20 Public Speaking Tips With Great Examples (for 2021)

20 Public Speaking Tips With Great Examples (for 2021)

Written by:
Chloe West

Feb 19, 2021
An illustration of a man speaking at a podium to an audience full of people.

We've created a list of 20 public speaking tips to help you improve your public speaking skills and present with confidence in front of any audience.

Here are the some of the tips you’ll find inside:

  • Make enough rehearsals so that you feel confident with your speech
  • Practice in front of a mirror and in front of others
  • Prepare a visually appealing presentation
  • Get to know your audience
  • And, many more.

So, if you want to get your public speaking skills to the next level, you’ll need this list. 

Read the tips one by one or choose the ones that interest you the most from the navigation below.

Let’s get into it. 

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20 Public Speaking Tips to Make You a Better Speaker

Tip #1: Know Your Audience

Tip #2: Prepare a Visually Appealing Presentation

Tip #3: Practice In Front of a Mirror & In Front of Others

Tip #4: Make Enough Rehearsals

Tip #5: Speak From the Heart

Tip #6: Use Props for Effect

Tip #7: Be Candid

Tip #8: Start With a Question

Tip #9: End With a Question

Tip #10: Simplify the Complex

Tip #11: Test the Equipment That You’ll Be Using

Tip #12: Make Eye Contact With Your Audience

Tip #13: Speak Slower Than Usual

Tip #14: Leave Space to Breathe

Tip #15: Get to Know the Stage

Tip #16: Ask for Feedback to Improve

Tip #17: Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat Yourself

Tip #18: Try to Memorize Your Notes

Tip #19: Plan Your Speech & Create a Structure

Tip #20: Include a Digital Version of Your Presentation


Tip #1: Know Your Audience

The first thing you need to do is have a full grasp on who your audience is going to be. You need to have this down before you even begin choosing a topic and creating your presentation content because it could vary based on who you’re speaking to.

Even if you’re giving the same speech two separate audiences, take the time to tweak it and personalize it based on where you’re speaking and who you’re speaking to.

Furthermore, your presentation slides, props and stories that you tell might vary whether you’re speaking to a more business-oriented audience versus a room full of peers.


Tip #2: Prepare a Visually Appealing Presentation

The next tip we have for public speakers is to ensure your presentation is visually appealing and engaging to your audience members.

This is the best way you can ensure you grab your audience’s attention from the get go. While the rest relies on your ability to speak well, you have full control over the design of your slides.

If you have no idea where to start, a professionally designed slide deck is the perfect starting point. Give our Simple theme a try – it has over 300 different slide designs for you to pick and choose from when creating your presentation.

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Just be sure to leave out those bullet points and boring black and white slides. Match your branding if it makes sense and incorporate a variety of visual aids.


Tip #3: Practice In Front of a Mirror & In Front of Others

One great way to help you get over a fear of public speaking is to practice in front of a mirror and watch how you present yourself. 

Then once you’re comfortable giving your speech alone, recruit a group of friends, family members or colleagues who are willing to be your audience as you practice in front of them.

This can help you prepare for speaking in front of people, and starting small is the best way to become more comfortable and in your element.


Tip #4: Make Enough Rehearsals

Practice, practice, practice. The only way you’re going to get over that nervous energy and help your speech come across as natural as possible is through rehearsing it over and over again.

Read over your slides, make mental notes and create mnemonic devices to help you remember the information you want to share for each slide you create.

You don’t want to simply read off your slides, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to rehearse. When it comes to public speaking, you don’t want to leave anything to the last minute.


Tip #5: Speak From the Heart

If there was a category for the most forgettable speeches in the world each spring, it would be for those delivered at graduation ceremonies.

However in 2016, a young man by the name of Donovan Livingston changed all of that. His speech began safely with a quotation, a tried-and-true technique, although over-used for generations. But then, in an amazing display of creativity, Livingston broke all the rules.

Instead of the standard platitudes and well-wishes, he launched into a spoken-word poem as a speech and his imagery was so vivid, it drew an emotionally overcome audience to its feet at the end.

Livingston’s speech has since been shared more than 170,000 times and viewed by eight million people.

This proves that making presentations that your audience supports is not a trick or a gimmick – it is simply delivering eloquent, amazing content that touches people deeply and inspires them to reach out and share your message.


