The Art of Public Speaking: It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

A generation of adults remembers being told as a child, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”. Truer words could not be spoken, especially when it comes to the art of public speaking. Let’s face it, we’ve all been subject to what was intended to be a great, inspirational speech but turned out to be nothing more than a lengthy lecture. Anyone working in event planning knows, well should know, the importance of selecting the right keynote speaker for the right event. A great speaker is crucial to not only kickstarting the event but setting the tone for the following sessions. 

Great public speaking takes acute skill to not only deliver a moving and memorable speech but to connect with the audience on a personal level that allows them to feel receptive to the message being delivered. Yes, it takes talent; however, one can learn to be a formidable speaker by following the tips below.

Image of Denise Soler Cox speaking at Please Welcome- The Art of Public Speaking blog featured image

Ways to Master the Art of Public Speaking

Be Authentic.

Audiences are different than they were ten… or even five years ago and technology has a lot to do with that. We are all used to smartphones and tablets with the ability to find on-demand content delivered by, what seem to be, content specialists. What speakers on stage need to bring is authenticity. An audience can sense if a speaker is acting in a second flat! People want REAL. They also want to be entertained – however, this can mean many different things. It can mean actual entertainment, as in comedy, but it can also mean seeing or hearing the unexpected, or surprisingly learning new/relevant information. The bottom line is that a speaker must be authentic, interesting and or surprising while delivering relevant content that has value.

Talk Less.

Great speakers know how to get in and get out. They do not dwell on a topic because they know that today’s audiences don’t want to listen to a 90-minute keynote speech. It’s just unnecessary! If your message can be delivered in twenty minutes, cut the fluff and give the audience the best twenty minutes of their life. This is exactly why TEDTalks became and remain so popular. The speakers don’t beat around the bush with tedious tropes and dead-end stories, they get straight to the point while making it humorous, touching, suspenseful, or just plain frank. 

Be Comfortable.

This may go without saying but it’s one of the most important things a public speaker can do…or be. Stage fright is real and often debilitating, which is why many people will never speak publicly. The worst thing for an audience is to be stuck in a room with someone on stage who is not so quietly dying inside. Great public speakers are at home on the stage or behind the podium. They live for the thrill of addressing the masses. The bigger the better! The same could be said for those who work on skyscrapers or bridges – the height doesn’t seem to bother them, while others have trouble taking an escalator up to the next floor. With that being said, would you feel more comfortable with a pilot who is afraid of heights? No! You want that calm, smooth 

voice on the other end of the intercom to be comfortable with what they are about to lead you into. The same goes for public speaking. When you’re comfortable, your audience will be comfortable and eagerly allow you to take them on a journey with your words. 

Be Knowledgable.

Along the same lines as being authentic and comfortable, audience members can tell when you are making stuff up. Being a content specialist is an asset when it comes to being a public speaker. Even having some experience in the field or area you are discussing is great but speaking to a room full of doctors about hemodynamic monitoring when the closest you have come to an operating room is when you got your tonsils removed may not be the best idea. Why? They’ll know. Know your topic, and your audience, and speak to both. Audiences actively engage with someone they can relate to. That room full of doctors probably won’t relate if your resume lacks any medical background. 

Be Empathetic, Yet Enthusiastic.

This is where the “art” of public speaking really comes in. Some of the best speeches are the ones that were the most emotional, think award show acceptance speeches. Tears, laughter, humanity – it all comes together to give the audience all the feels. Granted, most of them are not scripted but they all started from the same place, the heart. Focus on the “why” of your speech and what audiences should take away. Your emotion and passion about a topic will draw your audience in; however, a lack of enthusiasm will push them away. What is the reason you are speaking and does your audience care? Questions that should be answered before you step foot on the stage.

Be Tech-Savvy.

Remember that everyone learns differently. Some people live for text while others fly through Ikea instructions with ease, with many people somewhere in between. The audience will be filled with all of them, so plan accordingly. Using a slide deck with pictures or short phrases to help support your words is a great way to reach the greatest number of people. However, don’t rely solely on your PowerPoint to make your speech a homerun – there’s a reason this is last on the list. Technology can make or break your success as a public speaker, especially if it’s too clunky, oversaturated, or disconnected. Use technology as a tool, not the base of your speech, and most of all, think of number two on this list. Be comfortable, not only with public speaking but with technology. 

Heroic Knows a Thing or Two About the Art of Public Speaking

It takes a lot to master the art of public speaking, the aforementioned are just a springboard. There are so many moving parts in an unforgettable speech but the biggest thing to remember is what mothers, fathers, grandparents, and teachers used to say, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”. 

For more on public speaking or selecting the right speaker for your event, contact Heroic for help in making your next event an unforgettable one.