These public speaking techniques will help you become a better speaker. Whether you’re gearing up for your first speech or looking for new ways to wow your audience, you’re in the right place.
I’ve gathered together public speaking techniques that work like hacks for quick, noticeable improvement. These actionable tips span eight key areas, from honing your content to gracefully handling the unexpected.
Plus, I’ve included an FAQ section for that extra edge. So, if you’re ready for rapid progress, let’s dive in!
What are public speaking techniques?
Public speaking techniques are strategies or practices that can help individuals communicate more effectively when addressing an audience.
These techniques cover a wide range of skills, from the initial development of a speech, including researching and organizing content, to the delivery of the speech, such as utilizing appropriate body language, tone of voice, and maintaining eye contact.
Applying these techniques can help speakers of all levels deliver more impactful and effective presentations.
Whether you’re a seasoned speaker or a beginner, refining these skills can improve your public speaking abilities and help you connect more effectively with your audience.
Public Speaking Courses
Let’s now explore some of these public speaking techniques.
For those seeking a deeper understanding and a comprehensive framework for crafting and delivering epic speeches, don’t miss our guide – “Public Speaking: Craft and Deliver Epic Speeches.” But now, let’s turbo-charge your speaking skills and make your voice heard!
Speaking Techniques to Develop Content
When I speak of content, I refer to your message and the elements you use to illustrate your message.
You want your speeches to become clear and compelling. You can do this when you understand how speeches are like stories. You begin with a person with a problem to solve, they have solutions that are not working for them, and you know a better solution or a way to find the better solution.
You will find storyboarding very effective in helping you create stories that people will remember.
1. Use storyboarding.
It’s helpful to visualize your speech like a narrative. This helps to ensure there’s a logical flow from your introduction to your conclusion.
Though I do not draw, stick figures work for me.
Of course, you may use storyboarding too. But I am an analog person, so paper and pencil work for me.
How do you do storyboarding?
If you’re delivering a speech on climate change, you might start by discussing the current state of the environment (beginning), then move on to the potential consequences if no action is taken (middle), and finally present your recommendations for what can be done to address the issue (end).
I often think of a speech like a three-act story. So, storyboarding helps a lot.
Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth, though not really a story, sounds like a narrative worth listening to.
2. Apply the power of the hook.
The initial moments of your speech can set the tone for the rest of your presentation. Starting with a surprising fact, a thought-provoking question, or an engaging anecdote can hook your audience’s attention.
For instance, if you’re speaking about cybersecurity, you might begin by revealing a shocking statistic about the number of cyberattacks per day.
Consider also that your hook points to the end of the story. The job therefore is not only to surprise your audience but hint them at what you are going to tell next.
3. Use anecdotes and personal stories.
When I was in the seminar, I noticed that many priests used anecdotes during homilies. They tell stories as if they’ve experienced the stories themselves. There were many times when I tell myself, “Oh, I’ve heard that story before from another priest.”
Anecdotes are short, often amusing, or interesting stories about real incidents or people. They are typically used to illustrate a point, entertain, or provide insight into a particular topic or individual.
Anecdotes can be both factual and fictional, but they are often based on personal experiences or observations. They are commonly used in casual conversations, speeches, and writings to engage the audience or reader, making a point more memorable or bringing a human element to a broader topic.
I use anecdotes about people my audience knows much. I got this technique from the Acres of Diamond. Although the speech was delivered more than 5,000 times, I realized that for most people who heard it, the speech sounded new because of anecdotes.
Enriching your speech with personal stories or anecdotes can create an emotional connection with your audience. This could be sharing a personal experience that led to a crucial learning moment.
For example, if you’re talking about teamwork, you might share an anecdote from a group project where the team overcame a significant challenge.
I have been facilitating team building since 2007. Along the way, I have collected many stories from clients. I use some of their stories to challenge teams.
You may collect pocket stories which you can use again and again.
4. Have a call to action.
Amateur speakers often end their speeches with, “Thank you, that’s all”.
There is a better way. Use a call to action. Your call to action makes your speech complete.
And if we are to remind ourselves of the law of terminals, we know that people remember your last words. You don’t want them to remember “that’s all”. You want them to feel or do something.
