How to Master the Art of Public Speaking

The idea for this Weekly Happiness Challenge was sparked back in May when member Paul was planning to give a talk for the first time. He had recorded himself doing it, but was struggling to keep it within the time limits. He also wanted to find the right balance between reading and improvising.

“Can anyone share any good links on public speaking? I’ve got my first talk tomorrow at a conference and I’m just wondering if anyone has any advice that isn’t visualise the audience naked,” he wrote to the Happy Melly Slack community.

“Making things seem simple is way harder than making things look difficult,” he quipped.

Sarah immediately responded saying that she finds public speaking terrifying and exhausting but also rewarding, and then she shared this video:

Tomas also shared this TED talk by Julian Treasure for inspiration, which includes his how-to’s of public speaking, including learning to speak with empathy.  

Ilidio offered up mindfulness: “It’s fantastic to calm down and visualize your speech — do it one hour before your talk.”

He said that if time allows, present your talk to your family or record yourself doing it. And, of course, you could try joining a local Toastmasters Club.

Sarah responded to Ilidio’s mindfulness, saying that at the first big talk she gave, she kept trying to take deep breaths to stay present, but that audience members said she just sighed a lot. So maybe use meditation ahead of time and just try to stay in the present during your talk.

Marjan chimed in that, while not the best for this last-minute prep, you should follow these three smart steps:

  1. Tell stories. She even recommends taking a a storytelling course.
  2. Use pictures rather than words on your slides.
  3. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Koen echoed Marjan: “The first time I spoke for a large audience — about 200 — I had done the speech 20 times to myself, five times to my wife, and ten times to my colleagues. That made sure I didn’t have to look at anything except my audience. And the fact that you know what you’re gonna say helps calm you down as well.”

And following Marjan’s idea of storytelling, Jason shared the most important advice he says he’s ever received: “Be yourself, and connect with the ones who are smiling, look engaged, and seem to agree with what you’re saying. If five percent of the audience can take something away, that’s a win.”

Practice public speaking in a safe environment

So this week, in order to help you master the art of public speaking, we are going to offer you some practice. You can play along at home and tell us how you did in the comments below, or you can join Happy Melly and share your experiments with the community for constructive peer feedback!

We will be offering opportunities throughout this week so you can gain presentation practice in front of a live but friendly audience. If you can’t make our meeting times, you can instead record yourself and upload the videos to our #exploration-days Slack channel.

Also Read: Power of the Gesture: Learn sign language for effective communication

Presentation Challenge Day 1: Give a kudo!

This is either an amplified way to give a kudo or a more mellow alternative to a wedding toast. Stand up and show your appreciation for someone — your partner or a colleague perhaps — by giving a short speech of gratitude and appreciation to them. (You decide if you’re holding coffee or champagne.) Acknowledging others is always a nice thing to do and it gets you into the practice of speaking aloud in a somewhat formal way.

Tell us how this public recognition went in the #exploration-days Slack channel.

Presentation Challenge Day 2: KISS!

And now, for the next exercise, I’m going to borrow from Marjan: Try to condense a topic that you are really passionate about and could talk about for hours into a three-minute lightning talk. Just make sure to follow the first rule of journalism — Keep It Simple, Stupid — and keep it really to the point!

Join us at Tuesday August 1, Time 2000CEST via to present your three-minute (or less, we’ll be timing it!) talk followed by two minutes (or less) of constructive and supportive peer feedback.

Presentation Challenge Day 3: Create a presentation about nothing! (Or cheese!)

Now it’s time to work on the physical aspect of your presentation that will last after your talk and hopefully land you a spot in Internet history. Create a presentation on something you love and can have fun with — the sillier the better. Now make slides to go with it following these tips:

  1. Don’t use white, yellow, bright pink, orange or red backgrounds — use high-resolution photos as much as possible and then darker solid backgrounds with lighter words.
  2. Don’t use more than three bullets or one line of text per slide.
  3. Keep a consistent color theme and use the same font. (It’s quicker this way anyway.)

I personally like using free stock photos from my constantly bookmarked list on Stock Photos that Don’t Suck. I particularly find the quirky, colorful, high-res photos of Gratisography and the old-fashioned ones of New Old Stock particularly fun and engaging during talks.

Consider uploading your slides to a website like Slideshare. I get good traffic to my website — and Management 3.0 gets it by the thousands — by simply uploading finished presentations on Slideshare. As a bonus challenge today, look back at your old PowerPoints and Keynotes — are they still relevant today? Spend about ten minutes going through making sure to make any tweaks or updates and to make sure it makes sense even if the viewer hadn’t heard your talk. Then upload your slides to Make sure you include a full http:// link in the description so folks can follow up with you afterward.

Presentation Challenge Day 4: Sell yourself!

At some point in your life, you’re going to have to sell the benefits you offer, whether it’s in a job interview, with a potential client, or riding an elevator. Best to hone that pitch now. Write your 30-seconds-or-less and share it, keeping these sales pitch rules in mind:

  1. State the problem and how you solve it.
  2. Who you help and how you help them.
  3. Try to do it in only a few sentences.
  4. Share it in writing in the #exploration-days channel for feedback.

We aren’t going to do recordings of this because you should work to get the description down and memorized and natural, which may take some time.

Also Review: How to pitch like a rockstar

Presentation Challenge Day 5: Bring it all together!

This is one you can work on all week, so you have it ready for Friday.

Start by following these steps:

  1. Answer: What conference would you love to speak at because it’ll really help move you forward in either your career or hobby?
  2. Answer: What topic would you love to present there?
  3. Write a response to a call for papers or presenters — about three paragraphs, offering a compelling skeleton of your talk, the problem, and the bullets of how you will teach to solve it.
  4. Now make an uber-condensed version of your talk — ten minutes or less, with slides, following the tips you learned this week. (Don’t go for perfect, go for done. But choose a topic you’re an expert in so you can get it done during your work week and that you’d feel comfortable with.)
  5. Share your pitch with your Happy Melly peers by Friday morning so people know ahead what to expect your talk to be about.
  6. Either join us on Friday August 4, Time 1900CEST via to give your presentation and offer feedback to others or record ahead and upload or link to it on our Slack channel.
  7. Apply the feedback of others to hone your pitch.
  8. Respond to that CFP.
  9. If you get in, tell us because we’d love to promote your talk with the conference hashtag!
  10. Feel good about what you’ve accomplished already! You’ve surely worked hard this week to not only get your pitch accepted, but to nail your talk, especially since you’ve already practiced. Great work!

Also Read: “How to speak at more industry events (we asked an expert)”

And if all else fails, take a page from the presentation playbook and imagine your audience in its underwear — after all, you won’t have any problems smiling when you look someone in the eye!

Also Review: How to keep that Imposter Syndrome at bay

What public speaking tips do you want to add to the list? How did your week go? What did you learn? Tell us in the comments below!

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  1. Thanks for sharing this quality information with us. I really enjoyed reading.

    Comment by Noi that xe hoi on August 2, 2017 at 4:39 AM

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This article is written by Jennifer Riggins on July 31st 2017.

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