Successful public speaking is a bit like a successful cooking recipe.
There are ingredients to remember.
However, preparing a presentation or a pitch is not that easy… There are many challenges to overcome: being dynamic, overcoming stress, structuring well, finding arguments, making an attractive PowerPoint, etc.
In short, it’s complicated.
Hence the objective of this article. You will discover the list of 11 seasonings to boost the strength of your public speaking!
1. Have a simple and easy-to-follow common thread
The first step in preparing to speak is to find a clear common thread.
The reason is twofold:
- It ensures logic in the succession of your ideas. It keeps you from scattering.
- A good common thread sets the course. And it’s essential to keep the attention of your audience: the more they know where you are going, the easier it will be for them to follow you.
To choose the right thread, pay attention to two things: not only must it be interesting enough to arouse curiosity, but it must also allow you to finish on time. If you are able to meet these two constraints, then you are good.
What you should not do?
When you are asked to speak on a topic, you might be tempted to speak on a lot of different subtopics, without bothering to choose a particular angle. The problem with this approach is that you are going to overload your presentation and stay on the surface of things.
Your audience won’t take much away from your speaking.
2. Make a good first impression on your audience
Before getting to the heart of the matter, make sure you get your first impression. More specifically, try to answer these two questions as best you can:
- Is the situation clear to the public? Does he know the context, the topic of the day, the different modalities?
- Are you a trustworthy person? Show that you have sufficient authority and be transparent about your motivation.
“ If you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message. »James Kouzes & Barry Posner
If your audience has any doubts about any of these questions, then you will paddle through your speaking time to get their attention.
This is what I learned the hard way during my first close-up magic show. It was 2013 and my job was to do magic to restaurant patrons. At the time, I had no idea how to approach a group of spectators. My strategy was therefore simple: start by directly offering them a magic trick.
95% of the spectators refused my proposal because I had not removed the doubt on two major uncertainties: first, they thought they should tip me (although it was free). Second, they didn’t know if I was on the staff. Suddenly, they told me no when in doubt.
That’s why: tell your audience who you are, what you’re going to say, your motivations and they’ll finally be ready to give you their attention. Only then will you be able to start your hook. Confidence is key.
3. Start speaking with one of these 4 hooks
Do you want to make an impression from the start? Do you want your audience to be suspended on your lips for the rest of your speech?
So you have to create envy about what’s going to happen with a good start. And you are in luck! There is a multitude of hooks to start a speech.
Here are four of my favourites:
- Ask question # 1
Have you ever heard of…?; Do you know that…? ; Have you ever …? Who likes… ? How to explain that no one manages to…?
- Tell a story # 2
“I started to do (what I do), because …”; “I would like to tell you an anecdote…”; “Recently, I received a strange email from a person…”; “The last time I came here, I…”; “I vividly remember my worst mistake when I started to …”
- Start with a big idea # 3
“I am going to tell you about three main principles often ignored which allow…”; “I would like to convince you of only one thing today …”; “There is one thing that I hate and yet I see it everywhere. It’s about… ”
- Surprise your audience # 4
“I don’t want to alarm you, but I have the impression that…”; “I’m going to ask everyone to stand up please. “; “We’re going to start with a little game.”; “I brought with me a rather special object but you will quickly understand its interest”.
Two mistakes to avoid:
The first mistake is to want to do too much. So start in a straightforward and natural way and your introduction will be splendid.
Second mistake: believing that a good catchphrase is enough to be successful in speaking. Unfortunately, this is not enough. Behind, it takes content and arguments that follow. This is what we are going to see now.
4. Have a reasoned and robust speech
What you say is important.
You may express yourself with charisma, if your words are not interesting and detailed, then you will not convince anyone.
And to get there, nothing better than to vary your speech as much as possible by juggling these four types of argument:
- tell anecdotes
- use statistics and data
- seek expert advice
- highlight an obvious causal effect
I hear little voices wondering why we should use different types of argument.
The reason is simple.
Not everyone is sensitive to the same arguments. Some people prefer stories, other more “rational” minds want statistics, some are impressed by expert opinions, etc.
The more you vary, the more people you will convince.
Do you want an example?
Jean-Philippe Rennard is a professor of economics and did an excellent Ted Talk in 2018 on the subject of the Darknet.
And what interests us is his way of arguing. In just a few minutes, Jean-Philippe Rennard brings an extremely varied argument to show us how much our privacy is threatened by the Internet.
Here are the details of his pitch:
0:35: it shows with the help of a graph that it only takes 250 likes for Facebook to know your personality.
1:28: He tells an anecdote of a data breach that happened a few years ago.
2:20: then he quotes an expert in data monitoring.
2:50: finally, he shows an obvious causal effect according to him: states have the technical possibility of monitoring everyone. Suddenly, they do.
By drawing inspiration from this example, you will not only appear more believable, but you will also become more convincing.
5. Make a good PowerPoint
Like many other victims, I have already been forced to watch for hours, each more soporific than the next.
But despite this, PowerPoint remains a must for your speaking experience:
- First, it saves you from memorizing your text.
- Then the visuals help your audience to follow.
The trick is to use it well.
Want to make a success of your slide? Take the three-question test!
Succeeding in PowerPoint is almost an artistic discipline. I could write a book about it. However, there are some irreducible principles. One of them consists of asking the following 3 questions for each of your slides:
1. What is the most important?
In other words: what is the main message you want to communicate? If the answer to this question is not clear, then your message may be overwhelmed by information.