Concluding your speech with a clear call to action gives your audience a sense of direction. It could be a practical step you want them to take or a change in mindset.
If your speech is about recycling, your call to action might be for listeners to start recycling at home or at work.
5. Employ data and statistics.
In a way, a speech is a tool. What you will do before challenging people to change their behaviors is to change the way they see things. The call to action is the idea you want to share, the very reason for speaking.
When I was young, I noticed that many commercials use statistics. A toothpaste commercial says that 9 of 10 dentists recommend the toothpaste. I was thinking that perhaps 1 doctor out of 10 recommends the best. But people will buy what the 9 doctors recommend.
That’s the power of statistics.
Numbers make your speech more credible.
We follow the Ten Commandments. We like to read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Numbers make something official.
Including relevant and accurate data can lend credibility to your speech and strengthen your arguments. If you’re talking about the health benefits of regular exercise, you could include statistics about the percentage of people who saw improved health outcomes due to regular physical activity.
You can also make your numbers evoke emotion.
I was once in a classroom with 40 students. I introduced my speech by saying, “If the statistics are correct, then 27 of you will…” My purpose is to make the number resonate with them.
During your speech, you can make people raise their hands if they exercise. It is amazing that most statistics look more valid when confirmed by the participants.
Data and statistics are credibility builders. Try it the next time you craft a speech.
Speaking Techniques to Improve Delivery
I often hear speaking teachers say, “It is not what you say, but how you say it that matters”. That’s not true. The message is more important than the delivery. The message is your solution.
But it is important for us to improve the delivery of our messages. May these public speaking techniques help you.
Al Gore’s delivery of the speech below helped a lot. He delivers a very important topic that many of us are not excited to hear.
6. Manage your pacing.
Public speaking is an art that requires mastery of various elements, one of which is pacing. Managing your pace while delivering a speech or presentation is crucial for several reasons:
Speaking too quickly can cause listeners to miss important details while speaking too slowly can cause them to lose interest. By maintaining an even pace, you ensure that your audience can follow your message, grasp complex ideas, and retain the information you’re sharing.
Varying your pace depending on the content can help keep your audience engaged. For instance, slowing down during crucial points can emphasize their importance, while quickening your pace can convey excitement or urgency.
Being in control of your pace reflects confidence and mastery over your material. A steady pace shows that you’re calm, composed, and knowledgeable about your subject, making you more credible to your audience.
Pace can influence the emotional tone of your speech. A slow, deliberate pace might convey seriousness or reflection, while a brisk pace might convey enthusiasm or joy. By managing your pace, you can better connect with your audience on an emotional level.
You can slow down when discussing complex concepts to ensure understanding or speed up slightly during exciting or engaging parts to build momentum.
Controlling the speed of your delivery can help to keep your audience’s attention.
7. Manage the volume of your voice.
Voice volume plays a pivotal role in the realm of communication, especially in public speaking. Managing the volume of your voice is essential for various reasons:
The primary goal of speaking is to convey a message. If you’re too quiet, you risk not being heard, and if you’re too loud, you might come across as aggressive or overbearing. Striking the right volume ensures that every member of the audience can hear and understand you clearly.
Variations in volume can be used as a tool to keep the audience engaged. A sudden drop in volume might draw listeners in, making them hang on to your every word, while a sudden increase can emphasize a point or evoke a particular emotion.
A strong, steady volume exudes confidence and authority. It indicates that you believe in what you’re saying and that you view your message as important. Conversely, a wavering or inconsistent volume can suggest uncertainty or nervousness.
Volume can be used to underscore the emotional tone of what you’re saying. Whispering can create a sense of intimacy or secrecy while raising your voice can convey passion, urgency, or anger.
Using an appropriate volume, especially when aided by microphones or sound systems, reduces the need to strain your voice. This not only helps in delivering a clear message but also protects your vocal cords from potential damage.
Adjusting your volume can emphasize key points and show passion. If you’re sharing a vital point, increasing your volume slightly can show its importance.
8. Use effective pausing.
Pauses can be used to highlight important points, allow key messages to sink in, and give you a chance to breathe.
