Basics of Public Speaking

by Bob Walsh

In this article series we are going to cover the basics of public speaking. When it comes to public speaking, most people think that you need to say a lot. But the truth is that really great speeches are very much like good advertisements on TV. The most important thing about giving a public speech is that you

  • grab the attention of your audience and that you
  • elicit some kind of reaction that is not just a rational reaction (so something they think about) but an emotional reaction, so something that they feel. So the point of your presentation or your speech must be to elicit some kind of emotion, make them feel something.

I can’t stress this enough. Good public speaking is not about presenting data, it’s about telling engaging stories, and we’ll get back to that later in this series on public speaking.

Keep It Short

And a great speech is also a speech that is not so long. Unless you are somebody like Martin Luther King, you probably won’t be able to hold the attention of an audience for a very long time. So find out what you can take away from your speech and really boil it down to cover only the things that are crucially important and leave everything else out.

public speaking advice

Because the attention that the audience gives to you is a great gift, and you should be respectful of it. So make your speech as short as possible and as long as necessary. So what does it mean when I say “as long as necessary?” It means make the speech so long, that it still intrigues and interests the people who listen to you.

Know Who You’re Talking To

Another important factor when giving a great public speech is that you must know your audience and that you must target a specific audience just like an advertisement – advertisements are supposed reach a certain demographic.

This might be one of the most overlooked basics of public speaking. But it’s also one of the most important ones:

The people who give the best speeches are the people who understand their audience the best and are able to see the world through the eyes of the people who are listening to them.

Let me give you a metaphor: you can  think of it as fishing, because when you go fishing you need to have a bait to make the fish bite on the hook. Now, not every bait works for every fish, so you’ve got to understand, you’ve got to know which bait is the right one for your audience, so that they’ll swallow the hook. So you need the hook in your speech, you need something that gets their attention.

And the best thing is to use something that makes them feel something like we already covered, but focus on one thing. In your mind you can probably come up with several ways to make them feel something, but I ask you to make a choice, focus on just one thing rather than many, but really make this one thing vivid, so that elicits a strong response.

Now that’s we’ve covered some of the basics of public speaking, let’s move on to part 2 of this series.

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