Pro Steps to Become a Compelling Public Speaker
Updated: Mar 14
Follow these steps to become a compelling public speaker:
1st - Overcome Nervousness & Anxiety
Every public speaker experiences nervousness & anxiety whether it’s because the audience is too large, too small, or they are speaking to people they know or people that they don’t know. We all have a particular situation that would tend to make us nervous. To be a compelling public speaker, you must be confident and that means you must overcome your nervousness.
The keys to overcome nervousness or anxiety are to:
Understand that your thoughts cause the fear/nervousness/anxiety, not the reasons.
Understand that those thoughts are all about you.
Public speaking is not about you – it’s about the audience, without them, there is no presentation!
When you notice any nervousness, you must acknowledge that you’re thinking about and focusing on yourself. THIS IS A KEY STEP!! (Clue: your thoughts about YOU are causing your anxiety.)
As soon as you recognize that you are focusing on you, shift your focus off of you and focus on your commitment to making a difference for your audience. (Get to work on your research, your outline, your practice.) Remember, it’s not about you anyway – it’s about the audience so pack as much value as you can in your talk.
Keep repeating this process. You will develop a habit of it and it will become second nature! (You will no longer be focusing on you and making yourself miserable!!).
2nd – Master the 4 Pillars of Public Speaking
1 - PASSION: Be Passionate about 3 Things
Be passionate about your topic, your audience, and improving your speaking skills. Your passion is the fuel that will drive you and keep you going.
2 – POWER: Be Knowledgeable about the Same 3 Things
Public speakers can be powerful by being knowledgeable not only about their topic but also about each audience and speaking skills in general. Never stop learning about your topic.
Investigate intensely about your audience (super important) before you prepare each talk.
And, lastly, always be learning about and improving your speaking skills.
3 – PREPARATION: Prepare Your Talk (Even if you’ve given it 100 times)
All public speakers should prepare their talk even if they’ve given it 100 times. Your talk needs to be fresh not only because every time you give it, it’s a new set of circumstances and a new audience, also because it will invigorate your passion.
Preparation should be done in specific, tangible ways, with an opening and close that relate to the objectives of your talk. Write out your talk in outline format with 3 main points and as many sub-points that time will allow. Download and use my must-have guide, “How to Create an Award Winning Presentation,” to help you prepare yours.
4 – PRACTICE: Practice Stirs Your Passion
Practice your talk before each presentation – even if you have given the talk before. Record your talk so that you can time it and make necessary adjustments to stay within the allotted time frame. Video your presentation (or at least part of it) so that you can see what you like and what you don’t like to improve your delivery. Any public speaker who practices their presentation will stir their passion, an essential for success!
3rd, Improve Your Speaking Skills
Stop saying nonsense utterances, such as, “um”, “uh,” “like,” “you know,” “basically.” For tips on how, read my blog post on “Um, Er, Uh, Basically, Like…Sound Familiar?"
Learn how to engage your audience by getting them involved – ask questions, call out their names, talk to them, not at them. Watch talk shows to get a feel for how to engage. The Ellen DeGeneres show is a great example.
Use the power of the pause. Take a breath. Pausing can actually engage your audience.
Look your best and feel your best and stand with authority and conviction. Don’t pace back and forth or rock. Everything you do should be an intended gesture or movement, yet authentic. This is just a skill and anyone can learn it.
Other speaking skills include making eye contact, using inflection, projecting your voice, speaking clearly, having fun, using props, and being inspired. You’ll get there!!
By being prepared and rehearsing, a public speaker can reduce 75% of their nervousness and build their confidence! Shift your focus to your commitment to provide value and you will be powerful and lovable!!
4th, Start Speaking at Every Opportunity
Hold your own workshops (in person or virtual) regularly to guarantee speaking opportunities. Although hosting your own workshops can be a lot of work, they have a tremendous upside (especially promoting them) as they will establish your authority and credibility in the marketplace.
Offer to speak at networking groups, Kiwanis, Optimist, Rotary Clubs, and to other groups that meet regularly and need speakers. Public speakers can “waive” their fee for these groups.
The more you speak, the better you will become. And, if you bomb, great! You will have learned a lot. As Elon Musk says about his rocket launch failures, "We got a lot of good data."
5th, Don’t give up.
Passion is the fuel for persistence. Become passionate about something that will fuel your persistence as a public speaker – whether it’s just your love of public speaking, your love of your topic, or your love of making a difference, stay committed to your passion. Your commitment will keep you in the game.
In the video below, Al Pacino, delivers an incredibly stirring speech in the movie, Any Given Sunday. His speech is a perfect example of the 4 pillars, passion, power, preparation, and practice, and audience engagement.
He begins by acknowledging what is happening at the moment (called acknowledging what’s so) – a technique that engages the audience. Pacino demonstrates his own vulnerability and authenticity as he “fesses” up to his failings in life – showing your flaws makes you relatable.
The audience begins to lean in at the very beginning as you will also. Pacino uses pausing, excitement, and passion at the perfect places and in a most genuine way. Although Pacino’s speech is genuine and authentic, you know that it’s well-rehearsed!
As Pacino’s passion reaches a fever pitch, so does the audience’s emotions. At the end, Pacino asks them one question, and the audience goes wild, standing and then running in excitement to win the game. My favorite line in the speech is that “life is lived in inches.” Enjoy!!