10 Public speaking tips from the pros

Speaking in public is the Achilles heel of many entrepreneurs. You could be the biggest, most experienced business person out there and still fumble when you get on stage and have to present an idea to an audience. While it is certainly okay for that to happen, since we’re only human after all, being able to harness the art of public speaking is a serious advantage for any entrepreneur.


Today, business leaders can no longer get away with sitting quietly in the corner, minding the bottom line. Instead, CEOs and founders are akin to public figures, celebrated and often invited to speak on the various matters impacting their business environments. So much so that taking part in public relations activities is now a major KPI for many leaders. Still, whether you’re at the helm of a company or not, there are many other times in your journey that you will need to master the art of speaking in front of an audience. From pitching for funding or support to giving company talks and presentations, there is no shortage of situations where entrepreneurs have to speak clearly and with conviction.


To help us navigate the art of public speaking and how to do it effectively, we got the help of Toastmasters Mark Brown (1995 World Champion) and Verity Price (2021 World Champion) to share their thoughts and insights.


Everybody has the ability to do public speaking – a lot to do with the dreaded orals and presentations during our school days, if you ask us. When faced with even just the possibility of having to present to an audience, our first instinct is fear.


But why, exactly, are we afraid to speak in front of others? Both Mark and Verity had interesting takes on this question. Firstly, as Mark so clearly put it, “we are not afraid of public speaking, we’re afraid of public judgement.”


But Verity had the most interesting, scientific take on it: “The theory that makes the most sense for me as to why we’re afraid of speaking in public is when we look at the difference between predators and prey. The predator’s eyes face forward because they’re on the hunt, while the prey’s eyes are on the side of their heads because they’re making sure that they’re not getting eaten. Which way do human eyes face? So when you stand up to speak in front of a room full of people, your brain is going, ‘I am lunch! These people are going to eat me.’ It’s actually a very instinctive thing.”


To help you overcome your fear of public speaking, here are 10 tips to assist you:


  1. Preparation is Key – Your presentation is a gift to the audience. If they love it, they’ll take it home and unwrap it. Be clear in your message and craft your story to land in people’s hearts.

  2. Deliver Experiences – Stop giving speeches and start delivering experiences. A simple way to do that is by telling stories. But don’t just tell them – relive them.

  3. Bring your life force with you – the quickest way to access your life force is to tell a story.

  4. Connect – Authenticity and vulnerability are key to connecting with your audience.

  5. Control your emotion – Be authentic but don’t let your emotions overwhelm the audience and distract from your message.

  6. Keep it simple – Craft your talk in a way that an 8-year-old can understand – simple, vivid words will help you keep your audience.

  7. Adapt to virtual – If you’re giving a virtual talk, speak through the camera and not at it.

  8. Focus on your friends behind the lens – speak through the camera as if you are speaking to someone you love.

  9. Practice before payment – Don’t expect to get paid immediately – learn to speak for free until you can speak for a fee.

  10. Your accent is an asset – don’t lose it, use it. In fact, bring your whole being to the presentation.

You can watch the full presentation here.

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