If you're reading this, I think it's safe to assume that you have some public speaking experience and are looking for ways to get better.
Either that or you’re new to public speaking, and you want to up your public speaking game before your first (or next) time in front of an audience.
Either way, you’re in the right place. 🙂
"How to be a better public speaker" is the question we're going to tackle together in this article and hopefully find answers to.
With this article, I'm going to share 11 tips I think are highly effective for "leveling up" your public speaking game.
Let's jump right in.
Get Familiar With Your Audience
One of the biggest qualities of great public speakers is that they actually understand the wants and needs of their audience. Great public speakers understand their audience's desires and where they're coming from.
Because they understand these things, they can do a better job of connecting with their audience.
And I have 11 tips just for that in this article: How to Engage the Audience [Top 11 Tips].
Gaining more in-depth knowledge of your audience (and their wants and needs) is one of the many things you’ll want to do if you intend to become better as a public speaker.
So start with getting a better understanding of who you’ll be speaking to. As simple as that.
Study Other Good Public Speakers
Have you ever watched a public speaker truly Awesome on Stage?
I mean, you’re sitting there in the audience, and you’re hooked on every word. They’re captivating, they’re engaging, and you’re enjoying every moment of watching & listening to them.
Whenever you see someone like that (whether in person or on video)...
Let me be clear on this, though: I'm not telling you to go out and copy everything these speakers do. I'm not suggesting you imitate or try to take what they do and make it 100% Your Own. And I'm certainly not asking you to "bite their style," as they say in the hip-hop world when you completely copy someone else's dance moves.
Don't do that.
What I'm asking you to do is look at what they do and how they do it. And then ask yourself: "why?" and “how come.”
WHY did what this speaker did there have such a positive effect on me?
HOW COME that worked so well?
You should try to unpack these questions, find answers to them, and then implement these answers in your own way.
It is perfectly fine to take what someone else does (or has done) and try to put Your Own spin on it. The bottom line, however, is to study what they do. Because if they're that awesome at it, chances are, they've been doing it for a very long time.
As a matter of fact, if you’re watching someone who is clearly an expert at something you want to get better at, I would suggest that it would be silly to NOT study them. After all, what they’re doing is obviously working extremely well.
So tip #2 is to study great public speakers and try to emulate them "in your own way."
Focus On Connecting, And Less On Your Slides
I'll tell you a secret: I’m on stage or recording video content all the time. And whenever I’m speaking or recording, I have notes next to me as a “cheat sheet” of sorts. Because one of the challenges creators face, be they writers, speakers, or vloggers, is that we want to make sure we don't forget anything.
This is understandable.
However, here's the thing: What do you think is more important than not forgetting things? Do you know?
More important than anything you have to say to your audience is your connection to them.
While I even have a notepad with bullet points and an outline right here with me as I write, I actually spend the bulk of my time writing from the heart and trying to put a little of myself into every word.
Because more important than remembering every little detail of every little thing is my ability to connect with you, dear reader.
Focusing on connecting (as opposed to just reading) is critical to you becoming a better public speaker. When you have a presentation or speech, what I would suggest you do if you have a lot of text on your slides, is to take all of that text out and leave the slides as bullet points and pictures.
Trust me when I tell you this: Nobody wants to watch you on stage only to have you stare at a screen and read your slides to them.
If "reading" your slides is all you intend to do, it might save everyone some time if you simply gave your speech to them and let them read it for themselves.
Practice, practice, and then practice some more.
Unless you’re forced to be impromptu, don't just wing things before you get on stage or while you're on it.
The fact of the matter is that public speaking is a skill, just like any other. Getting better at public speaking is no different from getting better at riding a bike or playing the violin.
The more you practice, the better you get at it.
Over the years, I've been on stage more times than I can count… and despite the thousands of times I’ve been on stage, I STILL practice before I get onstage or on camera.
I practice my speeches in the shower… I practice my speeches in between sets at the gym… and if I’m in the car driving, I turn down the radio and practice some more.
