How to Become an A-List Public Speaker

We’re not all born naturally-gifted public speakers.

In fact, for most people, speaking publicly ranks #1 on their list of Things I Really Hate Doing. To put that in perspective, death – or the fear of dying  – ranks as #2.

But isn’t it funny how so many of us went to school to study marketing or philosophy or business management only to graduate, land the job, be given a microphone and an index card and asked to lead a meeting,  give a presentation, or train the sales team?

The fact is, no matter what you do for work, it’s highly likely that at least some facet of it has to do with public speaking.

Since I am one of those rare people that actually enjoys speaking in front of others, ( I know – eye roll) I decided to compile a short list of tips I’ve learned and been given from those who’ve coached me. I’ll also give you my All-Time-Most-Recommended tip for how to keep your audience engaged.

1. Start with the End

This is one of the things that I had to learn the hard way, rather late in my speaking and writing career:  Start with the end.

Before I knew this, I’d always begin by writing  the intro and body of my talk, only to come to the end and think, “Hmmm, now how do I wrap this up?”

Avoid doing this and instead, think deeply about what it is that you’re really trying to say. When all boiled down, what is the message you want to impart? How would you explain your main point to a 3-year-old? The simpler the better.

2. Do the Mental Prep work

No big shocker here, but the vast majority of your success as a speaker will be determined by the amount of time you spend preparing your speech. The result of your final delivery is all about what takes place behind the curtain. Dale Carnegie, author of The Art of Public Speaking  said,

There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave.The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.

The last time I was invited to speak, I spent a few moments each day practicing my talk. Throughout the day, I recited parts of it to myself while doing otherwise mundane activities, like waiting for the train or washes dishes. My goal was to feel so natural while delivering the speech, so comfortable and normal, that if asked to, I could give it with the same ease I have when reciting my ABC’s. All of this mental rehearsing worked well – when the time came to speak, I was not only ready, I was excited to deliver my talk.

3. Tell Stories

This is my big one, my number one tip, and it’s a surefire way to immediately snap your audience into active listening mode.

Tell stories.

Whenever I listen to someone speak, I become 100% more interested when informed they’re going to tell me a story. We humans just love a good story;  we can’t help letting our imaginations picture the scene laid out before us, and we unwittingly become invested in the outcome.

Telling stories is also a great way to organize your talk. In a future post, I’ll give you one of my favorite step-by-step formulas for structuring and writing your talk.

Do you like speaking in front of people? What mental prep work do you do to gear yourself up for giving a great speech? Comment below! ↓↓


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