2. How can I separate/contrast the different elements?
Once you have prioritized the different information by importance, you need to separate them visually. For this, you have various tools at hand: the colour, the font, the size of the text, the separation lines …
Important note: don’t be afraid of contrast. The more visually clear the hierarchy of your information is for your audience, the easier your slides will be to read.
3. What can I delete?
This is the most painful step, but it’s also what will take your PowerPoint to the next level. It is absolutely essential to remove all superfluous information: what you sacrifice in quantity, you gain in clarity and impact.
6. Work on your transitions
A good transition has the magical power to make your speaking experience fluid, captivating and memorable.
Let’s start with fluidity
Your audience needs to know where you are. And to get there, there is an armada of words available: first; then; lately; in contrast to; etc. You already know them: easy and practical.
Make your words fascinating
Transitions are extremely effective in making your words compelling.
How? ‘Or’ What?
By announcing the sequel as a TV presenter. You must make your audience salivate:
- “ Now I’m going to show you what drastically changed my perception of the business. “
- “Okay… what I just explained solves the first part of the problem.” But that’s nothing compared to what he will follow. “
- “ In a few moments, I’ll share a piece of advice that I would have loved to know when I started out. “
Last but not least …
… Your transitions are also an opportunity to summarize what you just said. It is even compulsory if you have just completed complex explanations.
7. Conclude your speech in 4 steps
Would you like your audience to remember your speech? Would you like him to take action after your intervention?
So we have to put the package on the conclusion.
And to achieve this, I offer you a 4-step plan:
- Recall the original subject.
- Summarize your main points. In general, don’t be afraid to repeat your words several times during your speech. This is the best way to make your message memorable.
- Add an emotional touch as a Pixar movie could. (optional step)
- Make a call to action. Do you want your speech to make your audience react? So take him eye to eye and tell him what to do.
To have an example of this structure, I invite you to watch Lera Boroditsky’s Ted Talk .
From 10 minutes and 40 seconds, she takes the time to recall her thesis and her arguments, to share her vision of the subject and finally, to make a call to action by inviting us to question ourselves.
Simple and efficient.
8. Avoid mistakes in body language that discredit
Does the idea of public speaking stress you out? I reassure you, this is normal. Personally, even after hundreds of magic shows, I sometimes panic before a performance.
Fortunately, I have two good news for you.
First, there are techniques for overcoming stage fright. Second, it is possible to appear confident even if you are not. It is this last point that I would like to develop with you by working on your body language.
There are many recommendations on this subject: you have to stand up straight, look people in the eye, make gestures with your hands, etc …
But sometimes it’s easier to focus on what NOT to do. Here are the 4 actions that discredit the speaker according to an MIT study:
- Have your arms crossed?
- To be agitated frantically on stage and not to have the feet anchored to the ground.
- Touch your face, hair, neck or stomach.
- Trifle something with his hands.
If you want to appear confident the next time you speak, then pay attention to your attitude and you will be on top!
9. Find the balance between informative and motivational speaking
Your speech shouldn’t sound like an American-style motivational speech (unless that’s your goal). But neither should it be a succession of information without soul and without emotion.
We have to find the right balance.
Are you communicating enough information for your audience to understand?
Conversely, do you say something motivating enough to push your audience to take action?
10. Anticipate questions
Like a salesperson who anticipates customer objections, you need to be able to anticipate your audience’s questions.
Not only will you become more believable, but it’s also a great way to keep your audience awake. The simple fact of hearing an answer to the question that we ask ourselves mentally refocuses us on the message of the speaker. We feel more concerned.
How to do?
Usually, the questions are always the same when talking about a topic:
- What is it about?
- How can this be useful to me?
- Do you have a concrete example?
- How to do?
Make sure you have these questions answered as often as possible and your audience will become a fan.
“ One of the secrets of success is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their point of view as much as from ours. Henry Ford
11. Have an eloquence worthy of Steve Jobs
If I tell you eloquence, you may perhaps think of those famous eloquence competitions of the grandes écoles where the orator expresses himself with a delicate, subtle language, rich in literary references and convoluted figures of style.
… But I reassure you. You won’t need to talk like that.
This way of expressing oneself is old-fashioned, impersonal, inauthentic and not always understandable. It has no living substance, no flavour. Above all, it does not generate any emotion.
Your goal is at the opposite extreme: you want to communicate a clear and direct message. You want to be yourself. And that’s what we’re going to see now.
Here are 2 secrets that make Steve Jobs an exceptional speaker:
An American magazine had fun comparing the speeches of Steve Jobs and his competitors. The analysis is fascinating and provides additional information on the reasons for Steve Jobs’ oral genius:
Steve Jobs uses short sentences and simple words. Basta.
This is obviously not enough to explain the success of Apple. However, it is a good starting point to gain eloquence and succeed in your public speaking.
Now, it is your turn!
Do you have to pitch your project soon? Do you have an oral presentation to make?
So the choice is yours.
choice number 1: make a speech that looks like all the others.
choice number 2: speak up by following these 11 tips and tear it all up. Transform your words to make them captivating, memorable, convincing, entertaining… At least, make it your goal.
Important note: each speech is unique. Do not think that you will be able to apply all the principles in this article. Take only what is good for you. Try. And then you will see the difference.