Tip #6: Use Props for Effect

Sometimes the best way to stand out in front of an audience is to incorporate props into your presentation.

That was evident in another speech that brought the audience to its feet in support of Mohammed Qahtani, winner of the Toastmaster’s 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking award.

Standing on stage, reaching in his pocket and pulling out a cigarette, putting it to his lips and then flicking his lighter, the quirky speaker elicited a shocked response from his audience. Then he made them laugh by quoting some amazing statistics which he then revealed he had made up.

By this time the audience was hooked. What would happen next? You can watch this example below.

Qahtani’s unorthodox opening mixed with humor and effective facial expressions caught people’s attention and when he was ready to hammer home his message, they were already on his side.

“Words have power, words are power, words could be your power,” he told them.

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Tip #7: Be Candid

The presentation of a powerful message for change can fall on unresponsive ears unless the speaker can bring the issue into the lives and hearts of the audience.

Caitlyn Jenner, in her acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award managed to bring her audience onside through her remarkably straightforward talk.

As you listen to these excerpts from Jenner’s message, you sense the emotion building. By the time she tells her story and vows to “reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed and how trans people are treated,” she has the audience following every word.

What Jenner illustrates best is not only how to grab the audience’s attention, but how to keep their attention. She reached out to thank her children in an emotional moment and talked about the everyday things that women take for granted that she had to get used to.

Telling a moving personal story remains one of the all-time best public speaking tips to get and keep an audience on your side. The more unusual the story is, the more the audience will be fascinated.

Note that Jenner also refrained from glorifying herself with her stories.

Instead, she focused on the impact of her decision on those around her and on urging others uncomfortable with their gender to take the necessary steps to live life on their terms. This approach scores higher with any audience.

She didn’t brag; she didn’t exaggerate. Her direct speaking style was refreshing to her audience and effective in bringing them on her side.


Tip #8: Start With a Question

Telling a great story works well in bringing an audience on your side, as illustrated by Jenner’s remarks, but it gains even more power when you combine the story with another great technique, and that is asking your audience a question.

When self-help guru Amy Morin did both in her speech “The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong,” her audience was onside immediately.

Listen to her effective opening as she first tells a story about her friend and follows it up with a self-revealing question to her audience.

Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and lecturer at Northeastern University, is adept at building a bridge to her audience.

In fact, she not only bridges to them, but mentally they climb up on that bridge and start walking toward her. She knows how to use the best techniques in a way that is so natural, her audience is unaware that they are seeing professional tactics of presentation science at work.

If you opt to tell a personal story, make sure that it is closely connected to your theme. Also, make sure that it is not more than a minute or two in length.

If you decide to ask a question that invites your audience to think about your topic, be very specific. There is a time in life for open-ended questions, but it is not at the start of your presentation.

As Morin did, ask them one direct question about their immediate response or emotion to something. For example, do not say “do you think jealousy is just a part of the bigger picture of being human?”


Tip #9: End With a Question

In the same vein as starting with a question, you can also consider ending your speech with a question. This is a great way to keep people thinking about your topic and how they can apply it to their own life, job, etc.

Ending your presentation with a question can be a great way to inspire or motivate your audience and keep them thinking about your key points long after you’re finished.


Tip #10: Simplify the Complex

Another important strategy for bringing audiences on your side is ensuring that if you are going to talk about a more complicated topic, you break down the concepts you present in a way that your audience can easily understand.

A great example of that is Dan Gilbert’s presentation on The Surprising Science of Happiness.

Gilbert makes his point by explaining from the beginning how the human brain works, and how cognitive judgments are formed. Then he illustrates that we can all misinterpret our own happiness or well-being because of our cognitive interpretations and false assumptions.

He makes it clear to his audience that they have the power to try out life experiences before actually doing them for real. He takes complicated concepts like our experience simulator and impact bias and shows how we can mislead ourselves.

But when we master these brain responses, we can live and interpret our experiences in a more positive way.

As all of the impressive presentations mentioned illustrate, there are lots of public speaking tips you can apply to bring your audience on side with you, but the foundation of all of them is having something worthwhile to say and a straightforward vocabulary to ensure that your audience grasps it.

