Public Speaking Tips for Beginners

Business conference

Last week I talked about how to Overcome The Fear of Public Speaking and got a couple of emails asking for some tips for beginners or those who have to speak for their job or in business settings.

Therefore, today I thought we’d dive headfirst into Public Speaking Tips for Beginners. Keep in mind there are great classes and formal training if you want to enlist the help of a teacher. There are Toastmasters and other organizations and all have some good points and bad points—I’m not in any way trying to replace or downplay the importance of those organizations. However, no matter what training you get or what setting you’re in, I think the following tips are critical to being able to successfully deliver a talk or presentation.

Public Speaking Tips for Beginners

Speak Anywhere: For those of you wanting to become a speaker, take any chance to speak. Anywhere. Volunteer and get “stage time” anywhere you can. Look for civic organizations, schools, churches or other groups who need speakers but seldom have a budget for paying one. Don’t worry about how much time you get—if they give you five minutes take it. Get experience any way you can.

Record Everything: Ideally you want a video tape of your speech or talk but if that’s not possible an audio recording is a must. Go back and listen to it with a critical ear. Hear what you said, not what you intended to say. Listen for the “ums’, “uhs” and other idiosyncrasies you don’t notice when you’re talking live. They are there. We all have them. Make a note of what “crutch” you use and try to catch yourself in the future. This takes a lot more work than you think.

Don’t Try To Be Perfect: This sounds crazy, but you want to sound natural. The greatest speakers make you feel as if you’re the only person in the room they’re talking to. After I speak I will invariably have someone from Toastmasters who has counted my “uhs”. “You had 26 “ums” in your talk today…I’m with Toastmasters.” “Really? 26? I usually shoot for at least 40!” (They hate that.) I want to sound natural—not fake—planned, not canned. Be conscious of being too perfect and sounding like a robot or a bad imitation of William Shatner.

Don’t Over-practice: Along those same lines, I want you to know your materials (as we talked about last week), but the worst thing you can do is over-rehearse. Don’t be stiff. Know your material in an outline form; know the points you want to convey and then speak from the heart not the page. You’ll feel better and sound better.
Relax: Finally, relax. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You’re not going to die up there (well, at least I hope not). I absolutely love being in front of a crowd and speaking—it is truly my passion to speak and train and it is one of the places I’m most relaxed because I’m having fun. Enjoy yourself. Understand that 99% of the people in the audience wouldn’t trade places with you for the world.

The bottom line is public speaking can be tremendously enjoyable and rewarding. Don’t go into it for the money. A very small percentage of speakers are actually making a living speaking, but if you go into it to have a good time, learn something and truly have a message to share—you’ll be rewarded one way or another.