For example, after sharing a significant statistic, a brief pause allows your audience to absorb the information.
9. Make your gestures meaningful.
Using your body language can reinforce your verbal message. Gestures can be a powerful tool in public speaking, amplifying the message and enhancing the connection with the audience.
However, to be effective, gestures must be purposeful and align with the content.
Gestures should feel natural and not forced. Practice your speech with gestures, but always aim for movements that align with your personal style and the message you’re conveying. Authentic gestures can make you appear more genuine and relatable.
The movement of your hands should complement what you’re saying. For instance, if you’re discussing the size of an object, your hands can illustrate ‘small’ or ‘large’. This reinforces the message visually for your audience.
Repeating the same gesture can become a distraction and diminish its impact. Be aware of any habitual movements you might have and try to diversify your gestures throughout your speech.
Open gestures, like spreading your arms or showing your palms, can make you seem approachable and trustworthy. They convey openness and willingness to engage with the audience.
Be conscious of unintended or nervous gestures, such as playing with your hair, tapping your feet, or fidgeting with your clothes. These can be distracting and might convey nervousness or lack of preparation.
The space around you can be used to structure and emphasize your content. For example, you might gesture to your left when discussing the past and to your right when discussing the future, creating a visual timeline for your audience.
10. Make your facial expressions speak.
Your facial expressions can communicate emotions, highlight key points, and make your speech more engaging.
Facial expressions are a powerful non-verbal tool in public speaking. They convey emotion, emphasize points, and help in connecting with the audience on a deeper level. Here’s how to effectively use facial expressions in public speaking:
Just like gestures, facial expressions should be authentic. Forcing an expression that doesn’t align with your genuine feelings or the message you’re conveying can come across as insincere. Audiences often pick up on and resonate with authenticity.
Your facial expression should mirror the emotions of your topic. If you’re sharing a success story, a smile and bright eyes are fitting. Conversely, a serious or somber topic might be better conveyed with a more neutral or contemplative expression.
Often, we’re not fully aware of our resting facial expressions. It’s helpful to record yourself to become more conscious of your natural expressions and adjust as necessary.
The eyes are particularly expressive and can convey a range of emotions, from excitement and joy to sadness and concern. Making eye contact with various members of your audience can also help establish a connection and make your message more personal.
If you’re highlighting an important part of your speech, a change in facial expression can underline this significance. For example, raising your eyebrows can denote surprise or emphasis, while frowning can indicate disagreement or concern.
A tense face can be off-putting or convey nervousness. Try to relax your facial muscles. This not only appears more approachable but also helps in delivering your message more fluidly.
Speaking Techniques to Engage Audience
Audience engagement is crucial in public speaking as it fosters active participation and encourages learning. It transforms speech from one-way communication into a dynamic interaction, enhancing message retention.
Engagement fosters a connection between the speaker and the audience, making the presentation more memorable. It stimulates interest, invites feedback, and can even influence attitudes or behaviors.
In essence, audience engagement is a vital tool for creating a lasting impact on your speech.
11. Use eye contact.
Maintaining eye contact can help establish a connection with your audience, making your speech more personal and engaging. It’s like having a one-on-one conversation with each audience member.
I don’t need to look at each one of my audience. I create an imaginary W and I look at people in those directions. In that way, almost everyone thinks that I looked in their direction during my speech.
When I was young, someone told me to look above the heads of the audience. I saw many other speakers follow this advice. It is awkward. It is not helpful at all.
We must connect with our audience and eye contact can help us get connected with each other.
12. Engage your audience.
Engaging your audience is crucial because it helps create a connection between the speaker and the listeners. When you engage your audience, they feel understood and valued.
This connection makes them more receptive to the message you are sharing. Instead of feeling like they’re being talked at, they feel like they’re a part of a conversation.
When you engage your audience, they are more likely to remember the information you’re presenting.
Active engagement can include asking questions, sharing stories, or using visual aids that grab their attention. These methods make your message more memorable and can help the audience retain the information for a longer time.
When people are engaged, they process the information on a deeper level, leading to better comprehension and longer-lasting impact.
