5 Public Speaking Tips from a Speech Coach December 05 2011

5 public speaking tips from a speech coach 


         In today’s business world, most guys are often more versed in proper text messaging and emailing than they are in effective speaking skills.   Clients often come to me for help with dissertations, interviews, presentations… even best man toasts.  Here are five helpful hints that come up most often in my work with them.

#1  Look to your Listeners 

         Most people’s primary concern is on themselves.  But what is it that makes your presentation more powerful than just emailing the information to your audience?  The content is merely the foundation.  Studies have shown that one’s vocal (and physical presentation) are far more important than the content.  Here’s a helpful image to be sure you are making yourself heard:  Imagine your words are like arrows shooting out of your mouth.  Where do those arrows land?  Most often they seem to land on the floor or table between you and your audience.  Make sure those arrows hit the back wall of the room.  Just because you spoke the content you prepared, doesn’t mean it got heard.

#2 Keep Everyone Engaged

         How many people are you speaking to?  One person?  Two people?  A hundred?  A thousand?  Each of these requires a different type of energy and focus.  And when asked a question, assume the inquisitor is not the only person who has that question… just the one who asked it first.  Acknowlege the person who asked the question, make sure everyone understands what the question was, and then address the answer to everyone.


         This one is so important I hesitate to put it all the way down at number three.  But people aren’t aware that they aren’t breathing so they don’t recognize the gravity of this advice.  It’s not that people aren’t breathing at all… clearly you must breathe to live!  But think of your lungs like a tank of gas.  More than 95% of the people I work with never fill up that tank all the way.  For swimmers out there… it’d be as if you decided to breathe half as often as you normally do and at half of the capacity.  Not smart.  The result in your speaking?  Lower volume, less modulation, faster speaking and tailing off at the end of sentences.  Any of those sound familiar?  Thought so.  Try lying down and put your hands over your belly.  Take deep breaths and feel it move your hands.  Now try doing that while standing.  Not as easy!  But that’s the first step towards using your full breathing capacity.

#4  Be Bold

         Often times clients tell me they think they speak pretty effectively… but their boss is just nitpicking.  My response:  Your boss sees your potential.  You are living in what you know.  It’s comfortable.  Break beyond that.  If someone tells me they are speaking loudly because they are speaking as loud as they’ve ever spoken... I say: why would you limit yourself by what you’ve done?  Be bold.  Be brazen.  Be … other words that start with ‘B.’  What you’ve done has gotten you this far.  Well done.  But it’s also prevented you from getting farther.  Expand your range of expressivity.  Look first to people whose speaking you admire.  What SPECIFICALLY makes them effective speakers?  Mimicry is flattery.

#5 Pursue positive results. 

         This is actually a paraphrasing of sage actor’s advice.  If you are getting up in front of people simply trying not to mess up, trying not to be too quiet, or too monotone, or too fast, etc.  Your focus has turned back on YOU.  Remember #1.  Put your focus on your audience.  Pursue THEM!  Your goal is to persuade them.  Commit yourself to making a difference in their day.  Even if that difference was as simple as: During Joe’s 10 minute talk today – I didn’t have to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from yawning.  Positive energy makes a huge difference!


By Mark Dannenberg Hines, a professional actor & speaking coach based out of Chicago. He can be reached at marxbros24 {at} gmail {dot} com.