Two Tips Every Public Speaker Needs to Know

You have a presentation coming up. You're staring at a blank page wondering what you're going to say. If this is you, you're probably over thinking it. If you've been asked to speak from your expertise, then you already have the topic. The challenge is to find the right approach. Public speaking doesn't have to be difficult, but so many times we make it complicated. A number of years ago, I attended a conference. The speaker was a panelist on the topic of funding. While funding is not the most exciting area, this presenter stood out among her peers. She was clear, informative, and funny. After her presentation, I approached her to compliment her on her talk. It was then that she shared the secret to her success.

In every presentation, she confided, "I tell them something they don't know, and I make them laugh." How simple and how profound.

  1. Tell them something they don't know. In order to do this you need to know the audience. Start by sending a brief survey. What is their technical level of understanding? What do they need to know? Where is there a gap in their knowledge or understanding? What are the common myths that you can dispel? Why is this information of value? How will it make their jobs, businesses, or lives better?
  2. Make them laugh. You don't have to be a comedian to inject humor but the best public speakers know how to elicit a laugh. There is a saying among professional speakers. When asked if you need to be funny to be a professional speaker, the common retort is "Only if you want to be paid." Laughter relaxes the audience, allows you to convey information that might otherwise be resisted, and most importantly, humor builds trust. People like a presenter who makes them laugh. To add humor, build in a funny story or a personal anecdote that the audience can relate to. A little self deprecating humor can go a long way in humanizing a public speaker- as long as it isn't overdone. Or take a common frustration and poke fun at it. Exaggerate it. As one comedian said, "Humor = exaggeration + surprise."

The next time you give a presentation remember these two tips:

  1. Tell them something they don't know.
  2. Make them laugh.

You'll be surprised at how simple public speaking can be when you follow these guidelines.