DOs and DON’Ts of Public Speaking

To me living life to the fullest is also being able to voice myself and share my knowledge in the front of others and I wanted to share some of my public speaking tips. Not because I am an expert, but because I am someone who has been terrified of public speaking and learned to love it and be excited about it. I love public speaking, because I am so passionate about the topics I speak of. Here are some of my public speaking tips, and many of them apply to any public speaking moment whether you are preparing to speak in a boardroom, in a class room, in a conference or the next PTA meeting or toasting at your friend’s wedding, but it is focused on professional public speaking.

DOs and DON’Ts of public speaking.

Public Speaking DOs

1. Be prepared and Be prepared to be flexible.

Know what you are going to talk about. If you are very new to public speaking, write the entire speech up, and practice speaking it again and again until you feel confident that you know your top points. Some even like to time themselves to know that it is the correct length. You might forget something you wrote, and not speak word for word. That’s OK. It’s actually better that you will sound natural, and go with the flow. If you forgot to say a point, you might get an opportunity to point it out later, maybe when someone is asking a question. Don’t say things like “I forgot to say earlier”, but try to find out a natural way to go back to the topic and say it.

2. Bring assistance – Notes & PowerPoint Presentation

Bring your speech on a paper with you if you must, and especially if you have done a lot of research for your speech, and it’s not all something you already knew. I like a note paper instead with the top 5-10 key topics that I will speak about, and just seeing the topic title reminds me of the entire that part of the speech. If I create a Powerpoint presentation, I don’t bring additional notes. Here are some Powerpoint presentation tips: – Keep the slides simple; you want people listening to you, not reading your slides. Use big font and less than 2-3 paragraphs per slide. – Use pictures or video, and especially video can give you a nice break during your speech. – For an hour speech use approximately 10-15 slides, including a title slide with your name and the name of your presentation, and an ending slide with your contact information.

3. Smile and Be Welcoming

Really, even if you make mistakes, people will forgive you, and sympathize with you, if you are nice, you genuinely smile and you are welcoming. When you smile and look people directly in the eye – they usually smile back giving you a confidence boost during your speech.

4. Slow Down and Relax

While I don’t advise you to be slow and boring, I advice you to speak in a slower pace, and clear language. You will seem more relaxed, and it’s easier for people to make notes. Also, if you forget something, or need time to think what comes next, it is easier to look smart by speaking in a slower pace, than talking very fast and then suddenly stopping because you were going too fast even for yourself and can’t remember what you were going to say the next.

5. Engage with Your Audience

Turn the table and take eyes off you if you feel nervous about being in the spotlight. Spotlight someone you know in the audience “for example such and such here is a great example of..” or once I even said “I’m happy to have my dad in the audience today”, instantly showing a personal side of me, sharing a spotlight with someone and giving me an eyes-off-me moment. Encouraging your audience to ask questions, and share their view is also a great way to engage.

Public Speaking DON’Ts

1. Don’t Be Over-rehearsed – Be Real.

While you should be prepared, don’t be over-rehearsed. Nothing is more boring that a speaker who is speaking from memory, and not engaging with the audience. Be in the moment, don’t sound like you wrote a great essay or blog post about the topic and you are just reading it aloud.

2. Don’t Ignore Your Audience.

You will be able to see what topics really interest people, and what not, don’t ignore the cues (like leaning forward and smiling – they probably agree with you. Or yawning and checking email – you might be boring them). If someone is raising their hand – don’t ignore it, let them voice their opinion.

3. Don’t Disrespect Your Audience.

I once spoke in a conference where someone in the panel said to the rest of us to keep it simple because it was a beginner level session and audience might not understand – in the front of the audience. I was mortified. Don’t disrespect your audience, and never ever present yourself as the ultimate expert of your subject matter, and the smartest one in the room – this is when someone in the audience will ask you a question you will not know an answer and you will look foolish. Don’t ever use phrases like “this is probably new to you” or “you probably don’t know what this means”, unless it is something ground breaking news that nobody has heard yet.

4. Don’t lie.

Be honest and truthful, even if you don’t know an answer. If your audience realizes you just said a little white lie, you will have no respect for the rest of the speech. And someone in the audience might point it out for you, and good luck being confident and respected speaker after that. It’s OK if you make a mistake, or even if you had a fact wrong, and someone points it out, be honest if you are not 100% sure you are right. If someone asks you a question that you don’t know an answer, do not lie and make up something – you can answer “that’s a great question, and I think I have to do some research to get a good answer for you, or would someone in the audience like to answer to that one”.

5. Don’t Be Afraid.

Really, don’t be afraid. The people in the audience have come there to listen to you because they think you are brilliant and you have something cool to say. People want to see you succeed. Stand with your head up high, smile and be ready to be brilliant, don’t be afraid, you know what you are talking about. Some of my speaking engagements this year: National Ski Are Association’s Summit, Orlando, Florida SoMeTime 2010 conference in Helsinki, Finland. Network of Executive Women Northern California Spring Networking Event AffCon2010, Denver, Colorado. EVO Conference in Park City, Utah. VegasKids trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Upcoming: Type-A-Mom Conference, Asheville, North-Carolina.

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