In the presentation game, there is a huge element of showmanship, but in the end, that only works to impress people when you still deliver content that creates value in their lives.


Tip #11: Test the Equipment That You’ll Be Using

Before you encounter technology errors in front of your entire audience, be sure to test all equipment that you’ll be using during your speech.

This can be anything from the clicker for your presentation slides, the computer you’re using to open your presentation, the projector or any other piece of equipment that might be available to you.

Knowing exactly how to use each of these objects before you go into your presentation will help your setup be that much more seamless and can take the edge off a bit before a big speech.


Tip #12: Make Eye Contact With Your Audience

One of the key characteristics of any great speaker involves making eye contact with your audience. As you speak, take the time to look around the room, speaking directly to each person sitting in front of you.

Not only is this a great way to help yourself feel more at ease while you speak, it helps your audience feel even more connected and engaged with what you’re saying.


Tip #13: Speak Slower Than Usual

Often when people feel nervous or are encountering stage fright, they start to speak quickly. You need to be conscious of this so you can avoid that bad habit.

When you speak too quickly, your messaging can easily be lost on your audience as they struggle to keep up. Even a normal, conversational speed can be too quick for a speech.

You want to be fully aware of every word that leaves your mouth, speaking more slowly than you typically would, so that your main points really resonate with your audience. 

Another good practice is to pause for emphasis after your important points to let them really sink in. Speaking slowly and pausing for effect are two tactics for great speeches.


Tip #14: Leave Space to Breathe

This goes right in line with our previous point – allow yourself time to breathe and don’t speak too quickly.

When you’re rushing through your speech, not only does it cause you to lose your audience, but it will also cause you to get winded quickly, ruining your performance.

Be sure to give yourself time to breathe. Taking deep breaths can also be a great way to get over stage fright and start to feel more confident on stage.

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Tip #15: Get to Know the Stage

While you’re testing out your equipment, take a chance to really get to know your stage area. Will you have a larger stage? If so, practice walking around while you give your speech so you can cover as much area as possible.

Find out if there’s a podium. If so, it might be helpful to bring props, notes and other memorization devices to keep on the podium with you.

If you’re able to access the stage ahead of time, consider doing a test run of your speech so that you know what to expect when you have an audience.


Tip #16: Ask for Feedback to Improve

At the end of the speech, be sure to ask trusted colleagues and attendees for any advice or feedback on improving your presentation skills. 

As you get more comfortable speaking, this can be helpful to ensure you hone in on the feedback you’ve received and work to get better and better during each speaking engagement you attend in the future, whether it’s a TED Talk or a friend’s wedding.


Tip #17: Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat Yourself

If there’s a point you really want to drill into your audience, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself! Saying the same powerful phrase over and over again is going to sink in much more effectively than any filler words would.

Find the number one takeaway that you want your audience to get from your speech and say it again and again throughout your presentation.


Tip #18: Try to Memorize Your Notes

You don’t want to stand up on the stage and read your presentation word for word from notecards. This is why it’s important to try to memorize your notes.

We’ve previously covered 8 memorization techniques that pros use to remember their notes, so be sure to check them out.

Another one that we recommend is to utilize our presentation notes feature. Include bullet points and quick summaries to keep you on track. You can also use this feature to time yourself so you know how long you’ve spent on each slide.

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Tip #19: Plan Your Speech & Create a Structure

Be as prepared as possible. While you create your presentation slides, ensure the order makes sense and that you’ve planned your speaking points around the structure of your slides.

There are a number of ways to structure your presentation for maximum impact on your audience as well, so be sure to plan out the best way to tell your story and make your point. Ensure your body language matches the words you’re saying as well.

Creating a structure for your presentation helps your story to flow well from beginning to end. Practice sticking to your structure so your presentation makes sense and resonates with your audience.


Tip #20: Include a Digital Version of Your Presentation

Print out and distribute handouts to your audience, but also be sure to include a digital version of your presentation for your viewers to watch again later.

You can easily share this on your website, in a blog post or on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Uploading a digital version to SlideShare is another way to reach even more people with your content.


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    About the Author

    Chloe West is the content marketing manager at Visme. Her experience in digital marketing includes everything from social media, blogging, email marketing to graphic design, strategy creation and implementation, and more. During her spare time, she enjoys exploring her home city of Charleston with her son.

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