Cassidy Williams

Software Engineer in Chicago

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10 Tips for Successful Public Speaking


Hey friends!

So, not everyone likes speeches. Public speaking is the #1 most common fear out there. If you don’t get time to practice it often, it’s really just not fun.

So, here are my tips for you. I’m not just saying these. When I go out and talk to a bunch of people, I think about these all the time, and it helps. So do it.

Don’t read.

You are talking to people because you have something to say. You’re talking to them because you know what the heck you’re talking about. Speak from your head, not from your paper in front of you. In fact, try not to bring any paper at all, because they make shaky hands easy to spot. If you need notes, bring a clipboard or a notebook to help you out.

Get your hair out of your face.

The strongest hairspray can fail with the right amount of sweat and nervous touching. Give the audience an unblocked view of your face and your eyes for the best engagement. Bring a hair clip or up-do it. Or shave it. Your choice.

Take your hands out of your pockets.

It’s distracting. You look nervous. If you’re at a podium, put your hands at your sides or hold onto it. If you’ve not nothing in front of you, just keep your arms loosely at your sides unless you’re making a purposeful gesture.

Plant your feet in a comfy stance.

Nothing is more distracting than watching someone pace, rock, or fidget with their feet. Also, DO NOT cross your legs while standing. Even if you have incredible balance, you’re just asking to fall over.

Eye contact.

This is the easiest one on the list. Don’t shift your eyes around, don’t stare at the back wall. That advice is for high schoolers. Look at everyone in the eye. For every sentence you say, look at someone. Shift to someone nearby when you say your next sentence. If your transition from person to person is smooth and steady, everyone will feel like you’ve spoken to them, and spoken to them well.

Don’t touch your face.

When people make mistakes (or have their hair in their face), they touch their face a LOT. It’s distracting. Some of the best speeches I’ve ever heard we ruined because I saw someone scratching their face and playing with their hair. No. Stop. Don’t do it.

Take some time to recover.

If you make a mistake, don’t apologize profusely, don’t stammer. Audiences are very tolerant of a moment of silence. So, if you fumble, just take pause and recollect your thoughts, and then resume. It’s a much more graceful approach to saying, “oh um I forgot to mention that crap so I have to go back” etc. etc.

Tell stories.

People remember them. If you want to talk about the importance of adopting puppies, tell them about your (or a friend’s) experience in buying a puppy. If you’re talking about best practices for putting together an event on campus, tell them about events you’ve hosted. Be funny, and smile with your stories. Chances are, the audience will smile back.

Be CONFIDENT.

Public speaking isn’t as much about what you say as it is how you say it. Whether the audience is 5 people or 5,000, you have a reason to be there, and to make them really listen to what you’re saying. Sell yourself and your message to them. Deliver it like you’re the best person in the world to do it. Speak loudly, and smile. It’ll make the most boring speech more engaging.

Have FUN!

You’re going to be awesome at this. Go and tell people your message, and be proud doing it!

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