When I’m backstage and about to go on, I’m constantly practicing to myself and muttering my speech.
Do I look crazy? Yes
Do people think I’m possessed? Yes?
Do I care? Nope! Because I understand that practicing/rehearsing is one of the keys to me crushing it when I take the stage.
And while practice doesn't make perfect, it very well does a good job of making you better.
Remember That The Audience Wants You To Win
This is actually one of my favorite tips for overcoming stage fright. And understanding will absolutely make you a better speaker.
One of the things that great speakers understand is that the audience is always in your corner, rooting for you.
When you understand this, a lot of the stage fright and the anxiety goes away.
With this anxiety gone, you become freer to step into yourself and give your performance your best.
This is why I put this tip right in the middle. Because if you understand that your audience is on your side and wants you to win, it becomes easier for you to become a better public speaker.
Dress The Part
Here's the funny thing about dressing up. I want this to sound right, so I'm choosing my words carefully here: Dressing up in today's world isn't as "strict" as it was decades ago.
Back in the day, if you had to speak in public, there was only one way to dress: In a suit and a tie.
Today, you're often good to go in jeans and a t-shirt.
But whether you’re in jeans and a t-shirt or you’re wearing a 3-piece suit, the important thing is to understand your audience before you get in front of them and dress the part in an authentic and aligned way.
Personally, if/when I’m emceeing a multi-million dollar company event, I almost always wear a sharp vest & tie combo with nice slacks.
But…When I’m making videos for my YouTube channel, and the videos are going to be watched mostly by people who already know me, then “dressing the part” means simply putting on a well-fitting t-shirt.
The point is to be aware of how you're dressed.
If you're not sure about how to dress, then my general rule of thumb is to dress a little bit nicer than the average person at the event. One of the things this does is that it gives you a chance at a better first impression.
The saying "never judge a book by its cover" exists because we’re all guilty of judging people based on how they look/dress.
By dressing the part or dressing slightly nicer when you're unsure of what to wear, you're giving the audience one less thing to judge you negatively on.
Because to them, often, we subconsciously make the assumption that a nicely dressed person obviously knows what they're talking about. And while this assumption may be silly, if people are going to subconsciously think it, then it makes sense for you to lean into it by dressing the part.
This is what professionals do.
Professional public speakers record themselves doing what they do and then watch these recordings.
What this does for you is that it gives you a way to see yourself the way your audience sees you.
The way you see or hear yourself on stage is definitely not how the audience sees you. Understanding that fact, the question now becomes, "how can you see yourself the way they see you?"
The simple answer to this is, "record yourself."
If you record yourself and then look at the recordings later, you can figure out how you appear to your audience and what you may need to adjust (or keep) when it comes to your performance.
And remember, don’t be too judgemental of yourself. This isn't about grading your performance in a harsh or negative light. It’s about improving. How can you be a better public speaker if you don’t know what to improve?
Pick out the things you do right and focus on the good stuff just as much as you focus on the stuff you want to improve.
The point is, when you watch recordings of yourself on stage, you can see yourself as the audience sees you. Once you see yourself in that light, it’s much easier to make adjustments and figure out where there’s an opportunity for improvement.
Relax and Slow Down
If I'm going to be real with you, I also have to work on this A LOT.
I naturally speak fast. And sometimes, I get so excited to share whatever it is I have to share that I end up speaking a million miles a minute. Sometimes it feels like I can't get my words out fast enough, but I'll tell you now: It can be exhausting to audiences.
It can be exciting at first when someone comes up on stage to talk to an audience, and they're speaking a million miles per minute. The audience may find themselves curious to find out what's making you so excited.
After a few minutes, however, listening to you starts to feel like a chore. My suggestion to you is to take a few deep breaths, relax and then speak.
Here's a fun fact: You may or may not know this, but regular conversation happens at around 120 - 150 words per minute. More often than not, when you get on stage and have to speak to an audience with the adrenaline still running in your veins, you’re likely to speak significantly faster than 150 words per minute.
This is why this particular tip is all about you making a CONSCIOUS effort to slow down.
