Still More Top Ten Tips for Incredibly Successful Public Speaking

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Public Speaking  |  Personal branding  |  Best Practices

DMScott_speaking_1One of my most popular posts was in 2009 when I gave my top ten tips for incredibly successful public speaking. So many people liked that and referred to it over time, that I ran a follow-up titled more top ten tips for incredibly successful public speaking a few years later.

It’s time for ten more!

But first a recap of the first twenty tips. You can go to the original posts if you want to dig into the detail behind each tip.

1. Take it seriously.

2. Know the conference organizer's goals.

3. Tell stories.

4. Nobody cares about your products (except you).

5. Prepare and practice.

6. Don't use PowerPoint as a TelePrompTer.

7. Arrive early.

8. Bring an electronic copy of your presentation.

9. Don't go long.

10. Be aware of body language.

11. Learn from the best.

12. Find out about the audience.

13. Test the technology!

14. Prepare for things to go wrong.

15. Help the MC to find an interesting way to introduce you.

16. Have fun!

17. Work the entire stage.

18. Include real-time elements.

19. Get photos and videos of the event from the organizers.

20. Ask for honest feedback. 

Still More Top Ten Tips for Incredibly Successful Public Speaking

21. One idea per slide. In an average 1-hour talk, I will show nearly 200 slides. Each slide has just one idea. Many people will tell you some nonsense like “5 minutes per slide” or “3 minutes per slide”. That’s an eternity!  Show a bunch of slides at a rapid pace. I’m not a fan of cramming a bunch of ideas onto each slide.

22. Use images instead of words on your slides. The absolute worst slide is the one with 6 bullet points (which, interestingly, is a PowerPoint default when you build a new presentation). Don’t do this! If you must use words, limit them to just a handful and use a big font. I prefer images to words.

23. Do not take Question and Answers. This one is controversial. In my experience, Q&A has potential to be a downer. You give it your all in the speech. You tell stories. You build your arc and finish on a high note. The applause comes and you feel great. And then there is an awkward silence as the Q&A is opened up. Perhaps there is a negatively worded question you need to tackle. You risk that the last thing the audience hears is a downer. I say don’t do it. 

24. If you absolutely must take Q&A because the event organizer insists, make it a separate part of the talk. I request that somebody (preferably a journalist) comes onto the stage to lead the Q&A and conduct it like a “fireside chat”. Tall director-style chairs are brought in and we physically go to a different part of the stage. The Q&A moderates and asks the first several questions giving the audience a chance to think of other questions. This demarcation between the speech and the Q&A works well when a Q&A session is required.

25. Use your own notebook computer to deliver the talk and have any video or audio embedded. One of the biggest mistakes I see from presenters is fumbling to switch from their slides to videos. You lose momentum and look unprofessional when you muck about to make something work. And when AV staff handles the video, it almost always means the speaker has to say: “Roll the video,” which inevitably means a five second wait for this to happen. Avoid all that frustration by embedding videos into your presentation so all you have to do is click once to start the video immediately.

26. Avoid using live web connections. Some people argue with me on this one. I think a speech is a place to showcase ideas and you risk failure when you go to a live connection. Your videos should be embedded locally, not accessed from YouTube. Demos should be simulated, not attempted live. I’ve seen many instances where a speaker tests the WiFi connection in an empty room and everything works fine. But during the talk, when there are 500 people in the room chowing down on the Internet connection, the demo or video craps out. It’s just too risky.

27. Reboot your computer just before you hook up to AV and only run the application you need for the presentation. While it is quite funny for the audience when your appointment reminder or an SMS pops up live on screen, that’s not good for you, so to avoid any issues start with a freshly booted computer with nothing else running. Don't forget to turn off your WiFi connection too.

28. Work with the AV team and let them know what you are planning. Do you go into the audience? Let the team know. Ask about any lighting or sound issues you need to know about. Make friends with the AV staff and they will treat you right. 

29. Consider having house lights on during your talk. Conferences evolved from the theater and theaters are kept dark, therefore the default is that conference audiences are usually really dark. I like to work with the lighting people to see if we can have the house lights at least partly on. That helps to keep the room lively, the audience alert, and I can see beyond the first few rows.

30. Set up auto tweets to deliver additional information to the audience in real-time. Before I go on, I set up several tweets timed to go out at the point in my presentation that I am talking about that particular topic. The tweets point to a blog post, ebook, or video that provides more detail about what I am talking about. I use Buffer for this but there are other tools.

Bonus. Turn off your lavaliere microphone if you use the restroom just before going onstage. Yes there was an incident. No I won't provide details.

Photo: I’m working the stage at a Tony Robbins Business Mastery event.

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