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Tips to Improve your Public Speaking

Strategies to make your speech a part of you

There’s a speech I call the Five P’s that I give quite frequently. I’ve flown around the world to give this speech, and I would estimate that I have given it a couple hundred times throughout my career.

Frankly, every time I’ve given the speech, it has been completely different. I’m going to tell you why, and offer you some advice in your public speaking endeavors on how to improve your skills.

Public speaking is not an ingrained skill. Are others naturally better at it? Yes, of course. But you can become good at public speaking the same way you can become good at the guitar or at knitting — through practice.

That’s my first tip, despite it being a quite obvious one. Practice, practice, practice.

When I was starting out, my practice was often on the dog, or the canary, or my kids. Sometimes the latter can be brutal in terms of feedback. That’s not a bad thing.

You should constantly be looking for feedback, for a response to what you’re doing and how you’re doing it in your public speaking. Think of it as any other activity that you’re practicing. You’re looking for a coach, for feedback, for some measure or some score of how you’re doing.

I’ve spoken to groups the size of two people to groups of 50,000 on a global stage. But before I do that, I always give my speech to a computer. I usually use some video recording device so I can watch myself as I do it and watch the visual cues that I’m giving off. As unpleasant and ugly as it is, I will listen to my own voice over and over again as I edit and rethink and maybe re-record a few times. Effectively, I’ve memorized my own voice, my own speech and my own patterns of presenting.

It’s safe to say I have some experience in public speaking, but having experience doesn’t automatically equate to being a great public speaker. I learn each time from said experience and from negative feedback, re-framed as constructive criticism, how to do this better.

One thing that has helped me give my 5 P’s speech and improve it every time is that the speech has become a part of me. Most good speeches are born out of someone speaking about something that describes them; they speak about what they are, rather than some theoretical subject matter they’ve researched and regurgitated.

So research it, so study it, so be well read, so know your subject matter so intimately that it effectively becomes a part of you.

From there, a mistake speakers might make is trying to start writing immediately. Remember the old high school days, writing an outline for an essay before starting it? That still applies. Write down your notes, bullet points and organize it in a way that makes sense logically. It can’t just make sense for those who are as knowledgeable about the subject as you, it has to make sense for the person in the audience who knows relatively nothing. By forming this framework from the get go, your speech will essentially write itself. I might not have noticed that my speech could be organized into the 5 P’s if I had not outlined first.

You don’t create a PowerPoint then read the PowerPoint to the people, just like you don’t read your speech. Both of those could have been emailed, and therefore there was no need for the speech or the meeting. But being able to know your material, being well practiced in your own voice, in your own way and then using a framework to actually give your speech allows you to be structured, to be clear, to be cogent, and at the same time, relaxed and flexible.

So why is my 5 P’s speech different each and every time?

Because I have researched and rehearsed so many times that the speech has become a part of me, I am able to customize it each time.

If it’s clear from the audience reaction, from my own research, from watching them, from chatting with them beforehand, that they are most interested in P #2, Products, then I can do a deeper dive on that particular part of the framework than I normally would. And then, while staying within my time-frame, can then give shorter versions of the other Ps in my framework. Having that framework, knowing the material, being well practiced, allows me to give a standardized speech in a customized way every time I deliver it.

That also allows me to speak more confidently. I become more confident in my competence, so that I’m able to be more natural and less nervous as I go forward in giving that presentation.

Public speaking is like every other skill — it takes research, it takes time, it takes practice.

Take advantage of the opportunities you get to speak. Be used to receiving and learning from sometimes brutally honest feedback. Make your material a part of you.

Aaron Webber is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Webber Investments LLC, as well as a Managing Partner at Madison Wall Agencies.

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Check out my Quora, & LinkedIn pages for more.




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Aaron Webber

Aaron Webber

Chairman and CEO, Webber Investments. Partner at Idea Booth/BGO.

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