5 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking

Mary Albert Darling
Mary Albert Darling

"Grab and go" may not be the best advice for food, but it’s great advice for public speaking. If you don’t grab attention with a catchy opening that indicates you are aware of your specific audience, the rest may not matter (think quick, relevant story or quote and stay aware from overused internet material). Here are other tips to make sure they stay with you the entire speech:

  • Make it clear where you are going with your topic. If your purpose isn’t clear to you, it won’t be clear to your audience.
  • Now "go." Transition smoothly into the body of your speech. Make sure your content is organized clearly, with supporting material that enhances what you say (think interesting research stats and metaphors, metaphors, metaphors—audiences like metaphors).
  • Visualize what you say in creative ways, which means you either greatly reduce what you are tempted to put on a PowerPoint slide (try one word slides) or explore other visuals like Haiku Deck. Also know that visual doesn’t have to mean slide—be creative in having your visuals enhance, not overpower, your content. And remember that people remember more what they hear and see than what they just hear.
  • Know that delivery can make or break your speech. Eye contact, vocal variety, and gestures (appropriate ones) can keep your audience listening and connected to your content. So practice both what you want to say and how you want to say it and don’t forget to honor your audience by staying within the time limit you’ve been given.
  • End with an inspiring, doable action step. Get your audience excited about doing something useful as a result of what you said, and your speech will have been successful.

About the Author

Mary Albert Darling teaches in the Department of Communication and Media at Spring Arbor University. She is co-author with Dr. Tony Campolo of two books: "The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice" (Jossey-Bass, 2007) and "Connecting Like Jesus: Practices for Healing, Teaching, and Preaching" (Jossey-Bass, 2010). Professor Darling frequently speaks at seminars and retreats on the following topics: relationships, friendship, public speaking, listening, conflict management; managing work & family spiritual transformation, spiritual disciplines, intimacy with God, ancient prayer practices, spirituality and justice, and spiritual direction/spiritual mentoring.