Lastly, engaging your audience allows for real-time feedback. By observing their reactions, body language, and responses, you can gauge how well your message is being received. This feedback is invaluable because it allows the speaker to adjust their approach or clarify points as needed.
If the audience seems confused or disengaged, the speaker can take steps to bring them back in, ensuring the message is effectively communicated. This adaptability can make the difference between a successful presentation and one that misses the mark.
13. Use humor.
Know that humor and human shares the same origin. Humor connects us, humans.
Using humor in public speaking helps to connect with the audience. When people laugh, they feel more relaxed and comfortable. This creates a positive environment where listeners are more open to the message being shared.
A well-timed joke or funny story can break down walls and make the speaker seem more relatable and approachable.
Humor also grabs people’s attention. In a world filled with distractions, a funny remark can pull listeners back into the moment and keep them engaged. Additionally, people tend to remember funny things better than non-funny things. S
When you use humor in your speech, your audience is more likely to remember your message long after the talk is over.
Appropriate humor can keep your audience engaged, lighten the mood, and make complex topics more accessible.
14. Repeat and reinforce.
Repeating key messages at different points in your speech can help cement them in your audience’s memory.
For example, if your key message is about the importance of sustainability, you could remind your audience about this point at the beginning, middle, and end of your speech.
15. Use relatable examples.
Using relatable examples in public speaking helps listeners understand the message better. When the audience hears something they can relate to, it’s easier for them to grasp the main idea. They can connect the new information to something they already know.
Also, when a speaker uses examples from everyday life, the audience feels that the speaker understands their world and experiences. This builds trust between the speaker and the listeners.
Relatable examples also keep the audience interested. When people hear stories or examples that remind them of their own lives, they pay more attention. They want to know how the story ends or how the example relates to the main topic. This keeps them engaged and focused on the speaker’s message.
A connected and attentive audience is more likely to remember and act on what they’ve heard
Speaking Techniques on Using Visual Aids
Visual aids are a powerful tool in public speaking as they enrich the presentation by adding variety and stimulating interest. They support understanding by simplifying complex information, providing context, and helping the audience visualize concepts.
A well-chosen visual aid can enhance memory retention, as people often remember images better than spoken words. They also provide a point of focus, helping to sustain audience attention.
Ultimately, effective use of visual aids can significantly elevate the impact and comprehensibility of your speech.
16. Make it simple.
Your visual aids should be easy to understand at a glance. Complex graphs or cluttered slides can be distracting. For instance, if you’re presenting data on population growth, a clear, straightforward line graph would be more effective than a complex 3D chart.
17. Be consistent.
Your visual aids should follow a consistent theme in terms of colors, fonts, and style. This creates a cohesive look and feel, making your presentation look professional and well-prepared.
18. Make your visual relevant.
Every visual aid used should be directly related to the content of your speech. Avoid including images or graphics just for the sake of it.
For example, if you’re discussing the impacts of climate change, a graph showing temperature changes over the years would be relevant and useful.
19. Use infographics.
Infographics are a great way to present complex data or concepts in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand way. For instance, if you’re discussing the different sources of renewable energy, an infographic could help your audience visualize and compare the various types.
20. Include captions.
Including captions or brief descriptions can make your visual aids more accessible and ensure that the audience understands the point being conveyed.
For example, if you’re presenting a chart, a caption summarizing the main point can help your audience quickly grasp the key message.
Overcoming anxiety is crucial in public speaking as it allows you to present with confidence and authenticity. High anxiety can hinder your performance, distort your message, and create a barrier between you and your audience.
By managing this anxiety, you can focus on your content and delivery, engage better with your audience, and effectively convey your message.
Learning to control public speaking anxiety can also boost your overall self-esteem and communication skills, offering benefits beyond the podium.
21. Use breathing techniques.
Deep, controlled breathing can help manage nerves and promote relaxation. For instance, practicing a few rounds of diaphragmatic breathing before your speech can help you remain calm.
22. Visualize yourself.
Visualizing yourself delivering a successful speech can build your confidence. You might imagine your audience reacting positively, laughing at your jokes, and applauding at the end.
