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5 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

Jessica Cam Wong 11-12-2009

tutorial on public speakingTruly eloquent individuals hardly go unnoticed as they instantly give a vibe of being engaging speakers. Attaining such status should be essential if you want to be heard, whether in a speech, informally debating with partners on a topic, or even expressing your perspective in Twitter.


However, as we approach the end of a decade marked by abbreviated communication (e.g. informal writing through e-mail and chat) and the start of another that seems to be dominated by even shorter messages (think SMS text messages How to Send Email to Any Cell Phone (for Free) Did you know that you can send email to phones for free? Try this with any SMS-capable feature phone and reap the benefits. Read More and micro-blogging), it’s easier to forget to practice coming up with longer, thoughtful remarks.

Here is a tutorial on public speaking with 5 tips on improving how you deliver a speech or message.

Engage your audience

Help your audience stay focused by choosing topics they can relate to and including in your message carefully, especially at the beginning. Doing that could make a difference in whether or not you get someone to become engaged, then believe and share your perspective. Make a “tour” of your potential audience’s minds. Sure, you may have a lot of opinionated content you are eager to share but when you deliver a message, speaking about topics outside of the audience’s interests means that they less likely to see your point.

Get to know your audience

In order to pick the right combination of topics to focus on so your audience will become interested at once, research what the audience is interested in. Give the audience something that they can take away and do for themselves. What is the impact on the audience’s lives? Stand out from the rest and avoid topics that people have already heard or read.

Stay positive

Aside from giving the audience hints on what they really want to hear about, other appealing factors for the audience include positive messages that focus less on failures.


tutorial on public speaking

In a University of Pennsylvania study of presidential nomination speeches from 1900 to 1984, it was found that American voters choose candidates who express optimism and ruminate less. In other words, using a pessimistic approach to explain the causes of problems, and attempting to make more explanations for failures made candidates look more helpless and less appealing to the public.

Susceptibility to helplessness is a psychologically discouraging sign to the public, who is looking for confident candidates to boost up their trust in government officials. Even if you are not delivering a presidential candidate message, you should aim to make optimistic remarks and minimize talking about unresolved problems or failures, unless you are discussing how to attack them in your speech.

Be concise

When delivering a speech, be concise and end it earlier than the time you are given (the audience will thank you). Sometimes, adding relevant metaphors may seem appropriate, but don’t waste time including too many. That is because every single part of the message is potentially a moment for you to hold your audience’s interest together and for people to remember.


You should craft each sentence to reflect something uniquely brilliant. Thus, including many metaphors challenges your audience’s trust that they should stay focused in your topic.

Give your work a captivating title

Dedicating time to craft the body of your message is as important as creating an original name for your speech or message. This is never stressed enough – your title should wake the audience’s interest so they anticipate reading or listening to your message. Think of the title as your red carpet to grab your audience’s attention. This statement must summarize your main point in a unique way.

tutorial on public speaking

As you are figuring out a concise title, try to be more general than too specific. Think about your audience when you name your work and how it relates to them. Compare “The Psychology of eloquent speeches” with “Tips on giving convincing messages.” The former includes the name of a scientific field that may not interest a number of people.


In closing, practicing building your concise, positive, invaluable, and appropriately-named message around your audience can ensure that your point gets across and stays fresh in people’s minds.

Want to seriously improve your public speaking skills? Check out these free resources, such Toastmasters, a non-profit organization that helps individuals grow comfortable giving speeches; SpeechTips that offers a free speechwriting course; PsychologyToday’s confidence-building article; From Speech Worrier to Speech Warrior, Scholastic tips gathered from political speechwriters, and dedicated public speaking and presentation skills blog, Six Minutes.

Want samples of excellent speeches? Art of Manliness features thirty-five excerpts and full speeches.

Don’t have time to read all these resources? Take the speeches with you by downloading the podcasts to your iPod or mobile phone so you can be constantly educated.


What audience-engaging techniques do you recommend? Delight us in the comments.

Image credit: gruntzookie, Ed Yourdon, Dplanet::

Related topics: Education Technology, Presentations, Soft Skills.

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  1. John Friedmont
    December 9, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Public speaking is a big issue that a lot of people have trouble with. Instead of letting it cause you fear and hindering your career path, address it! There are wonderful public speaking and executive communications courses out here. Here's an example of one in my area that I've done before: ellisstrategies.com/public-speaking-rhode-island/. It was fantastic, and I continue to work closely with my communications coach!

    Just my two cents.

    - John

  2. Jessica Cam Wong
    December 19, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    @mgingerhack Good luck practicing!
    @Darren That's a good, practical way to look at it!
    @Simon True. In a particular group, there might be the possibility of people going off on a tangent so it's up to you to decide what advice suits your needs.

  3. simon Raybould - presentation skills trainer
    December 14, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Good article - but can I add just ONE note of caution...

    99% of Toastmasters are fantastic organisations and you'll get a lot of support from your peers. Therein lies the rub, however, because you'll only be able to get support from your *peers*, rather than experts. In occasional Toastmasters I've found some of the advice given was a little counter-productive. (And a little more often, not very specific or helpful).

    Don't get me wrong though, TM is a great place to practice and great 99% of the time. Just be aware that you might need to shop around a bit.


  4. Public Speaking Course
    December 13, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Being concsice is probably the greatest point. Very few sinners are saved after the first 20 minutes of a sermon. No one has ever been boo'ed for getting off early.


    Darren Fleming
    Australia's Corporate Speech Coach

  5. mgingerhack
    December 13, 2009 at 11:58 am

    i am also too blocked..to public speaking..i hope this will open some ways for me...

  6. Jessica Cam Wong
    December 11, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    @Preston Thank you and best of luck! A lot of practice always does good.

    @Sue Thank you for elaborating on the benefits of joining Toastmasters. I can attest to that. Some nice fellows from a local Toastmasters took about 3 hours to help me and a few other orientation advisors at my University become less nervous about speaking in front of a lot of fellow classmates. I didn't become an expert like them but I felt much more prepared with their advice. I imagine a few months of attending the Toastmasters sessions would help a ton.

  7. Sue Davis
    December 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks for pointing people to Toastmasters. It is really a great, supportive, helpful organization. I have seen people change from nervous wrecks to competent speakers in just a few months.

  8. Preston Wilson
    December 11, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Great post! I have always really blocked when it came to public speaking, but now I can start to refocus my efforts and get as good as any celebrity speaker who is making the circuit these days.


    Keep up the good work!