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Top Public Speaking Tips for Powerful Presentations

by Akash Karia · Updated Jun. 21, 2024

You know how some people can walk into a room and instantly command attention? It’s like they have this secret sauce that makes everyone sit up and listen.  Today, I’m pulling back the curtain on eight of the top public speaking tips that’ll help you deliver more powerful presentations and speeches.

Ready?

 

Top Public Speaking Tip #1.
Master the Magic of Questions

Don’t just talk at your audience—engage with them. Ask questions, invite participation, and make it a two-way conversation. This makes your audience feel valued and keeps them engaged.

Engaging your audience not only keeps their attention but also makes your presentation more dynamic. According to a report by Gallup, engaged audiences are more likely to retain information and feel a connection to the speaker.

Example: Simon Sinek

During a TED Talk, Simon Sinek often asks rhetorical questions to make his audience think and feel involved. This technique helps him maintain a strong connection with his listeners.

How to Apply This: So here’s how to apply top public speaking tip # 1: Plan interactive moments in your presentation. This could be a quick poll, a Q&A session, or even just asking rhethorical questions to keep your audience engaged and curious.

 

2. Master Your Delivery: Bring the Right Level of Energy

Your energy levels directly affect your audience’s engagement. If you’re enthusiastic and passionate, your audience will feel it and respond in kind. Conversely, low energy can make even the best content fall flat.

A study by the University of Wolverhampton found that speakers who displayed high energy levels were more positively received by their audience. High energy can enhance the perceived importance of your message and keep your audience more engaged.

Example: Brene Brown

Brené Brown is a prime example of a speaker who masters her energy. In her talks, Brown uses a combination of humor, heartfelt stories, and an enthusiastic tone to keep her audience hooked. She moves around the stage, uses expressive gestures, and varies her vocal pitch to emphasize key points.

How to Apply This: Personally, of all of the top public speaking tips, this makes the biggest difference when it comes to delivery. Your energy is contagious. So here’s how you can use it:

Before your speech, watch a video of your favorite speaker. Focus on their energy, confidence, and expressiveness. Imagine yourself emulating these qualities. Visualize how they command the stage, engage the audience, and deliver their message with passion. This mental rehearsal can help you get into the right mindset.

 

3. Use A Story to Keep Your Audience Glued

Facts and figures might be necessary, but they’re not what people remember. Stories are. A well-told story can make your message unforgettable. It’s about connecting with your audience on an emotional level.

The science of storytelling tells us that we are wired for stories. Neuroscientists have discovered that stories activate parts of the brain that help a listener turn the story into their own ideas and experiences. This is known as neural coupling. In simple terms, stories make your message stick.

Example: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a master storyteller. In his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, he didn’t just list achievements or facts. He told three personal stories that each conveyed a powerful lesson. This approach made his speech memorable and impactful.

How to Apply This: Incorporate at least one personal story in your next presentation. Make it relatable and tie it back to your main message.

For more on this, check out 7 storytelling techniques and how to apply them

Book Recommendation: TED Talks Storytelling

 

Top Public Speaking Tip #4:
Master Your Opening – Hook Them With One of These Strategies

First impressions matter. Your opening sets the tone for your entire presentation. A strong start grabs your audience’s attention and primes them for what’s to come.

Public speaker on stage delivering a presentation

There are several public speaking techniques for opening your presentation.

You could:

  • Start with a Series of Questions: Engage your audience right from the beginning by asking thought-provoking questions. This not only piques their interest but also gets them thinking about your topic.
  • Open with a Story: Stories are a powerful way to connect with your audience on an emotional level. A well-chosen story can make your message more relatable and memorable.
  • Use a Statistic: A surprising or shocking statistic can grab your audience’s attention and highlight the importance of your topic. Make sure the statistic is relevant and supports your main message.
  • Begin with a Powerful Quote: Use a quote from a well-known figure or an expert in your field to lend credibility to your presentation and set the tone for what’s to follow. The quote should be relevant to your topic and resonate with your audience.
  • Start with a Bold Statement: Make a provocative or bold statement to immediately capture your audience’s attention. This approach can create curiosity and set the stage for your presentation.

Regardless of which tactic you choose, the key question to ask is:

“Will this immediately hook my audience? Will it get them to sit up and pay attention?”

Example: Jamie Oliver

Take inspiration from Jamie Oliver. In one of his famous TED Talks, he starts with a startling statistic: “”In the next 18 minutes, four Americans that are alive will be dead through the food that they eat.”

This unexpected and alarming fact immediately seizes the audience’s attention and sets the stage for his compelling argument about the necessity of food education and healthier eating habits.

How To Apply This: Craft an opening that captures attention. It could be a surprising fact, a powerful quote, or a compelling story. Practice it until it feels natural and impactful.

We’re more than halfway through the top public speaking tips. But before we continue, if you’ve enjoyed this article, then consider joining the newsletter and getting more tips and tactics for becoming a confident and powerful speaker.

Related: How to present like a TED Talk

5. Embrace the “Own The Room” Mindset – It’s Your Body Language, Voice and Eye Contact

Confidence is key. Even if you’re nervous, act confident. Your body language, tone of voice, and eye contact all contribute to how you’re perceived. Stand tall, make eye contact, and speak with conviction.

I recognize that of all the top public speaking tips shared so far, this is the most vague one. After all, it’s less of a technique and more of a mindset.

