Effective & Ineffective Public Speaking

Just the words "public speaking" can send a shiver down your spine. Standing in front of a large group of people can leave you at your most vulnerable, but sometimes it's a necessity. Many careers require an occasional speech or presentation. Learning the difference between effective and ineffective public speaking can make or break your professional success.

Know the Subject Matter

The audience can't have confidence in you if you don't have confidence in what you're saying. Do your research and become an expert. Ineffective public speakers constantly check their notes because they can't remember the facts. Effective speakers know the facts inside and out; their speaking points flow naturally.

Know the Audience

The people sitting right in front of you should influence what you say and how you say it. Consider who they are: teenagers? Board members? Guests at a charitable function? Consider why they're there. Do they want to be entertained, persuaded or informed? Are they are a captive audience (did they choose to be your listeners tonight) or are they there for a business requirement? The ineffective speaker disregards these details, but an effective one will tailor his speech to suit his audience.


When giving a speech, you're no longer yourself: You're an actor, a performer. Dress the part. Look somber when discussing something serious; smile easily when cracking jokes. Show your enthusiasm when initiating a call to action. Look your audience right in the eye and make them feel that you're speaking specifically to them. Effective public speaking hinges on your acting abilities. An ineffective performance will result in boredom.

Take It Slow

Channel your nervous energy into passion, not speed. The ineffective speaker goes too fast, and her audience never catches up. Slow down—let your audience catch you. If you find yourself stumbling over words, take a natural pause. Give yourself time to breathe and relax, allowing important points to sink in with your listeners.

Watch Your Body Language

Effective body language can drive points home, engage the audience and dramatize your performance. Ineffective body language reveals your nerves and loses your listeners' confidence in you. Make sure your movements are coming from your words, not your anxiety. Use hand motions to enhance your argument, but don't twiddle your thumbs because you're feeling awkward.

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