Last updated on December 2nd, 2023.
In October 2023, I had my first public speaking engagement.
I was anxious.
And I did what I always do when I’m anxious: I consumed way too much material on the topic.
For six weeks, I spent a lot of time learning more about the concept of public speaking. I took a public speaking class, got some one-on-one coaching, read a book and watched many YouTube tutorials.
Let’s review the key lessons I learned during this period. And at the end of this page, I share the resources I consumed and the ones I most recommend.
Pitch, write, speak, relax: learning public speaking step by step
Below, I share my tips for each of the seven steps of the public speaking process.
- Find a topic
- Decide on a pitch
- Write the speech
- Create slides
- Do a trial run
- Give the presentation
- Post the presentation
1. Find a topic for your presentation
- Speak about a topic you are an expert in. It can be a situation you’ve experienced or a solution you’ve found. Crystal Carter shares five areas you can explore: “How to choose a talk topic”
2. Write a conference pitch
- Tell why you’re an expert on the topic and explain what the audience will learn in the session. Here is a sample of Isaline Mülhauser and Irina Serdyukovskaya.
3. Write the speech
- One way to capture interest is to start and end the speech with the same thought (e.g., ask a question at the beginning and ask the same question at the end or share an image at the beginning and the same image at the end).
- Another way to capture interest is to share an unexpected stat. You can refer to it during the speech.
- Introduce yourself within the first minutes of your speech. People should know who you are and why you are “legit” to discuss the topic.
- Make the content rememberable, e.g. if you share a process, break it down into 4-8 steps. Repeat the steps throughout the presentation. In my speech, I shared my framework for motivating clients and stakeholders to work on SEO. I broke it down into four steps:
#1 Clear communication
#2 Spread the love for SEO
#3 Focus on stakeholder needs
#4 Build relationships (aka. make friends)
I would remind the audience of these steps as I presented the speech. I’d make statements like “Great, now we’ve seen the first two steps: Have clear communication and to spread the love for SEO. Now, let’s jump to the most important step: Focus on stakeholder needs.”
- Personal stories give flavour to the theory. People will remember better.
- During the speech – ask the audience a question to wake them up. I haven’t done that, but it’s a wonderful recommendation from Sara Moccand Sayegh.
- End the presentation with a call to action. “If you want to learn more about SEO, consider booking a training with me”. I’ve learned that it is legit to sell at the end. However, during the presentation, it is not advised.
4. Create slides
- Use a large font so the content is easy to read from the back.
- If you use a QR code to download the slides, it should be big.
5. Have a trial run
- If you would like to train with experts in public speaking, you can ask a local Toastmasters club to come and present. You can find a club here: toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club/
- I recommend doing a trial run with someone from your industry and someone outside your industry. The people from the industry can give you feedback on the content. The people outside of it will flag if there’s too much jargon. Here’s a checklist from Toastmasters to evaluate your trial run.
- If you can have a trial run at the venue, do it. Pay attention to how loud you need to speak to reach people in the back.
6. Run the show 🎉
- Try not to speak to the screen. Instead, try to turn to the audience. Imagine you have a sunbeam shining from your chest; it should always point to the audience.
- Find friendly faces in the audience and speak to them. Rotate your glance after two to three sentences.
- People make funny faces when they are concentrating. Don’t let that irritate you. If possible, ask some friends to nod along your presentation.
- Posture: Keep your shoulders down and legs hip-width apart, try not to bounce. I like how DK explains the ideal posture in his TED talk.
- Lesson learned the hard way: If you have a clicker to move on with the slides, point the clicker towards the computer and not towards the screen.
- Don’t rush, try to enjoy your show. Try to include mini pauses after each sentence.
- In case you get nervous try to focus on your breath. It is also good to drink a sip to get a short break.
7. After the event
- There are sites like SlideShare or Speaker Deck where you can share the slides afterwards. They are like social media platforms for slides.
- Share your key takeaways on your social media profiles.
There are a total of 23 tips above, and they’re what worked for me. I hope they help, and I’m keen to learn from YOU. Please share in the comments or write to me on Social Media.
Resources to learn public speaking
Below are the resources I consumed. I explicitly mark the resources I recommend with a star 🌟.
🌟 The public speaking lesson you never had – DK . – This video helped me with stage presence.
7 Public Speaking Tips for Beginners – Alexander Lyon – Alexander covers a lot in 7 minutes from slide design to stage presence to speaking.
4 Tips To IMPROVE Your Public Speaking – How to CAPTIVATE an Audience – Simon Sinek says you should focus on sharing and not branding yourself with a speech (e.g, no logos, no QR-code – I disagree)
How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers – Vanessa Van Edwards – Vanessa says you should not mention being a first-time public speaker – I disagree. I believe vulnerability builds trust.
Verity Price on how to evaluate effectively – Verity Price – This video shows how to give feedback to public speakers. This is helpful for your trial run.
How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking – Viv Groskop – This book shares examples of inspiring female public speakers,
🌟Public Speaking Toolkit – Crystal Carter – This is a comprehensive guide on how to start public speaking. The article on how to find a topic especially helped me.
🌟 Speaking in public – Google Skillshop -27 minutes well invested to get the hang of the basics of public speaking. I highly recommend it.
Rhetorisch fit wie Zwingli – a course at the local church in Zürich by the former Ladina Spiess.
🌟If you can invest some money into personal coaching, I recommend Aline.
Local public speaking club
🌟 You can find your local public speaking club on Toastmasters.
I’m keen to learn from you. Please share your public speaking story and your tips. I’m curious to see what you may have done differently.