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Top Ten Public Speaking Tips

Feb 23, 2008
So you've got to give a speech in public? Once your stomach stops churning, here are some public speaking tips that should make your job easier.

1. Outline your speech
Write out what you are going to talk about. Your outline should cover all the points you want to make in your speech. Ideally in a reasonably logical order.

2. Make notes
One of the easiest ways is to use old-fashioned 3x5 index cards. Each one should have a bullet point on it that you can expand on. If you're using a PowerPoint slide show then this should give you the basis for your notes.

3. Practice your presentation
Stand in front of a mirror and practice your speech. If you're likely to be embarrassed, do this while no-one else is at home. Speaking out loud is a necessary part of this practice. Sure, it may be uncomfortable the first few times you try it but you'll get better as you go along. Note where you stumble - this gives you pointers for where you need to change your speech slightly.

4. Talk to one person
It doesn't matter whether you're talking in a business meeting with one other person or addressing hundreds or even thousands of people. Talk as though you are talking face to face with one person. Apart from anything else, you've done this all your life so it should be easier. If you've got a large audience, focus on one person and talk to them.

5. Stay away from humor
Unless you're a renowned after dinner speaker, humor is best left out of your speech. Not everyone shares the same sense of humor - otherwise Friends and South Park wouldn't both still be on air - so keep it out of your presentation.

6. Don't fidget
If you've got a podium then there's a natural place to put your hands. If you haven't, be aware of what your doing with your hands and don't fidget with them or gesture too much. Fidgeting makes you look nervous!

7. If you stumble, carry on
Most of your audience will be relieved that it's not them giving the speech. If you stumble, recover as fast as you can. Do your best not to get flustered and make sure you keep your place in your speech so you can recover from any glitches quickly.

8. Keep it short
Unless you've been told that you absolutely have to speak for a set amount of time, stick to the idea that less is more. Don't bore your audience. Ideally they should be wanting more when you've finished your set speech.

9. Don't resort to alcohol
Tempting as it may be to have a shot of something before you take to the stage, it's better to be 100% sober and in control.

10. Ignore distractions
Unless the fire alarm has just sounded and you all need to leave the building, keep going! Keep your speech going as planned. Don't panic if one or two of your audience walk out - they may just have had an urgent message or need to answer a call of nature. And make sure your cell phone is turned off as well!
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