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Top Five Public Speaking Tips

September 20, 2018

Years before I discovered Improv these five speaking tips turned me from a shy, nervous programmer into a confident extroverted speaker. I was 20 years old and had never given a speech in my life.  I was so insecure that I refused to even look at myself on video and I had spent my teen-years in my comfort zone, camped in my basement teaching myself to program. I loved math and I loved to code. I was gifted and I didn't have to talk to people so no one could hurt me or laugh at me or reject me. When I started college I was no different, finishing my Computer Science degree in two years and landing my dream job on Wall Street at the age of 19. With my entire life laid out before me I decided to try something new: learn to speak in public.

 

Thank. God. I turned my life from living in fear of people to embracing the connection I secretly craved. These five tips are the core of what I learned in class that trained me in just 12 weeks to believe in myself and make the memorable impression I'm known for today.

 

 

 

Here are the five tips to make you a persuasive communicator.

 

1. Know your thesis.

 

Effective communication has one central point and everything in the speech supports this central point. If we have more than one point the audience gets confused and becomes distracted by sorting the information. And distracted is ineffective. The thesis of this blog post is "These five tips will make you a persuasive communicator." Everything in the post supports this thesis, including the introduction which supports the thesis as "WIIFM" and "Credibility" - explained below.

 

2. State your Credibility

 

We learn from people we trust as an expert. If I'm teaching public speaking and I'm nervous and weak, people will leave. Most people join my class because they meet me in person and see immediately that I'm credible. Without credibility, no one will accept your message.

 

Credibility comes from a variety of sources:

1. Personal Expertise: If I have a PhD in astrophysics, I am a credible source about black holes.

2. Secondary Expertise: if I've read 100 books about black holes, I am a credible source although not as credible has having a PhD.

3. Social Proof: If Neil DeGrasse Tyson calls me an expert on black holes, I'm an expert in black holes.

 

Tailor your credibility to your audience. If I'm speaking to a group of actors, I'm not going to cite my mathematics degree as credibility. if I'm speaking to conservatives, I'm not going to quote MSNBC as a source. Use sources that your audience finds credible because the speech is for the audience, not yourself.

 

3. WIIFM can never come too early or too often

 

WIIFM means "What's in it for me?" In other words, as a listener what do I have to gain from this speech? If we're talking about climate change, the WIIFM is not obvious because many people see it as irrelevant to their life. Therefore many speakers will cite the "think of the children" argument which is weak because many people aren't having kids nowadays. So we need to get creative.

 

You can never stretch WIIFM too much. You like beaches? Save the planet. You want to save on your AC bill in the summer? Save the planet! Hate airplanes delays? Global warming causes XYZ delays each year...

 

4. Stick the Landing

 

Hello? My name is Brittney? I'm 20 years old? 

 

Have you ever heard someone talk like this? Like they're not even sure what they're own name is? This "valley girl" accent when we raise the end of the sentence is called "upseak" and it makes us sound weak and insecure. Pretend that after every period there's a "Damn it." "I'm Brittney, Damn it!" Now take out the Damn, It and we're left with "I'm Brittney" said confidently and authoritatively.

 

Never say a statement like a question. Some languages like Hungarian naturally have intonation which sounds weak in English so this tip is the most urgent for native speakers of those languages.

 

5. Feet shoulder width apart.

 

Body Language comes down to standing with stability. We like people who are balanced. Leaning on one leg, standing too narrow or looking down when we talk contributes to the feeling of nervousness and lack of credibility. The easiest fix for body language is to put your feet shoulder width apart and let your arms hang naturally - hands out of the pockets! It will be uncomfortable at first and after a week or two it will be natural and fun!

 

Those are the five tips that make up half of your public speaking mistakes! We'll learn these and so much more at Conversation Charisma, Monday the 24th @ House Bar. See you 7PM on Monday!

 

-Peter

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