5 Actionable Tips to Uplevel Your Public Speaking Skills & Captivate Your Audience, Even If You Have No Experience

 

In case you haven't heard me say enough, I love hosting interactive live events for entrepreneurs.  It truly allows me to witness a group of people coming together for one goal.

Needless to say, there are ups and downs through the prep process, but I always come out re-energized & so proud of my community’s engagement.

You might say, “Live events? Wow, that’s so old school!”

I totally get it. In this age, trust and genuine connections can just be established over the internet.

But I have news for you. There is a trend that many are already talking about in certain entrepreneur communities this year that you don’t want to ignore:

Online businesses, especially online courses & info products, i.e. group coaching, have hit the fatigue point. 

Do you know what this means?

It means people are looking elsewhere for more “hands-on” experience to solve their problems to attain true transformations.  So, servicing “1 on 1” is becoming sexy again.  Building a community where people can show up & share their thoughts is making a comeback.  Some are ditching their online courses & starting to provide in-person, 1 on 1 experience.  ­

This is all happening right now.

See, this is not a “flavor of the month” kind of trend.  This can easily last as long as “make money online” lasted.

This is the reason I chose the topic of “How to Captivate Your Audience Through Public Speaking & What Not to Do on Stage” for my Meetup group this month.  I wanted to arm my Meetup members with effective public speaking skills so that they can attract more customers by sharing their experience and expertise with confidence.

The problem? 

I’m not an expert in this area.  Luckily though, I knew who was.

Tricia Brouk, podcaster of “The Big Talk,” award-winning film director, Executive Producer of Speakers Who Dare and the host of “The Speaker Salon,” lives & breathes coaching professionals who want to give “fearless, ovation-worthy” talks.

I’ve asked Tricia to help my members master the art of public speaking so that they don’t have to go through endless trial & error to get where they need to be.

Tricia's masterclass was overflowing with so many golden nuggets, and there's no way I can cover them all here. Instead, I've handpicked the 5 must-know insider tips that will get you started with your public speaking journey to captivate your audience (and make money).

Before getting started, I do strongly recommend you check out Tricia's website for her offers, especially Speaker Salon, which offers community-based learning experience to learn how to give a TED talk style presentation.

 

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5 Tips to Uplevel Your Public Speaking Skills – At a Glance

Here’s the list of 5 tips that are less-intimidating yet guaranteed to produce good results.  Are you ready?

 

Tip #1: Develop your “public speaking muscle” systematically

Tip #2: Create an impactful through-line

Tip #3: Formulate an attention-grabbing opening to pull audience in right away

Tip #4: Keep in mind things you should not do on stage

Tip #5: Engage individually to establish strong connections

 

Most of us are not natural-born speakers, especially in big venues with hundreds of people in the audience.  The good news is that you can master this skill by practicing and using these tips.

Let’s dive in deep with each tip!

 

 

Tip #1: Develop Your “Public Speaking Muscle” Systematically.

It’s OK to dream big.  Giving a talk for a stadium full of people?  Speaking in front of hundreds of industry leaders at a prestigious conference?  These are all good, but don’t let your dream hold you back from actually making the first step just because...you are terrified it might flop.

During the Q&A session at the event, I shared my personal challenge with Tricia & asked for help. 

I get really tense standing at a podium, and I don’t know why.  I have no problem with a classroom setting.  I realized I had this issue several years ago while I was in business school. 

“Rehearse at a podium with an empty space. Then, you invite a few people to sit in. After that, you place more people to see you perform. This repetitive but also gradual practice lets you get used to the environment,” said Tricia.

I liked this systematic approach.  This seemed digestible and completely doable.

Shortly after I realized I had this challenge, I searched for the reason as to why I feel differently about standing at a podium.  For one, the setup suggests it’s “official.”  That puts extra pressure “not to screw up” on speakers like myself.  Secondly, the lighting on the speaker is often blinding.  It makes it harder for her to see what’s in front of her.  This creates added uncertainty to the environment.

In addition to practicing under the exact setting, Tricia also advised to practice everywhere.  While getting ready to go to work or folding clothes or walking down the street…this helps us to develop our “public speaking muscle” we didn’t have before.

