How to improve your public speaking, 5 easy tips.

I often get asked, so I am going to put up a post on public speaking, crafting a talk or building a presentation every now and again, enjoy!

​Public speaking can be daunting to most, whether it is facing the pressure to give a killer presentation at work or a dreaded speech at your cousin you haven’t spoken to in 14 years’ wedding. We all get nervous before we speak, I still get nervous to this day, but these few tips will definitely help to get rid of some of that fear of public speaking.

Public speaking is a necessary skill, from the time of the ancient Greeks it was considered a virtue to be able to communicate clearly. Talks convey ideas, just look at TED for example, and ideas put things in motion, motion ignites change. Think of the great speakers in history, Winston ChurchillMartin Luther King, and you can almost track the changes in history to a specific speech.

Here are 5 easy tips, to help you gear up your talks: 

1. That one thing 
The main message of your talk

​​The trick to public speaking, giving a good talk, is simple, just keep it simple. Often when we try to sound impressive we want to add every single thing we have googled on the subject, and then some. Thrusting content down people’s throats is never a good idea, if they wanted to hear about the whole of Wikipedia they could have read it themselves.

Just stay focused on one central idea. Think of it as turning a jewel in your hand, it has many different facets and angles but it is the same idea or think of walking around a statue, describing the different viewpoints.

It helps when you start prepping your talk to write down one sentence, a short one, which is the main idea of you talk, for example, ‘Having good friends is really important’. All the time while you are prepping keep asking yourself, am I still talking about this one thing? Then after prepping your talk imagine asking people in your audience to tell you what the talk was about, will they give you that same sentence as their answer?

​Keep circling that thing, say what it is not, say what it is, tell me people how the world will be when that one thing happens, or if it is taken away or missing.
What is the irreducible minimum message of your talk? You should make it as simple as possible, but not any simpler than that.

2.Bit by Bit
How to build your talk

Talks have bits.

Know which bit you are in and handle that bit accordingly. Are you in the introduction bit? The story about your childhood friend bit? The angry rant bit?
Each bit has a style and a tone, fast paced and perhaps loud, soft and slow with pauses, or humorous, some bits have big body movements, and yet others require you to stand dead still or even sit down.

Think about what the bit requires, racing through a sad story with a high pitched voice will make no sense or pausing dramatically in the middle of stats may not be the best idea, depending on the stats, it may well be a great idea. The point is to know the nature of the content you are handling.

Don’t jump between bits, finish the bit you are busy with then go onto the next one (Breaking the talk up into bits, and sticking too them, makes it easier to memorizethe talk too by the way)

Arrange your bits so they make sense, but keep the punchline hidden. A good presentation is like telling a joke, you don’t want to give it all away too soon.

​Arrange the bits like a story for example, introduce the characters, create a conflict, struggle to resolve, reach the climax, and then feather out the resolution.

3. Tell the story 
The importance of storytelling in public speaking

Presentations and talks without stories are boring. End of story.

Stories are what makes up human beings, our brains are wired to understand stories better than anything else. Bullet points are called bullet points for a reason, you are murdering your audience, rather tell a story.

Think of two or three stories, in a 40 minute talk that should be more than enough, to tell to illustrate your ONE THING, personal stories are great because they are authentic and famous movie plot lines work well too simply because people know them well and they are enshrined into our collective consciousness.

​Whatever you do, do not memorize the story, just tell it like you would tell a friend or family member, over rehearsed talks and especially over rehearsed stories are terrible and come across as fake.

4. Images are Gold
The Power of PowerPoint


There is a saying, the best slideshow or PowerPoint is no slideshow at all. However, if you must show slides, they do help with keeping track, use emotive images.

Stay away from text as far as possible, this is the most important things, slides filled with your notes, and you reading of them makes you look unprepared and lazy, plus it’s super boring to listen too.

Build your talk first, then look for images, not the other way around. Spend time looking for images that stir emotion, and as much emotion as possible without offending (too much).

If you must use words, keep it simple, 5 words across and 5 words down is a good rule, thus no more than 25 words on a slide, and they should pack a punch.


5. Breathe
how to deal with nervousness before a speech

Here is a simple breathing exercise that will help you focus and keep calm before your presentation.

Imagine a square, breath in for four seconds, going up the one side of the square, then hold your breath for four seconds, going along the top of the square. Then going down the other side of the square exhale for four seconds, and finally tracing the bottom of the square, keep your lungs empty for four seconds. Keep on going around the square for a few minutes, breathing from your stomach and not your shoulders. You should feel much calmer almost instantly.
​So there you go, five easy things to help you craft a killer talk next time, even if it is for that cousin whose name you keep forgetting, the rest of the people will love it.
By Pierre du Plessis, trend analyst and popular public speaker.

Pictures from Stokpic
Sanele Xaba by Justin Dingwall