When you do this, your speech may feel a bit slow to you because of how fast your brain is working.
But to your audience… you'll be speaking at just the right speed.
So the 8th tip you have to remember is to slow down and relax.
Talk To Your Audience Like You're Talking To Your Friends
…because they actually are your friends.
Once I understood that I could speak to an audience the way I spoke to my buddies from college (within reason, of course), it freed me up to become more authentic. And when I was more authentic, I was a better public speaker.
When I first started making YouTube videos and getting on stage, what I thought was that my audience wanted me to be some "pristine and polished, suit and tie" personality who always used the right words and never made mistakes.
Well, I'll tell you now: This isn't what your audience wants or needs… at all.
What people want is to be part of a conversation. And what makes these conversations worth having for them is when they feel like they're speaking or listening to a friend.
It is perfectly fine to speak to your audience as you'd speak to your homies. Again, within reason -LOL. I mean, after all, I cuss when I’m with my friends... A LOT. But you rarely find me dropping an f-bomb when I’m on stage.
The point is to speak to them like you actually know them.
One of the things I've found out is that when I start the conversation off with my audience like I'm speaking to my friends, it puts them at ease and makes them go, "oh, this person is cool... I like them".
This is true whether you’re on the physical stage or a virtual one.
Focus On Serving And Giving… Not Presenting
What does this mean to you?
Why might serving your audience be better than presenting to them?
These questions may be easier to answer if I put things like this:
Intention is everything.
One of the things we subconsciously look for sometimes when we get on stage is audience approval. We think thoughts like: "I'm going to present, and I hope they approve of my presentation."
This isn't what you want.
When you get up on stage, instead of worrying about how to present, your focus should be, "How can I give to these people? How can I serve them?"
Even in this article, as I write, I'm less concerned about negative feedback (if it exists). What I'm more worried or excited about is helping that one person who is going to read this and use it to become a better speaker.
If this article finds its way to a single person... If it helps just one person become a better public speaker, and I get to be the one who gives that to them, then I'm happy.
Because it means that I've done my job.
When you get on stage, be it a physical stage, a Twitter thread, a YouTube video, or an Instagram post, your focus... your intention should be giving and serving.
You should ask yourself, "how can I take this knowledge or experience inside me, and give it to my audience so that their lives are leveled up?"
If you find an answer to this, you're good to go.
Own Your Mess-Ups, And Be Willing To Make Fun Of Yourself
True story: I was the MC at a seminar of about 3000 people once. I was in the middle of a talk with them, and the line I meant to say next was, "the information you're about to get today is going to help you level up your success."
I'd already said what I said in front of all 3000 people before I realized that instead of saying "success" at the end of my sentence, I'd used the word "sex" instead.
The audience laughed at my slip-up while I stood there.
And you know what I did?
I owned it… I didn't shy away from it. After I realized what I'd said, I paused, smiled, and added, "You See? I bet you didn't even know you were getting that bonus. Aren't you lucky you're here?"
With that line, I managed to turn a totally cringeworthy mistake into a joke and a memorable moment.
The point is to own your mess-ups and make fun of yourself every now and then. A tiny bit of self-deprecation goes a long way to show that you don't take yourself too seriously.
There's absolutely no one who speaks perfectly 100% of the time, and part of the thing that makes speakers great speakers great is that we can see their humanity.
So tip #11 for becoming a better public speaker is to own up to your mistakes and to never be afraid to laugh at yourself.
How to Be a Better Public Speaker: The Wrap-Up
There you have it.
11 tips on how to be a better public speaker. I hope that at least one of them landed well with you and helps you take a step closer to your goal of becoming more comfortable and confident on stage.
As it is with all of my content, I absolutely encourage you to take what works for you and leave what doesn’t.
If even one of these tips helps you on your journey to becoming a better public speaker, then that's awesome, and my purpose as a public speaking coach is fulfilled!
Before You Go
If you want to know how to be the best public speaker in virtually any room you walk into, check out the world's most complete public speaking course below.