“If you are new to public speaking, a panel discussion is a great starting point,” said Tricia.

I know this from my own experience. Being on a few panels per year was mandatory for my previous job, and I found it so much more relaxing to be on a panel because the spot light is not just on me. 

Tricia continued, “Once you are comfortable with that, you might consider giving a workshop with several people in a room. Then you can give a lecture in a bigger classroom setting, then move onto a bigger auditorium style setting.”

To uplevel your public speaking skills, what you want to do is to put milestones in place and consistently work at it by setting your bar at each milestone.With this systematic approach, all of a sudden, this process seems much less stressful.

 

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Tip #2: Create an Impactful Through-line

Do you know the style difference between keynote speaking and TED style speaking? 

All the tips shared here will prepare you to do both.  But it is key for you to know the difference so that you will outline your talk effectively.  According to Tricia:

 

1.     The length – Keynote can last between 45 min to 1 hour.  TED style will be under 21 min.  Nowadays, it’s encouraged to be much less like 12 min.

2.     Purpose – Keynote is to provide deeper understanding about a topic with some kind of “call to action” at the end, while TED style is designed to inspire, empower & share new ideas with the audience.

Regardless of which style you are going for, there is one thing in common that you need to give a careful thought to.  That is: You must have a clear message that is easy for anyone to understand. 

It is almost like a mission statement but much shorter.  Preferably, it should fit in one sentence.

For example, “I am dedicating my work to doing X so that you (or your specific target audience) can achieve Y (outcome).

From there, you can structure your talk around it.  You might want to test your through-line by sharing it with people you know or you don’t know to see if it is crystal clear.

I don’t know about you, but since I started to focus more on my personal branding efforts, I’ve come to the harsh realization that I am knee-deep in the “curse of knowledge.”  I often find myself assuming that people understand what I am talking about.  In reality, they don’t. 

This is why testing is your best friend.

Creating an impactful through-line is the first crucial step towards crafting a memorable talk to captivate your audience.  So, what’s next?

Simply put, the rest is all about connecting the dots in between:

 

What is the topic/mission?

Why it matters to you. (Your story)

Why it matters to them. (Examples)

No matter how important your topic or mission or idea you want to share is, if you aren’t able to establish a clear connection between why it matters to you and why it should matter to your audience, you will not be able to gain a “buy-in” from your audience.    

 
 
 

 

Tip #3: Formulate an Attention-grabbing Opening to Pull the Audience in Right Away

How long do you think it takes for people to make up their mind about someone or a product or a business?

A whopping 7 seconds.

Just.  7.  Seconds.

You can read more about this here, but you get the point.  The point is the way you open your talk can make or break your entire talk.

Tricia shared a few great examples of what a good opening is during her masterclass, and I am going to share one of them here.

One of the TEDx speakers Tricia worked with (she is also a former co-organizer of TEDx Lincoln Sq) presented her talk with photos of world-renown athletes.

The photos captured them in action, surfing, rock-climbing, bike-riding and…winning. 

Then, she opened her talk with, “What do you think they have in common?” She followed up with her answer:

“They are all blind.”

Boom! 

Need I say more?!

If this doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will. 

Now, how can you incorporate this technique in your talk? 

Tricia suggests 3 ways you can go about creating your own unique opening:

1.     Sharing a story that people would want to know the ending of

2.     Asking a question that people cannot help but want to close its open loop

3.     Using contrasting techniques like the example Tricia shared that reveals an unexpected statement

 

Don’t shy away from using visuals and sounds, such as photos & videos or music & sound effects, to heighten the experience you are going for. 

 
Courtesy: John DeMato / DeMato Productions @dematophoto

Courtesy: John DeMato / DeMato Productions @dematophoto

 

Tip #4: Steer Clear of Things You Should Not Do on Stage

The first 3 tips are all about “must-do” items while improving your public speaking skills.  We are now getting into the topic of what not to do, so as not to undo your hard work.  That would be heartbreaking!

