Get Ahead by Improving your Public Speaking Skills

The ability to speak in public is essential to maximizing your leadership potential and achieving the highest levels of success. It is not enough to be able to stand in front of an audience and say a few words. You should be able to stand and deliver a well thought out presentation that captivates your audience. There are many resources on public speaking and one of the best anywhere is Toastmasters International. This organization has clubs all over the world, and its mission is to help club members become better communicators and leaders. Speaking is a skill that you become better at by doing, and that is exactly what Toastmasters International is about. You can read all the books, listen to all the tapes, and watch all the videos, but until you actually get in front of an audience, your speaking skills will not improve. The great thing about Toastmasters is you are provided ample opportunities to speak in a supportive setting. Other members are there to provide positive feedback and assist you in becoming a better speaker. The organization has minimal dues and ample training resources to help you achieve your speaking goals. To find a club near you, check with your local chamber of commerce or look on-line.

Most of us have heard speakers that almost memorized us with their presentation, or spoke with such passion about a topic that we couldn’t help be moved. We have also heard those that nearly put us asleep, or maybe they did as well as those that because every other word was ah or um we could hardly bear to listen. There are many aspects of effective public speaking, and in this section we will look at three of the elements needed to make our presentations enjoyable, memorable, and most important, effective in communicating our message. Let’s make our presentations simple, let’s make them sincere, and let’s make them sizzle.


The old formula of telling the audience what you are going to tell them, telling them, and then telling them what you told them, works. It works because it is a simple formula for organizing a message in a manner that an audience can follow, understand and remember. You must organize your speech in a logical manner that the audience can follow. Present your ideas in an orderly and clear manner. You want a compelling opening designed to catch immediate attention. Follow this by the body of your presentation which contains the factual support for your purpose. Conclude your speech with a climax that produces results in your audience. The conclusion should tie in with the opening and leave no doubt about what you want the audience to do with the information you presented. Finish forcefully and confidently. Follow these simple steps and you will be on your way toward effective public speaking.

In addition to a simple formula to keep you on track, a simple presentation is one without bi words, complicated jargon, and language that is over the head of your audience. Be yourself and use words you are familiar and comfortable with. The words and language you use must fit the audience. If you are nuclear physicist speaking to an audience of nuclear physicists, you will use different language than you should use talking nuclear physics to a group of high school students. Simplicity is relative to the audience. The key is to be yourself and ensure the presentation is appropriate for your audience.


Successful speeches and presentations are sincere and made in earnest. You want your presentation to radiate conviction and sincerity. Obviously, speaking about something you care about is the first step toward being sincere. After deciding on the topic, you must develop the technique of conveying your true feelings to the audience. You want to be natural, but also forceful. When an audience is giving their time to listen to you, you owe them more than superficial words. Speak about a subject that has meaning for you, and convince the audience of that fact. If you do this, they will listen and be willing to consider your point of view.


All successful people give one hundred percent when performing, and speaking is no different. You must give all of your heart, mind, strength and energy to your audience. Do this, and your presentation will be on its way toward sizzling. Sizzle can go a long way, as long as you do have content to back it up as well. Use your voice and expressions in a sincere manner, making your voice louder and softer, quicker or slower, as necessary to effectively communicate your message and engage your audience. Keep it lively by changing your tone of voice and varying your sentence length with short and long sentences. Ask questions and make your audience think and participate with your presentation. Avoid being monotonous and using a flat boring tone that even with the most interesting of topics will put the audience asleep.

Move, but do not just pace back and forth. Movement and action add to a presentation. Body language and movement portray messages just as do words. Using your voice and movement can be a powerful combination to get attention. Clenching a fist, raising an eyebrow or stomping a foot can turn a simple phrase or word into a powerful statement. Learning to gesture while speaking will hone your presentations toward professionalism and make them more effective. Good speakers use every part of their bodies to communicate with the audience. Do not just pace back and forth or move without purpose. Your gestures and movements must enhance your message, not detract from it.

Be natural and keep it simple, be sincere, and add some sizzle and your presentations will be far above average. Practice these and work toward becoming the most dynamic speaker you can be, and your skills will help you achieve successes on many levels.

Successful Business Presentations

Business presentations should incorporate the ingredients listed above for public speaking. However, one should realize that business presentations differ from many other forms of public speaking, and need to be prepared for accordingly. Public speaking often has a strong performance element, while business presentations usually have the goal of providing specific information to the listeners. Public speakers usually have to be entertaining and business presenters must be clear, audible, relevant, and willing to discuss issues. Both use similar skills, but the demands are different. Many people that would never dream of giving a public address are called upon to give various presentations for their job. For some, this is downright terrifying. The first key to being an effective presenter is determining that you will be successful. Make up your mind right now that you will succeed with every presentation you ever give. Go into every presentation confident, prepared, and professional and you will succeed.

You must be confident in your abilities presenting. Some people believe they must be perfect. Who anywhere is perfect? Think of all the people you have seen present during your life or career. You probably saw some people that were fantastic and others that put you to sleep. You are most likely somewhere in the middle. More than likely, you can present just fine right now. You can probably do better, but so can everyone. Do not let worry prevent you from presenting. Remember, the audience wants you to succeed, they are not out to get you. Prepare your presentation and practice it. Look and act professional. If you do these things, there is no reason to not be confident that you can do a fine job.

You must prepare for every presentation. As your skills develop, your preparation time will decrease, especially for those presentations on topics that are extremely familiar to you. However, you still must prepare for each and every one if you really want to improve and give highly successful business presentations. The basics you should focus on to prepare are context, message and the roadmap. The context refers to why you are making the presentation. Why are the people gathering to listen to you talk on this subject? The message refers to what the listeners must know, think, or do when you have completed your presentation. The roadmap outlines the topics or groups of facts that you need to present or review so the listeners will know, think, or do what you want them to know, think or do. Preparation, including all the little details, will help give you confidence, and more importantly will lead to a successful presentation.

Dress according to the message you want to send. For most business presentations, this means looking professional. You want to send the message that you are professional and your ideas are important. In most corporate settings, you will want to comply with the corporate norm, which is usually a basic color suit for men and equivalent attire that matches the corporate norm for women. When the environment is less formal, it is still a good idea to be a bit more formal than your listeners to help project the professional image. At the minimum, you want to match the formality of the audience, but sometimes even when the audience is wearing business casual, you will want to dress one level up to be the expert.

As a final note, I’m going to again reiterate that the best way to improve your communication and public speaking skills is through practice. You must actually speak to improve these skills. Volunteer to speak whenever you can, and join a group such as Toastmasters International and you will be amazed at how rapidly you become more comfortable in front of an audience. Communication and public speaking skills will assist you in all areas of your business and personal life.

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Alain Burrese, J.D. is a performance and personal development expert who teaches how to live, take action, and get things done through the Warrior’s Edge. Alain combines his military, martial art, and Asian experiences with his business, law, and conflict resolution education into a powerful way of living with balance, honor, and integrity. He teaches how to use the Warrior’s Edge to Take Action and Achieve Remarkable Results. Alain is the author of Hard-Won Wisdom From The School Of Hard Knocks, the DVDs Hapkido Hoshinsul, Streetfighting Essentials, Hapkido Cane, the Lock On Joint Locking series, and numerous articles and reviews. You can read more articles and reviews and see clips of his DVDs as well as much more at and

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About The Author

Mark Kyte

Mark Kyte is a public speaking mentor and founder of the Public Speaking Skills Academy. Mark loves helping clients achieve dynamic results that help them increase their influence and get more clients. Read more of his blog and if you like what you see check out the mentoring programs.