thing wrong with him.
Messing with your audience in a similar way can be quite compelling. If you’re giving a talk on fear, walk out and pretend to have stage fright. If you’re giving a talk on having more energy, drone on as you put yourself to sleep. Or do something else that conveys the opposite of what your message ultimately promises.
#23: Get rid of the beautiful slides
Many speakers believe that they need to have beautiful slides in order to have a good presentation.
But people aren’t there for slides. They’re there for transformation.
Simplify your slides to provide something clean and uncluttered so that your audience is only focused on what you’re there to teach them.
The techy-est of my best public speaking tips (#24): Use Slido
Since a typical talk will feature you speaking for 30 or more minutes straight, it can really help to engage your audience to use a software like Slido to create an audience response in real time.
Because of QR codes, it can be very easy for them to provide input as well.
#25: Use one-word slides
By speaking for a whole presentation, audiences might start to get overwhelmed and tune you out.
One thing that can be incredibly powerful is to have a slide every once in a while that features only one word. This will add gravity to that slide and jolt your audience out of a stupor.
#26: Master your transitions
You might lose your audience if they don’t know how one part of your talk relates to the next. This is why you have an opportunity to become a master of your transitions.
A simple way to do this is to recall what you just did:
“So we’ve just explored (topic of previous section)…”
And then ask them how to solve the next problem:
“…but how do we (answer an unresolved issue from that section)?”
The funniest of my best public speaking tips (#27): Use self-deprecating humor instead of edgy humor
It’s really easy for humor to be misinterpreted. But fortunately, speakers don’t need to go anywhere near the edgy humor that comedians often do.
My advice on humor is simple: use humor that is self-deprecating.
While there are many different ways of making people laugh, if you rely on poking light fun at yourself you bring likability and levity to your talk but you stay far away from more sensitive topics.
#28: Go into the audience
Because audiences are so used to speakers staying on stage and staying separate from them, you have an opportunity to stand out if you leave the stage and move into the audience.
Of course, I recommend you do it for a particular reason (find someone to talk to, give a demonstration, etc.) rather than arbitrarily leaving the stage, but because of its unexpectedness it may be the most memorable moment of your talk.
The simplest of my best public speaking tips (#29): Use Talkadot as your final slide
Some speakers struggle to capture speaking leads at the end of their talk because with lots of people wanting to connect at the end those who might hire them get lost in the noise.
My friends at Talkadot.com have found a solution for this – a slide at the end of the talk with a QR code. It gifts the audience a freebie but also requires them to fill out a questionnaire that warms them up as a speaking lead.
The very best public speaking tip of all (#30): Learn the secret ingredient
Perhaps my most overlooked tip, knowing the secret ingredient found in 46 of the 50 most popular TED talks and the bestselling nonfiction books can be the biggest game-changer in your speaking of all.