Tricia shared:





1.     Do not use air quotes on stage.

2.     Do not “apologize” about technical issues or forgetting your line.

3.     Do not forget to ask the organizer logistical questions and general set up questions.

4.     Do not avoid eye contact with audience.

5.     Do not aim for perfection.

 

Not sure if this is even a term but if you are an avid air quoter in general, you want to be mindful of not doing so on stage.  According to Tricia, it gives a not-so-positive impression to the audience.  It seems harmless, I know.  But I also get how it can be viewed as a speaker not being serious about her talk.

This doesn’t mean that your talk needs to be overly official or stuffy.  Maintaining a healthy balance of being casual (approachable) vs. being too official is vital. 

“Not apologizing” can be challenging for some, especially when things are not going accordingly on stage.  It could be the sound system malfunctioning.  It could be the lighting.  Whatever it is, according to Tricia, you should never apologize.

“But why?  It could be my genuine feeling about what’s going on.  What’s the harm in that,” you might ask?

Tricia explained, “It just brings down the whole energy in the room.” 

That was my aha moment.  It’s a different environment when people in the room have a different expectation to hear someone speak as opposed to something like meeting someone at a coffee shop.  On the spectrum, public speaking is probably a lot closer to a music performance or a play, where people are there to be inspired.  I can totally see how apologizing can be a buzz kill.

Forgetting to ask logistical questions is something I know all too well as an event organizer.  Almost always, nothing goes the way we plan.  So, the fewer surprises you have, the better.  In the end, this will help you resist the urge to apologize on stage, too!

Although it is a scary thought to make direct eye contact from the stage, not doing so can isolate you from your audience.  That would probably be the death of public speaking.  Establishing trust without making eye contact is a lost cause. 

Freeing yourself from your obsession with perfection can eliminate many fearful thoughts about speaking in front of people.  We all want to do well.  We all want to be at our best, especially on stage.  Sometimes though, the thought of wanting to do your talk perfectly can rob you of your chance to connect with your audience because you will appear nervous, talk too fast, or give the impression that you aren’t ready. 

 

 
Courtesy: John DeMato / DeMato Productions @dematophoto

Courtesy: John DeMato / DeMato Productions @dematophoto

 

Tip #5: Engage Individually to Establish a Strong Connection

It’s hard to figure out a way to look at a large audience from the stage, isn’t it?  First of all, there are eyes everywhere.  (Can you see me cringing?!)  Secondly, most of those people are ones you’ve never met. 

So, why is it important to engage individually?

Tricia asked for 2 volunteers to demonstrate how to be effective at convincing or persuading people using a few speaking techniques.  This was intriguing for the attendees to see the immediate change between “before” & “after” in terms of how those volunteers communicated.

Here are some techniques that you can easily incorporate into your talk:

 

1.     Engage by taking gradual steps towards people you are speaking to.

2.     Instead of speaking at your audience, you focus on inviting them to agree with your idea by presenting examples in a friendly, cheerful manner.

3.     Add a touch of drama by controlling the volume of your voice instead of remaining flat the whole time.

4.     Sprinkle in some gestures (that are not air quoting!) to add some movements to your talk.

5.     Make effective use of pausing time to create some breathing room.  Also, consider using different speeds (fast vs. slow) to be more rhythmic with your talk.

 

 

 Are You Ready to Be a Fearless, Ovation-Worthy Public Speaker?

Among the attendees for this event, there were a few former students of Tricia’s who graciously shared their transformations as speakers during the event.  They participated in Tricia’s Speaker Salon program. 

Although the tips I shared here are completely doable for you to take on by yourself, you can learn faster by being part of the community while you experience comradery with other participants.  Needless to say, the kind of friendship you develop with them is incredibly rewarding.

Currently the program is offered twice a year.  For more info, visit here: https://triciabrouk.com/masterclasses/speaker-salon/

As Tricia says, improving your public speaking skills is all about developing your public speaking muscle that you aren’t used to flexing.  It doesn’t have to be scary.  As with working out, you will gradually advance over time. 

Any success stories you want me to share on this site?  Please write below the comment section or write to me via email!