These 7 Tips Will Help You Speak Like a Pro

Anybody can be a better public speaker. Even if you don’t want to be Tony Robbins, chances are you will want to inform, motivate, persuade or influence a room full of people at some point in your career. Here are some Toastmaster tips for better public speaking.

Use PowerPoint only in emergencies – There’s a reason TED speakers barely use PowerPoint. First, they practice their talk ahead of time and second, they only use it to show a visual that supports what they are saying. (Hint: It’s rarely a graph.)

If you have to use it, please don’t read to us like we’re in kindergarten. Say something different than what is on the screen.

Slides can help you remember your speech structure, but really you need to be telling us stories and making points.

At the very least, for God’s sake, bump your font size up and make your pictures big enough so everybody can see what’s on the screen without squinting.

Tell personal stories – Leaders tell stories. Tell a story. Make a point. Stories are the operating system of the human brain. People will remember stories long after they’ve forgotten “important” statistics.

Personal stories are easy to remember because you’ve told them countless times. The most interesting ones are about the time you failed, and learned something new. Incorporate tension, high stakes, drama, conflict, humor, and surprise if you want to really grab us.

Surprise – Everybody gets bored when they know what you are going to say before you do. Yet another reason to not read your PowerPoint out loud. Keep us on our toes. Figure out how to make the predictable, unpredictable.

Surprise is an essential element of humor and is why the punch line comes at the end of the joke.

Humor – Humor wakes us up and grabs our attention. Cartoons or funny pictures are one of the only valid reasons to use PowerPoint.

Speak in a playful tone of voice to become more playful. This will relax your audience so they can have fun and start being funny.

Power dynamics matter in humor. You can make fun up the social hierarchy, but when you make fun down it, you are a jerk. A comedian was playing the part of a businessman. If he made fun of the audience, people thought he was mean. When he made fun of himself, he got laughs.

Don’t use facts. Paint pictures. – Most memory systems are based on pictures. They are essential to remembering.

If I say “Without bees, you wouldn’t have 33% of the food on your plate” you’ll forget it because most people don’t remember numbers.

If I say “honey bees are responsible for one in every three bites of food we take” you will remember it because it paints a picture.

Vocal Variety – Don’t speak in a monotone voice, unless you’re a hypnotist or trying to put your audience to sleep. Speak like a human, not a robot. It’s easy to do, especially if you love what you’re talking about.

Practice. Practice. Practice. – Toastmasters is the best place to practice public speaking. If you find a good club, it will change your life.

Recommended reading:
The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking – Chris Anderson is the master.
Resonate – Nancy Duarte
Do You Talk Funny? 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker – David Nihill


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