15 Ways You Can Be a Better Speaker

Standing in front of a room (15 people or 500) used to fill me with dread. Afraid the audience would start throwing sticks and stones. I felt like I had been thrown to the wolves. Perhaps the same for you.

I started paying closer attention to my audiences–none of which threw any sticks or stones. Started reading about the topic. Paying attention to what key speakers did, not just the message. Working to do better along the way.

Following is a short list of lessons learned that have helped me be a better speaker.  Perhaps they will help you, too.

15 Ways to be a Better Speaker

  • It’s about the audience, not you!
    Focusing on why they spent money to hear you speak, what they want from you, what you can do for them, lowers your anxiety. Why? Because it’s no longer about you.
  • Study the topic of Presenting
    Read their books and follow Garr Reynolds, PresentationZen; Nancy Duarte, Duarte.com
  • Avoid Crutches
    Remember, PowerPoint/KeyNote are there to support you. Not, the other way around.
  • Do NOT memorize your presentation verbatim.
    Make your key points through selected short stories whenever possible.
  • One. Idea. Per. Slide. Period.
  • Avoid Bullet Points
    Whenever possible (see previous item).
  • No one really cares how many slides you have. (See previous, previous point)
    Unless your presentation sucks.
  • Only use graphics that make your point.
    Avoid gratuitous gimmicks like 3-D charts, fonts, and the like.
  • Using graphic imagery to support your point.
    Full-bleed pictures (covers entire slide) with minimal text (<5 words?) can be very powerful.
  • Simple is best.
    Simple does not mean preparation will not be complex though.
  • Pay attention to your audience.
    Watch their faces. Watch body language. Adjust your delivery if necessary.
  • Be human. Smile. Relax.
    People want to relate to you. Don’t be a stiff ‘corporate’ persona. Leave the can of non-stick Teflon spray at home.
  • Your First 30 seconds are important!
    Don’t waste them by blathering through a self-intro; they likely know something about who/what you are already.
  • Get out from behind the podium.
    Your audience wants to see you, to relate to you (previous point). Don’t hide from them.
  • Never stop learning.
    Practice. Study. Study the topic some more.
  • Bonus item: Nobody is perfect.
    Your audience does not expect you are either.

These are just 15 of the many little things I’ve learned over the past few years. Hopefully they’re not all new to you. Perhaps some will be new take-aways. The list could on much longer, but I’d really like to give you the opportunity to share your experiences.

What have you learned about presenting that you’d like to share?