7 Public Speaking Tips for the Real World

7 Public Speaking Tips for the Real World


Certain studies claim that people’s number one fear is public speaking, beating out number two, which is death. As Jerry Seinfeld points out, that means if you had to be at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy!

I’m Ryan Horsfall, the Bay Area’s Magician.

Life calls on all of us to speak to large groups of people, and it needn’t be stressful. Whether it’s for a work presentation, a class project, or a speech at a wedding, here are a pro’s tips on Public Speaking in the Real World.

Tip #1: Prepare!
As the presenter, the most effective thing you can do to combat stress is prepare properly. If you feel underprepared, you will be anxious- there’s no way around it. So take the time to do another draft of your speech, or have somebody give your slides the once over. It will make you feel a lot better knowing that you did everything you should have done. The saying in theatre is, don’t practice till you get it right, practice till you can’t get it wrong!

Tip #2: Don’t just read the slides, add to them!
Predicability is the enemy of entertainment and interest. Keep in mind as soon as your slide changes, people will start reading them and whatever you are saying will be put on the back burner till they are done. To minimize this, use your slides as visual aides and not just a transcript of your presentation. Put only the most important points onto your slides, and don’t be afraid to use extra slides if you need to.

Tip #3: Invigorate your audience.
It can be a good idea to break up the “lecture” feel of your presentation, especially if you are giving a rather lengthy speech. Motivational speaker and magician Jim Snack is a master of tossing out quick brainteasers, riddles, jokes, and even magic tricks to break up the monotony of his presentations. Even stopping your presentation in the middle to ask your audience to introduce themselves to the people sitting next to them can go a long way in making friends and maintaining interest.

Tip #4: Warm up
While it’s not a necessity, a quick vocal warmup will go a long way in helping you communicate your message. A really simple one is to just say the alphabet about 5 times, and over enunciate every letter. You can also do tongue twisters. Try these:

Irish wristwatch, swiss wristwatch.
Red leather, yellow leather.
Toy boat.

Also, I always practice saying my own name. Horsfall has a lot of harsh sounds which can get muddled together quite easily if I don’t warm up. If you will be saying your name, or any other word which is somewhat difficult to pronounce, just practice saying it about ten times as a warm up.

Tip #5: Learn to use a microphone!
Every microphone is different. If you are using a mic, try and get a few minutes with it before your presentation to see how it behaves. Remember to never cover the head of the mic with your hand, (it may look cool, but it muddles your voice) and remember to always speak into the microphone. If you turn your head, the mic had better move too!

Tip #6: Project! Talk to Grandma in the back!
If you cannot be heard, all of your hard work and preparation means nothing. Whether you are using a microphone or not, always project. In theatre, we always perform and project so that Grandma in the back row of the theatre, sitting with her hearing aides, can understand every word we are saying. She might not always be there, but we always project as if she is.

Tip #7: Stand strong, don’t over gesture.
Fidgeting and unnecessary movement are signs of nervousness and lack of confidence. When you are presenting, plant your feet and speak with confidence- not only with your voice but also with your body. Gesture when you feel it is appropriate, but don’t feel like you must always be moving your hands. Some of the greatest orators of all time have simply stood there and spoke.


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