Top Tips for Public Speaking

Matt Eventoff offers his thoughts on why effective public speaking is a vital skill in the media industry, and gives some insider tips to keep us on track…

Do not talk at the audience, speak with them. A speech is a conversation – it is always about the audience, not you

Public speaking can – and should be – an indispensable component in the career growth ‘toolkit’ of any executive or professional; this is especially true for those in the communication and media space. By virtue of what we do every day, we are often ‘on’ and a lot is expected. Clients, colleagues and co-workers expect that we can communicate effectively across all mediums, and that includes speaking publicly.

You may be asked to take the podium at an awards dinner or to address a room full of clients on campaign updates. The size is irrelevant, and the skills required are the same. So what are some ways that a media pro can become an even more talented public speaker? One way is to view public speaking in a different way from the preconception you might have when the word ‘speech’ comes to mind – that you are in it alone. A speech is not a solo act – a speech is actually a conversation.

While only one party may be verbally communicating, all parties are communicating. Looking away, shaking one’s head, raising one’s brow, disinterest or a face anchored in stoicism are all forms of communication, and are all part of a conversation. Smiling, nodding, clapping, cheering and riveted attentiveness are also part of a conversation. Walking out of a conference room and doing nothing is also part of the conversation – usually the end of it!

So what can one do to ensure that a speech or presentation is in fact a productive conversation that results in career growth and positive outcome? Here are just a few ways:

1) Involve your audience – Do not talk at the audience, speak with them. This involves researching your audience in the same way you would research a client before pitching for business.

2) Pay attention to personal pronouns – Shy away from using a lot of I and me and focus more on we and us. A speech is a conversation – it is always about the audience, not you. Be careful and aware of the pronouns that you use and the messages those pronouns might convey.

3) I mean really involve your audience – When presenting on communication or rhetoric, involve an audience early on by asking a question to one or two participants. Not a confrontational question. Not a heavy question. A question that generates a short response, which activates the audience and puts everyone at ease (the presenter included!).

Finally, when you present, you always feel much more nervous than you appear. Always. So relax, and enjoy!


Matt Eventoff is the owner of Princeton Public Speaking. Follow him on Twitter @matt_eventoff

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