As someone who has given over 100 public speeches in my career, I’m often asked about how to influence audiences and succeed at the podium. I’ll admit – when I first started public speaking, you’d think I was the one facing a firing squad rather than a friendly crowd! My hands would shake, my voice would quiver, and I just wanted it to end as quickly as possible.
But over time and many, many talks later, I’ve gotten much more comfortable speaking to groups. I’ve learned how to craft and deliver a speech that keeps audiences engaged. And most importantly, I’ve realized that confident, influential public speaking is a skill that anyone can develop with deliberate practice.
When facing a sea of expectant faces waiting to hear your words, it’s easy to panic. So rule number one is to calm your nerves. I find taking a few deep belly breaths right before I start sets the pace for poised delivery. And channeling my nervous energy into passion for my content also works wonders.
It also helps to really know your material. When possible, I don’t use slides or notes because it allows me to establish stronger eye contact. I’ll memorize key stories and data points so I can organically work them into lively discussion. The more conversational you keep it, the less formal people feel about regularly interacting. During one speech about sustainable manufacturing practices, cracking a joke about my over-caffeination that morning really resonated with the audience. After all, don’t we all have hectic mornings wrangling kids, pets, you name it?
But it’s not enough to just memorize words and hope people pay attention the whole time. To succeed at public speaking, you have to make content dynamic. I like to use vivid imagery to bring my points to life. Need an example story for a point about quality assurance technology? I’ll paint a scenario about the adjuster robot I witnessed catching a defective part zooming down the assembly line right before packaging. BOOM – instant connection to something they can envision that sticks in their minds.
And don’t be afraid of silence! Don’t just barrel through nonstop. Thoughtful pauses give people a break to digest concepts before transitioning. I also weave in opportunities for audience participation with quick polls, short discussions with a neighbor about a provocative question, and chances for Q&A. Keeping it interactive in this way maintains interest and fights disengagement.
Concluding your speech can be just as important for audience takeaways as the body of content. I like to end by summarizing my main message, tying back to stories I opened with. This bookending approach reinforces retention in those listening. And a strong, inspired call to action propels people out ready to leverage what they just learned instead of simply forgetting all about it. After a presentation on leadership principles, my ask for everyone to have an empowering development conversation with their team the next day led to real change.
In the end, influence and public speaking success boil down to loads of preparation and practice coupled with authentic audience connection. Lean into crafting content with memorable anecdotes they relate to instead of just stating facts and hopingrecall happens magically. Embrace calming techniques while owning your command of material with flexible discussions instead of rigid scripts. And focus on inspiring change through calls to action that stick beyond just clapping when you finish speaking. Follow these tips and you’ll be engaging and motivating audiences in no time at all. The podium awaits!