23. Rehearse your speech.
Rehearsing your speech multiple times can reduce anxiety by making you familiar with your material. This could be in front of a mirror, with a friend, or in the actual venue where you’ll be speaking.
24. Use positive affirmations.
Reminding yourself of your strengths and abilities can help boost your self-confidence. For instance, you could remind yourself, “I am a confident and engaging speaker” before you begin.
25. Warm up.
Doing some light physical activity, like walking or stretching, can help reduce physical symptoms of anxiety. This could be a quick walk around the venue before you start, or some stretches in the green room.
Speaking Techniques in Organizing Speeches
A well-organized speech keeps your audience engaged, aids their understanding, and improves the retention of key points. It demonstrates respect for your audience’s time and attention, as well as showcasing your knowledge and preparation.
Good organization also boosts your confidence, as you can deliver your speech smoothly and coherently, knowing each point logically leads to the next.
In essence, effective speech organization is the backbone of impactful and successful public speaking.
26. Observe logical flow.
Ensure your speech follows a logical sequence. Each point should naturally lead to the next. If you’re speaking about a process, make sure to explain it step-by-step in the order it occurs.
27. Use clear transitions.
Use clear transitional phrases to guide your audience from one point to the next. This could be phrases like “moving on to…”, “next, let’s consider…”, or “on the other hand…”.
28. Use signposting.
Highlight key points or sections in your speech. This helps guide your audience through your presentation. For instance, you could say, “Let’s turn our attention to the three main causes of…”
Signposting will help your audience locate where you are in your speech. They can follow you, most especially if you’ve given them a map.
I also use signposting to locate position. I move a lot. And I imagine my place on the stage while delivering a speech.
29. Recap your speech.
Periodically summarizing what you’ve covered can help reinforce your points and ensure your audience is following along. This might be a brief summary at the end of each main point, or a larger recap halfway through your speech.
30. Provide a clear and compelling conclusion.
Wrap up your speech by summarizing your main points and reiterating your key message or call to action. This provides closure and reminds your audience of the essential takeaways from your speech.
For example, if your speech is about healthy eating, your conclusion might restate the benefits of a healthy diet and encourage listeners to make one change in their eating habits.
Speaking Techniques for Handling Q&A
Handling Q&A effectively is crucial in public speaking as it fosters two-way communication, demonstrating your respect for the audience’s thoughts and questions.
It allows for clarification of points, deeper exploration of the topic, and immediate feedback. Successful management of Q&A sessions enhances your credibility, showing your comprehensive knowledge and readiness for dialogue. It also gives an opportunity to address doubts or misconceptions, ensuring your message is clearly understood.
Ultimately, well-handled Q&A sessions contribute to a more engaging, interactive, and effective presentation.
31. Prepare questions.
Anticipate potential questions and prepare responses beforehand. This can make you feel more confident during the Q&A session.
If you’re talking about a controversial issue, consider the counterarguments that might be raised and how you’d address them.
32. Listen actively.
Make sure to listen to the entire question before responding. This shows respect for the questioner and ensures that you fully understand what’s being asked.
33. Clarify questions.
If a question is unclear, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. This ensures you’re answering the question that was actually asked, rather than making assumptions.
34. Be honest; accept if you don’t know the answer.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest and admit it. It’s better to admit you don’t know something than to provide incorrect or misleading information. You could say, “That’s a great question. I don’t have the information right now, but I’ll make a note to look it up and get back to you.”
35. Manage your time.
Keep track of time during the Q&A session to ensure you can address as many questions as possible. If a question requires a lengthy answer, you could offer to discuss it further after your presentation to ensure everyone gets a chance to ask their question.
36. Respect your audience.
Treat all questions with respect, even if they seem simple or off-topic. This shows that you value your audience’s input and are open to their perspectives.
A respectful response might be, “That’s an interesting point. While it’s a bit outside the scope of today’s talk, I’d be happy to discuss it with you afterward.”
37. Redirect questions to others.
If you get a question that’s more suited to someone else in the room (like another panelist or a subject matter expert), don’t be afraid to redirect the question.
You could say, “That’s a great question, and I think our engineer here would be better equipped to answer it.”
