Professional Development Blog
The Top 12 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking

The Top 12 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking

Originally posted on by Adrian Pavia

This is the first installment in a three-part series covering GovLoop’s virtual training event on effective public speaking. The second installment provided lessons for repurposing your emotions to help deliver a stronger speech, while the third installment answered frequently asked questions about effective public communication.

They spoke with authority. They seemed calm and relaxed. Most importantly, they genuinely seemed to be having fun.

In truth, all of the GovLoop Public Speaking Tips and Tricks webinar speakers were nervous. So what was the main difference between their inward feelings of anxiety and outward projections of confidence?

The answer is simple: practice, practice and more practice. That, and each person employed important public speaking tips and tricks they’ve picked up during their careers.

Fortunately, you too can learn strategies for effective and compelling public communication.  Yesterday, March 11th, GovLoop hosted a virtual training session on the oft-dreaded subject of public speaking.  Moderated by Emily Jarvis, Online Editor at GovLoop, the panel featured the following speakers:

Steve Ressler, Founder and President of GovLoop

Michael Lawyer, Special Assistant to the Human Capital Officer, Department of Housing and Urban Development

You can view the archived webinar here. In the meantime, read the following for 5 of the top public speaking tips and tricks highlighted in the virtual session. Want the full 12 tips? Make sure to click through to the webinar for the full set.

Steve Ressler’s 12 Public Speaking Tips

In the years since founding GovLoop, Steve Ressler has delivered 400 speeches and talks. He’s spoken to audiences as varied as students in Russia to geospatial tech professionals in San Diego. During that time, Steve has culled together a short list of tips that have transformed his ability to deliver compelling, memorable speeches – and we’re sharing a few them with you below.

1.    Be Energetic

While you should know your material, be wary of scripting, which can sap the energy out of your delivery. “Regardless of the topic of the speech…make sure that you can light up that room,” Ressler said. “Bring some energy. Bring some fun.”

2.    Speak Slower

Speaking quickly is a natural tendency when delivering a speech; it’s normal to be nervous and just want to get the whole thing over with. But it’s important to try to resist that tendency. “The best public speakers speak twice as slowly as they normally do and they take great pauses,” Ressler explained.  “They let it linger and let you pause and think.”

3.    Keep it Short and Simple

Another natural inclination is to try to pack in as much content as humanly possible into your allotted time. This is especially true when you are passionate about the subject matter.  Unfortunately, this often leads to speeches that are too long, and which then often end up being rushed because you have so much to get through.  “Keep it really simple, crisp and easy for people to take notes and remember,” Ressler advised.

4.    Tell Your Audience Your Plan

“People need to be reminded multiple times of what they are going to learn,” Ressler noted.  So to capture the attention of your audience and really highlight what they are supposed to take away, don’t be afraid to spell it out beforehand. Tell people what you are going to talk about, do it, and then close with another brief reminder.

5.    Think About Your Audience

You audience will vary between talks. More critically, you may be dealing with different levels of knowledge, cultural backgrounds and experiences within a single group. So take a moment to put yourself into the shoes of your listeners and incorporate these lessons into your presentation. This could be as simple as shortening your speech by 10 minutes because you are the last speaker in a long line of talks and you know everyone is exhausted.

These 5 tips can hopefully serve to jumpstart your experience in public speaking. To see all 12 of Steve Ressler’s top public speaking tricks (and much more), make sure to click through to watch the webinar.

Additional Resources

  • NextGen Speaker Contest – Enter here to be one of five lightning speakers at NextGen 2014. Share an innovative project at your agency or a great idea to revolutionize government.
  • Managing Stress: Michael Lawyer referenced a must-watch TED talk. Click here to watch it.
  • Design Matters: Steve Ressler recommended reading these presentation design reference books by Duarte. He also recommended SlideShare, a free repository for slideshow presentations. Each day the top slides are featured on the site.