But, to help, let me show you an example of this in action:

Example: Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, exemplifies how to own the room in her TED Talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.” During her talk, Sandberg uses confident body language, standing tall and using her hands to emphasize key points. Her tone is steady and authoritative, yet approachable, making her message both powerful and relatable. She maintains strong eye contact with the audience, creating a connection that draws them in and holds their attention throughout her speech.

 

How To Apply This: Before your next speaking engagement, spend a few minutes reviewing videos of your favorite speakers – and then visualize standing, speaking and commanding the room as though you were them. It might feel silly, but it works to boost your confidence.

 

6. Use Silence Strategically: The Pause is A Public Speaker’s Best Friend

Most people are terrified of pauses. They rush through their speech to avoid that dreaded silence. But here’s the truth: A well-placed pause is incredibly powerful. It gives your audience time to digest what you’ve just said and builds anticipation for what’s coming next.

Research by communication experts has shown that pauses can significantly enhance the impact of a speech. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that speakers who used strategic pauses were perceived as more confident and authoritative. This is because silence commands attention and signals importance.

Example: Martin Luther King Jr.

Consider the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech is a masterclass in the use of pauses. Each pause allowed his powerful words to sink in, making them even more impactful.

How to Apply This: Next time you’re speaking, try pausing for 2-3 seconds after making a key point. Watch how it grabs attention.

OK, onto the final two top public speaking tips.

7. Use Visual Aids Correctly: Keep Them Visual!

Visual aids can enhance your presentation, but only if used correctly. They should support your message, not distract from it. Overloading slides with text can overwhelm your audience and dilute your message.

Example: Al Gore

In his his TED Talk, Al Gore used visual aids masterfully. His slides are clear, impactful, and directly support his message. The visuals help highlight his points and make the complex data more compelling.

How to Apply This: When preparing your next presentation, use visuals sparingly and ensure they are directly related to your content. Practice with them to ensure they flow seamlessly with your speech.

Recommended Resource: How to Design TED-Worthy Presentation Slides

 

Top Public Speaking Tip #8.
End With A Clear and Compelling Call To Action

Your closing is your final opportunity to leave a lasting impact on your audience. Rather than merely summarizing your points, aim to inspire and motivate your audience to take action. A strong call to action not only reinforces your message but also gives your presentation a clear purpose and direction.

Here are some effective techniques for closing your presentation:

  • Issue a Call to Action: Encourage your audience to take specific steps that align with the message of your presentation.
  • End with a Powerful Quote: Use a memorable quote that encapsulates your main message and leaves a lasting impact.
  • Share a Personal Anecdote: Leave your audience with a personal story that ties back to your main points and leaves them with something to remember.
  • Pose a Thought-Provoking Question: Leave your audience with a question that encourages them to think deeply about your topic and how they can contribute.
  • Use a Visionary Statement: Paint a picture of a future where your message has been embraced and changes have been made.

Regardless of the technique you choose, the key question to ask is:

“Does this inspire my audience to take action? Will it leave a lasting impression?”

Example: Sir Ken Robinson

In his TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” he concludes with a compelling call to action that urges his audience to rethink how we educate our children. He says:

“What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely, and that we avert some of the scenarios that we’ve talked about. And the only way we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. By the way — we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.”

How to Apply This: Identify the main takeaway you want your audience to act upon. Craft a clear and compelling call to action that motivates them to take the next step.

 

Wrap Up:
Top Public Speaking Tips and How to Apply Them

Mastering public speaking is about more than just standing up and talking. It’s about using techniques that engage, persuade, and resonate with your audience.

Here’s a recap of the top public speaking tips you should consider for your next presentation:

Tip #1: Engage your audience. Use rhetorical questions to keep your audience mentally engaged and hooked.

Tip #2: Emulate the energy of your favorite speakers. Watch videos of your favorite speakers focusing on their energy and delivery. Visualize yourself adopting their confident and expressive style to boost your own performance.

Tip #3: Incorporate personal stories. Weave at least one relatable personal story into your presentation, ensuring it connects back to your main message for greater impact.

Tip #4: Craft a captivating opening. Start your presentation with a surprising fact, a powerful quote, or a compelling story. Practice your opening until it feels natural and engaging.

Tip #5: Own the room. Before speaking, watch videos of skilled speakers and then visualize yourself commanding the stage with confidence and passion. This mental rehearsal can enhance your command of the stage.

Tip #6: Use strategic pauses. After delivering a key point, pause for 2-3 seconds. This technique grabs attention and allows your message to resonate with the audience.

Tip #7: Use visuals wisely. When preparing your presentation, use visuals that are mostly picture-based (rather than text-based). Rehearse with your visuals to ensure they integrate smoothly with your speech.

Tip #8: End with a compelling call to action. Define your main takeaway and craft a clear, motivating call to action for your audience, encouraging them to take the next step.

By incorporating these top public speaking tips, you can become a more confident and persuasive presenter.

 

Want More? Recommended Public Speaking Books:

  1. TED Talks Storytelling
  2. How to Deliver a Great TED Talk
  3. Own the Room

 

Want to Level Up Your Public Speaking Skills?

If you’re ready to dive deeper into these techniques and more, then there are 2 ways I can help:

  1. 1:1 Speaker Coaching: For those who want personalized guidance, my 1:1 coaching service is the ultimate way to fast-track your progress. Apply here
  2. Workshops and Keynotes: I am a communication keynote speaker and wellbeing keynote speaker.

 

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