So You Think You Can’t Do Public Speaking

What’s the magic that just a handful of presenters have that you don’t?
Some may say they’re natural orators.
Yet, when the time comes for them to speak in front of a crowd, do you think they simply approach the podium and let their most memorable words spontaneously roll off their tongue?
That would be the end of speechwriters, wouldn’t it?
The art of public speaking can be learned.
Although this post will not teach you how to become a world-renowned speaker, it will help you pinpoint what you personally need to focus on to make your speaking more powerful.
Why is that important at all?
Because whether you are working in corporate or you have you own business, you interact with people and you convey a  certain message about what you can do and the difference you have made. If you could speak more effectively to groups, more power to you.

Public Speaking

There are three major elements of public presentation:

  • The content of your message
  • The connection you make with the audience
  • The impact of your message

So, where do you start?
Unlike many books about public speaking, I suggest we begin at the end.


In one of my earliest corporate presentations, our IT Director asked me to tell representatives from other departments about the Energy Distribution Project I was heading. My manager expected me to share the goal of the project, to go through milestones, and to explain how far we had progressed at that point. In corporate parlance this is referred to as “giving status.”
How many times in the past were you asked to give a status update?
When I thought about the people who were listening, I realized that merely telling them what they asked for would be doing a half-assed job. I would still need to contact each one of them again and recap my project’s status once more so that I might ask for their help in coordinating future progress.
That was probably the first moment I became conscious about my message’s impact, or its lack thereof.
At that point, I decided to request their cooperation across departments while I was presenting. I followed up on that. And that helped the project succeed.
Very straightforward message; that is what the impact of your message could be.
It doesn’t matter if you need to talk about sales, share status, introduce a service, uncover an innovation, discuss survey or research results, respond to lessons learned, or anything else.
There is always a message that you’ll want your audience to take with them and act upon at the end.
Start with that!
Once you have figured out the impact you want to have, it’s time to line up your story.


Many business owners and salespeople I’ve observed go about presenting in a strictly logical way. They furnish facts, features, and statistics one after the other. They are confident that arming their audience with facts will get their message across.
Have you ever sat in the audience while someone—possibly one of your old professors—went through piles and piles of facts, graphs, and charts?
You would be one in a million if you remembered more than a smidgen of all that information a few days after that presentation was given.
So, if it is not effective, why do people do it?
Because they think that by spouting facts, they look like experts.
It makes sense that you want to convey your expertise. That alone, however, does not serve your message, and frankly, it can bore people to tears.
So, if you want the members of your audience to start yawning, go ahead and bombard them with facts.
If, on the other hand, you want them to remember what you say, excite them.
Now back to sharing facts (if you absolutely must).
There is a limit to the amount of information people will absorb during one sitting. You need to carefully choose a few specific facts that are most crucial to convey. You would do even better to tell a story, paint a picture, or tell a joke regarding a fact.
You can always distribute or e-mail a handout with facts as a followup to your presentation.
You still not sure that you will be perceived as an expert? Analyze facts. People are always more interested in the meaning behind the numbers than in the numbers themselves. And, if you are the one explaining cause and effect, you probably possess the knowledge they lack.
Once you have organized the facts you want to share , move on to develop a unique way to deliver them.


I’ve already mentioned that you would do better to you use stories, jokes, and pictures.
Believe it or not, many professional speakers know their jokes by heart. Moreover, they know exactly when to tell them.
Because the punch line puts their audiences exactly where they want them to be both mentally and emotionally.
At this point in your preparation, it’s important to understand that your delivery style is all about the type of connection you want to build with your audience. Would you like your presentation to be interactive? Or not at all? Would you include group exercises? Individual or partner work? Would you consider taking questions all along? Or you’ll have Q&A at the end?
Keep in mind that you’d like to engage your audience as much as possible. You can do this by playing to their emotions. Not that they need to jump off their chairs or echo your words in unison. It’s way simpler than that.
The story you share should have a memorable lesson that touches their feelings. How about describing something sad, happy, funny, hilarious, magical, courageous, or amazing? Choose the emotion that makes the most sense for the message you want to deliver.
I will not go into all the possible styles of delivery here, simply because you need to discover the one that works for you. Reading about all the others will only waste your time.
Well, you might be wondering, how will you know what style works for you?
Remember a time you spoke to two or three of your close friends, and it seemed like somehow you left them hanging on every word that came out of your mouth?
Such memories are a place to start. They reveal your most natural mode of delivery.
Use it again.
You can also experiment with styles that you see other presenters using. I stress experiment, meaning you should test them with smaller crowds first or perhaps in front of a mentor, friend, or coach who will be happy to give you constructive feedback.

So next time you need to prepare a presentation, stick to the three elements described here, and tell us how it changed the experience for you.
If you struggle with public speaking, call us at (732)385-1522 and we’ll discuss how we can help you.