38. Summarize your points.
After responding to a question, it can be helpful to summarize your answer to ensure your point was clear.
For example, if someone asked a complex question about your business strategy, you could summarize your response with, “So, in short, our strategy focuses on customer satisfaction, product innovation, and market expansion.”
39. Be mindful of your body language.
Your body language during a Q&A session is just as important as during your speech. Maintaining eye contact, nodding to show understanding, and using open body language can make the session feel more like a conversation.
40. End on a positive note.
Try to wrap up your Q&A session on a positive note. You could summarize the main points from the session, thank everyone for their questions, and express your enthusiasm for the topic or the event. This leaves your audience with a positive final impression of you and your presentation.
Speaking Techniques in Handling Unexpected Situations
Unexpected issues, whether technical glitches, disruptive audience members, or forgotten lines, are inevitable. How you respond can significantly impact the audience’s perception of you and your message.
Skillful handling of these situations can maintain the flow and effectiveness of your speech, keep your audience engaged, and even enhance your credibility.
It reassures the audience that you’re in control, even when things don’t go as planned, making your presentation more successful and memorable.
41. Stay calm.
If something unexpected happens, try to remain composed. This could be technical difficulties, disruptive audience members, or forgetting your lines.
Take a deep breath, pause if you need to, and then continue when you’re ready.
42. Have a backup plan.
If you’re relying on technology for your presentation, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in case of technical issues.
For example, you could have your presentation saved on multiple devices, or have printouts of your slides.
43. Make effective use of humor.
Using humor can be an effective way to handle unexpected situations. If you forget your lines or make a mistake, making a light-hearted comment can defuse the situation and get your audience on your side.
For example, if you accidentally skip a slide, you could say something like, “I guess I was just too excited to share the next point with you!”
44. Be adaptable.
Be prepared to adapt your speech if necessary. If you realize your audience already knows a lot about your topic, you might need to skip some basic information and delve deeper into the subject.
On the other hand, if your audience isn’t as familiar with the topic as you expected, you might need to explain certain points in more detail.
45. Address distractions.
If there’s a distraction in the room, such as noise from outside or a phone ringing, it’s usually best to address it rather than try to ignore it. You could make a light-hearted comment to acknowledge the distraction, then smoothly steer the attention back to your speech.
For example, if a phone rings, you could say, “Well, that’s a timely reminder to check that our phones are on silent,” and then continue with your presentation.
Speaking Techniques to Build Credibility
Credibility and authority are fundamental in influencing audience perceptions, facilitating effective communication, and enabling you to inspire, inform, or persuade through your speech.
Credibility allows your audience to rely on the information you provide, making your speech more persuasive and influential.
Moreover, demonstrating authority on a topic not only reinforces your audience’s confidence in your insights but also heightens their interest and engagement
46. Know your material.
Understanding your topic inside out will make you more confident and credible. Do your research, be prepared to answer questions, and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your field.
I know of some speakers who cannot talk without their presentation slides. For example, in one learning session, a speaker decided not to deliver a 15-minute speech because he could not open his PowerPoint file.
When you know your material, you can confidently deliver a speech even without your slides. Of course, there are occasions when your slide contains figures you cannot memorize. But you can always make the data easy to understand.
47. Speak from experience.
Whenever possible, share your own experiences or observations. This not only makes your speech more interesting but also establishes you as someone with first-hand knowledge of the topic.
I noticed that when I say, ” Speaking from experience…” people pay attention. They want to know about my experience with the topic. In effect, you are providing a testimony, a proof.
The next time you deliver a speech, find out if you can speak from experience.
48. Cite reliable sources.
If you’re using data, statistics, or quotes, make sure to cite your sources. This not only gives credit where it’s due but also demonstrates that your information is reliable and well-researched.
49. Be honest and transparent.
If you don’t know something, admit it. If you made a mistake, own up to it. Honesty and transparency can go a long way in building trust with your audience.
50. Show your passion.
Let your enthusiasm for your topic shine through. Your passion can be infectious, sparking interest in your audience and making your presentation more engaging. If you genuinely care about what you’re talking about, it’s much more likely that your audience will too.