As I stand before you, dear audience, I can reaffirm that most people find public speaking to be terrifying. They are scared of being found out to be imperfect or incomplete as also they are afraid of stumbling, making a mistake or not knowing what to say.
However let me diffuse some pressure of these assumptions by first telling you that wanting to make a perfect speech is an ego trick. It is a false mental construction since what you actually want to deliver is a genuine speech not a perfect one. Audiences everywhere connect to authenticity of the person and the passion S/he brings to the subject, than any hypothetical standards of oratory.
Having defined what you should aim for here then are five pointers which will help you, give an engaging talk to any audience.
First and foremost the art of public speaking is about making people connect with the character on the podium:
1) Being yourself: that you are imperfect, broken, fat, stammer or anything else is unimportant. What is important is that you do not try to cover it up. On stage, never apologize for who you are. To the contrary, wear your vulnerabilities like a badge, have the courage to confess them ( I was so scared, am always making that mistake, can’t ever get this right…) and watch the audience lap it up. People connect instantly to genuineness as they identify with that deeply. Perfection turns them off. So more you bring your real self to the public more you will command their attention. A corollary to this is do not try to copy anyone else. Characters can’t me mimicked. Being authentic self is almost fifty percent of effective public speaking.
Next up, is the energy you bring, which has to hook:
2) Nervous energy: despite being yourself, public speaking is still subconsciously perceived as a threat and thus brings out our primal energies. Those energies have to be courted and on stage they are your friend as they reach out to the audience and grabs them. So your passion and your energy are on stage tools of mass affectation. As about fear there are two points to consider: it is heightened in anticipation (run up to the talk) like they build it up in a horror movie so relax in the knowledge that it will taper off eventually and secondly you just have to live with the residual butterflies ( practice acclimatizes you to be ok with them).
Lastly there is the content of the talk itself which must engage, so here is one don’t and two dos for the content :
3) Dont use jargon or tech terms as far as possible. It alienates your audience and makes them feel inferior. Additionally don’t use too many arguments to buttress your point. Use the tested method of sticking to top 3 reasons for any point made.
4) Tell a story: Facts are boring and we are wired to hear a good tale. So don’t reinvent the wheel and leverage the resident hard-wiring of your audience to frame your message in. Enliven the story with sensory details about sights, sounds and feelings connected to the occasion. Audience’s imagination will be sparked and they will be mentally engaged to fill in more details to your presentation.
5) Research your talk thoroughly and the parts which surprised you during research are also what will grab your audience. Twisted ends, surprising conclusions, tease and chase, are all tell a tale techniques which engage. Finally there is the big technique of humor. Pertinent jokes done well and upfront, get the audience to lower their guards, relax and get ready to invest their attention in you.
So dear friends, the big secret to being a good public speaker is first, being yourself and then being a passionate storyteller.